Online Intimidation

Myself and photographer John Mee got into conversation about online intimidation on a recent shoot. I’m sick and tired of constantly falling victim to it every time I open my phone, ipad or computer – It feels like I can’t escape it unless I stay away from electronics completely.

Trolls, keyboard warriors, facebook blockers, stalkers & nasty anonymous comments don’t worry me in the slightest (I’ve come across them all). So what is he talking about I hear you ask?

Every time I log onto that internet machine I come away feeling a little intimidated whether I be on facebook, twitter, Instagram, 500px, 1x and so on. The quality of work out there by so many other photographers is astounding and hugely intimidating. It leaves me feeling like my own images are inferior and worthless. How on earth will I ever bridge the gap between my work and theirs? 

Their work

The locations are awesome, spectacular, remote and mind blowing. The field technique involved is stunning. Their post-production skills make it look like I am using crayons to create my images. Their websites sing. They have millions of social media followers. If they posted a photo of their big toenail, it would have thousands of likes and sales. They can write beautifully about the process and thought techniques involved in crafting their work. They come across as lovely people.

My work

Sometimes I get lucky, most times I struggle. Online, I struggle to get 20 facebook likes for some of my favourite work. My family and friends are hardly interested, never mind the masses. I should probably sell my equipment and find another pursuit worthy of my time….. sound familiar??

The solution

Stop worrying about what others are doing and focus purely on your own work. Yes, these guys work is great to look at and aspire to. Us mere mortals must remember they may have been shooting and learning for many years more than us. Some of them are professional travel photographers who have made huge sacrifices in their personal lives to make these images. They fully deserve them.

We are all at different points on the learning curve and some of us will progress along this quicker than others. Some of us have more time to devote to our passion than others. There is no such thing as the perfect image – each of us see something different in our minds eye. These bright shining polished images may not be where we want to bring our personal photography even if they are more popular than our own style or view of the world.

The proof

Facebook likes and applauds honestly mean nothing and by and large offer only a brief feel good factor. To prove this, try the following. Pick a photographer you admire who posts on social media regularly. Know try to remember your favourite 3 images they have taken. I bet you it’s a tough task.

I’m not sure of the stats but we are bombarded with imagery now and it is next to impossible for any one image to stand out for a long time in your mind. Yes there are probably a few exceptions but I bet you could count these on one hand.

Importance & Relevance

What is important, is the enjoyment of what we are doing in the here and now. By all means objectively critique your own work and identify what we need to do to move along the path we each want to travel. The journey should be never ending. Everybody’s journey will be different – not all of us may want that popular highly stylized clean saturated look that is being churned out and applauded at the moment. You may wish to focus on smaller intimate landscapes, detail within the scene, icm, moody black and white, long exposures, surrealism and so on. There is no right or wrong and should never be confused with popular and unpopular. There will be peaks and troughs along the way, probably with more lows than highs. Just remember the old cliché – it’s a journey, not a destination.

Stop the Intimidation

Intimidation comes from your own self-doubt – trust me I know all about it. Believe in what you are doing and shoot for yourself. By all means admire the work of others, use it as inspiration and acknowledge the level of skill involved in creating these images. Let the intimidation stop there – don’t let the fantastic work of others belittle your own achievements. Be proud of your work whether it be winning competitions or simply sitting on a card waiting to be processed. I’d rather have an image I adore on my own wall than hanging in a gallery. Ignore the negative reviews which have no real purpose other than to pull you down and discourage you. Surround yourself with those who try to help and encourage you along.

Don’t measure success as a photographer by the number of likes your image does or doesn’t receive by people you’ve never met. Instead look at an image fondly and say to yourself – that was a good day and I thoroughly enjoyed that moment. In my opinion, that is what makes an image successful.

The image featured with this blog is one taken on the same shoot with John Mee. What an evening. Brooding clouds, dark light, rain, hail, seaspray, huge waves and high winds. Suddenly colour appeared on the horizon and I just had to attempt an image. I crouched behind his car in the lashes of rain trying to keep my camera steady just long enough on the tripod to capture some movement. I got back in drenched and laughing. This is one I will look back at fondly in years to come….

Hail storms blow in from the Atlantic as huge winds drive waves towards the Irish Coastline. It was difficult to stand up, never mind compose and shoot an image.
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  1. Frankie Lloyd January 18, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

    Well said Graham, you have verbalised what most of us are thinking or go through, food for thought definitely,
    great blog and a super image by the way..!

  2. John Mee January 18, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    Good points Graham. I think we should not look to the shots on 500px, etc as inspiration. These are indicative of the narrowing range of landscape photography. Pretty soon, nothing except the orange, glowing sunset over an azure ocean with spectacular light will be passable as a seascape.
    The rest of us should continue to produce work that is from the heart and head and not confined to the narrow definition of the 500px landscape.

  3. Philip McLoughlin January 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm #

    Very well written piece. How true your comments are. I admire your work and dedication to photography. I hope to be able to do one of your workshops in the near future.


    P. McLoughlin.

  4. John Fahy January 18, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    Just would like to say thank you. Such a great read, honest and from the heart! Feelings that i personally feel every time i post something are identicle.
    Keep doing what you love doing,as its a passion
    Happy Shooting,
    Kind Regards,
    John Fahy.

  5. Damien Hickey January 18, 2017 at 5:19 pm #

    Good advice. I often completely lose the motivation to even get out and try after looking at the spectacular work of others. I have to remind myself that they are in the Maldives, or Iceland, or Lofoten, or ‘insert amazing place here’… and I’m in Kildare… in the winter… doing this in my spare time. Your advice to shoot for yourself and make images that you like is the key in my opinion. Every now and then you hit gold but mostly none of us do I guess. If it were easy we’d all get bored and move onto something else.

  6. Terry January 18, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

    Great piece! I couldn’t agree more

  7. Gerry Kenneally January 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm #

    Well said Graham, truer words never spoken.

  8. Gavin Byrne January 18, 2017 at 10:08 pm #

    Good read, many of my thoughts have been so very skilfully written in you piece and it has certainly made me think about where i should be and not where i think i am in the world of photography when looking at many others out there.

  9. admin January 18, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

    Thank you all for your kind comments – I’m shocked by the reaction this blog has gotten both here and on social media……

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