Self-Doubt On New Projects


Photographing a new format for the first time is scary. Think back to the first time you photographed your first paid wedding client or business headshot. For other professionals, do you remember the first time you had to make an important presentation or coordinate an event. You may not necessarily have been “afraid” but more than likely you felt some form of anxiety. Anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The phrase “self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope,” is what stands out to me. The self-doubt we feel when attempting something new for the first time is normal and can be easily overcome.

The lack of confidence in your abilities is an obstacle everyone struggles with at one point. How we handle ourselves in the face of self-doubt is the key to succeeding in these circumstances. For example, on one project that I had never photographed before, I was told by the model that it wasn’t a flattering picture of her. My immediate reaction was to be defensive. I thought to myself, “The light is good. Whatever insecurities you have with the image is your own problem.” Even though my shields went up immediately, I wanted to work with her to possibly alleviate the problem. I asked her why she thought it wasn’t flattering. I was open to criticism. She didn’t know why she didn’t like it and had no suggests to change anything. The damage was done and as more time passed I began to second guess my abilities.

The rest of the shoot my confidence waivered slightly. I wondered if I really was producing the highest quality of work. What couldn’t she describe that I was overlooking? I put everything under a microscope. Of course there was details I wish I could change but were out of my control. In the end I had to refocus my resolve on the vision I had for the final image. Looking back now, if I ever receive any constructive criticism about the images I’ll know what could have been improved.

In this particular case, I can retrospectively say I was able to overcome my self-doubt by focusing on the final images. Someone may not like what you do but that doesn’t make it bad. Many authors have written books about overcoming self-doubt and how fear paralyzes us. I cannot offer any professional advice that they haven’t already given. I can only share my experience and hope to provide encouragement to anyone who struggles with self-doubt.


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