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?
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.
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??
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.
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.