Are You a Secret Photography Imposter?

We have just returned from another Photography Farm and although I have loved them all, this one seemed particularly special. The weather was glorious, which always helps, the shoot was fun and the group that came were all super lovely people. We had a good mix of new and more established photographers and having Melissa Love’s input was fantastic.

Day one usually starts with a bunch of strangers, settling in and trying not to appear too nervous. The whole experience is so intense that by the end we are all friends for life and almost all don’t want to leave and return to normal life. One of the issues that came up this time was confidence…. How to have it in your own work and how to have enough of it to sometimes take control of an entire wedding.

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Obviously if you are pretty new, it is understandable that you might struggle with confidence. The market right now is so competitive and there have never been more people setting up as wedding photographers. I admit, I would be pretty intimidated if I was starting out right now. Confidence does grow with experience but when you get right down to it, do you ever feel that if somebody tapped you on the shoulder and said ‘You don’t really know what you are doing’ would you not crumble and confess ‘Yes! I’m making this all up as I go along!!!’

The bad news is, this feeling never really goes away. I felt this several times when I worked as a music industry photographer. Some of the shoots I did involved large budgets or very well known acts with all the entourages and chaos that surround them. As the photographer at a shoot, you have to take command and structure the day in order to get the job done. I did have more than the odd moment of teetering on a cliff of fear but as expressed in this article in Rock n Roll Bride’s Green Room, I managed to Feel the Fear But Do It Anyway. I have certainly had similar moments as a wedding photographer or leading a workshop but over time I have learnt to swallow this feeling and put it to the back of my mind.

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When people refer to any accomplishments or awards I have achieved, I dismiss the praise and put it all down to luck or being in the right place at the right time. Inside I feel like a fraud and one day, I’m going to get found out. Does this sound familiar? Then chances are you are a girl too. Research shows that men rarely think of themselves in this way. I know several highly successful women in this industry who also confess to feeling like this at times. At The Farm, I discovered that this is an actual psychological disorder called Imposter Syndrome and when I looked up the symptoms, I’m pretty sure I have them all. Take this quiz to see if you might too…

  1. Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not quite as capable as they think you are?
  2. Do you believe your accomplishments are mainly flukes?
  3. Do you hate making mistakes?
  4. Do you feel crushed by any slight criticism, even if it is constructive and think that this is evidence of you being an imposter?
  5. When you do succeed, do you think, “Phew, I got away with it”?
  6. Do you believe that many other photographers are way better than you are?
  7. Would you be terrified to shoot in front of professional photographers?
  8. At the back of your mind do you think one day you may be found out and the game will be up?

If you answered yes to most or all of the above then you too could be a Secret Photography Imposter. So what can you do about it? Well you could let it overwhelm you or you could just swallow the feeling and accept it as part of caring about what you do and what others think of you.

Update your About Me section on your website or any literature you send out to make sure it includes all your latest or greatest achievements. Start a section on your site or Facebook page just to show off all your features on blogs, in magazines or any press you get.

Start a Folder of Loveliness. This is something I picked up from those amazing girls at The Blogcademy. I used to bin thank you cards, thinking ‘Awh, that is nice but they are just being polite’. Now I pin them to a board above my desk. I have started a folder on my computer and whenever I get a positive email from a client or industry people, I copy it into there. The theory is that when the negative feelings of self doubt creep in, you refer back to the lovely things that people have said about you.

I’ll bet most of the photographers that you admire have felt out of their depth at some time. Well, here’s the thing about photography ~ nobody knows everything about it. The technical stuff, the editing, lighting and all that is involved in running a business are such a vast subjects that no one person could possibly know it all. Even if they did, it’s such a progressive industry that things change all the time. Accepting that you will never know everything is a reassuring thing to do and keeping an open mind so you are constantly learning and improving is a great way to remain excited by the industry and creative in your work. Embrace your Inner Imposter and you could find that you can get away with it for your whole life…

Hippy Flower Power Sneak 01All images are from last week’s shoot at Photography Farm. The full set will be posted later this week with credits.