• Sam Wilson

Building Confidence In Your Photography

Shoot with confidence and see your photos improve!

Do you lack confidence to share your photography?

Does it even impact you on getting your camera out and taking photos?

Do you love your photography, but find comparing yourself to others is having an impact on you?

trees in the snow at charlotte pass
Snow Gums at Charlotte Pass - learning new techniques and shooting in different conditions is a great confidence booster!

This is something that I have struggled with (and continue to do so at times), so I thought I’d share some ideas that have helped me - hopefully they will help you too.

I would love every photographer to feel confident through their journey. To be in the right place, at the right time, and having an idea what they are doing with their camera. To be present and enjoying the experience, while feeling happy with the photos they are capturing.

Perhaps you want to create photos that you can print and hang on your walls, give as gifts to others, or sell. Or maybe you just want to share on social media with family and friends, or grow a new audience. Whatever the reason, I think we all should feel confident in sharing the photographs we create.

large photo on wall of home office
Proud moment - the first photo I had printed 'big' and displayed in my home

We live in a world that is full of imagery and videos (many of them much better than ours) on social media, and instead of being inspired to improve ourselves, we find ourselves comparing. This invariably leads to us being overwhelmed and possibly losing confidence to share our photos even with our friends and family.

Here are my favourite ideas to help boost your confidence with creating and sharing your photography (even if it’s only with yourself).

1 - Just be You

Along the lines of my recent post talking about finding your style and just being you (Just Be You). There is absolutely no one out there that will take photos the same as you - you are unique. Three people can stand side by side in the same location, and even if there settings are the same, all of their photos will be unique - that is one of the amazing things about photography. ​Each camera will shoot slightly differently, your composition won't be the same and then the way you edit it will make it more uniquely yours.

We all have our own unique story, our own way of seeing things and our own way of expressing ourselves - this is true whether it be writing, music, cooking or photography.

Low angle of a country road heading off into the distance on a foggy sunrise
It's Your Journey - And Yours Alone

If you’re not happy with your photos, I think the first question to ask yourself is are you taking photos of things that make you feel joy - or are you just taking photos for the sake of it?

When I first started, I would try and photograph EVERYTHING (well, except people of course) and that was great, but over time I discovered what I really enjoyed photographing was landscapes and seascapes. For me that was far more interesting than birds, flowers or buildings. It’s not that I won’t photograph them at all but they don’t fill me with happiness like the feeling I get at the beach at sunrise, or at a waterfall.

So, if you know what you prefer to shoot, do more of that to start with. You will naturally be more creative which will in itself produce better images. And the more you work on what inspires you, the more the confidence in your photography will build.

2 - Study and Practice

To start with it is important to always be learning to improve your skills and then put these new learnings into practice. Expect to make many many mistakes along the way, but as you practice and improve your keep rate will get bigger.

There are so many courses and tutorials out there, it’s really just a matter of finding those that you like the style of. These range from blog posts to Youtube videos to paid courses. Read on below see more about learning in person.

My favourite inspirational photographers to give you a start

You can find all of these on Facebook, but they also all have their own YouTube channels that I watch.

Brett Wood (also offers fabulous tours - info below)

Michael Shainblum

Gavin Hardcastle

Nick Page

Adam Gibbs

Mads Peter Iversen

Meme with frustrated woman and the words - When you watch a youtube tutorial and end up more confused than before you started
Hope I'm not the only one that can relate to this!

But please don't fall into the trap of spending all your time ‘studying’ (AKA binge watching videos), that you don’t actually get out with your camera. Trust me, I’ve done that, so make sure you set limits on that and then get out there and play with your camera.

When I got my first ‘proper’ camera, a basic DSLR, I honestly thought the camera would do all the work for me - I would just choose the right settings and the camera would do the rest - I have been on a serious learning curve ever since, and I hope to never stop learning.

Really the best thing is getting out, playing and making a million mistakes. I really wanted to learn how to shoot those lovely milky waterfall photos when I first started. I read about long exposures and figured if ¼ second shutter speed was good, then 5 seconds had to be better! Needless to say I did come home with some very overexposed photos that day! I did also play and get a few that I was very happy with at the time - focus was another issue lol.

A photo of a waterfall that is out of focus and over exposed
My First Waterfall Attempt at Somersby Falls

I was so proud of this image and even printed and framed it and showed it proudly in my home. Never mind that it’s terribly out of focus and the composition is somewhat lacking. Now (even though it’s no longer displayed in my home lol), I can still look back on it with fondness. At the time it was way better than previous ones I'd attempted, and now it’s a great positive reminder of how far I’ve come.

Waterfall with better exposure and focus compared to previous image
One of my More Recent Visits to Somersby Falls - Always Learning

This also includes becoming really familiar with your gear. It doesn’t necessarily mean reading your manuals from cover to cover, but learning where the relevant settings are for your camera when you’re trying something new before you head out will help no end. Or learn how your tripod works - there’s nothing worse than getting out in the field without knowing exactly how to connect the tripod to your camera, or how to extend the legs - I may or may not have learnt this the hard way.

woman smiling with a tripod on her head like a hat
Apparently this is not how you use a tripod - who knew?!?

And never doubt that you could in turn be an inspiration to someone else, who isn’t as fara along their journey as you. This not only gives you a bit of a boost to your confidence, imagine what your inspiration is doing to that other newbies confidence.

3 - Set or take part in a Challenge

This can take many forms; one I remember learning from early on was joining a Facebook group that had a different topic each day that you had to share a photo of. This was purely a social group, but it certainly helped get the creative juices going. There are plenty of ideas if you google or search Pinterest for ‘photo challenges’

You can of course also set yourself mini challenges such as black and white, only shooting in portrait or landscape, having a ‘camera date’ once a week where you go somewhere different and give yourself an hour to take photos of whatever happens to be there, taking self portraits, or simply taking a photo every single day, the ideas really are endless.

A monthly photo challenge with a list of 31 topics to choose from
An example of one of our months that I created - was a great distraction in lockdown

This can really help you grow as a photographer - it may give you new ideas and introduce you to a whole new stream of ideas - always a good boost to giving you more confidence in your photography.

4 - Stalk (I mean study of course) photos of other Photographers whose work you like/admire

This can be a great way to find what sort of photography that you like and then try and learn what it is you like about their style so you can learn about it. This is definitely not to say to copy them, but it can be a great way for you to start your learning and then you’re on your way to developing your own style.

“Finding your own style is not easy, but once found it brings complete happiness. It gives you self-confidence, always.”

— Yves Saint Laurent

You can also reach out to other photographers that you admire and ask questions. Most photographers are only too happy to help - and if one isn't, there will be ten others that will.

The trick here is not to fall into the comparison trap, which can in turn cause your confidence to plummet - if this is the case for you, stay away from this kind of social media scrolling. I know I need to take a break from this, or manage what I’m watching, from time to time.

The more you scroll and share, the easier it will become. You will undoubtedly receive some love and positive feedback on your images, and that can only help give you a boost of confidence along the way.

5 - Join a Club or Social Group

One of the best things I ever did for my photography was join a local sunrise photography group. I’ve learned so much from the other photographers (some professionals and others hobbyists) - they are usually so happy to help.

Not just this, the friendships made, and being around like minded people is invaluable and can do wonders for your confidence.

view from inside a seaside cave looking out to the ocean on a cloudy sunrise
First outing with the Focus social sunrise group - 2017

I’ve also had opportunities to share some of my photos privately with members to receive advice and suggestions for improvement. Of course you need to find the right person for this, but this has really helped me, and I’ve also helped others in return. You don’t have to be a professional or charge fees to share knowledge that you have - I’m always mindful to not answer something I don't know the answer to, or refer them to someone I know can help.

I’m yet to join a camera club (it’s on my list of to-do’s) but have heard so many good things from those that have found a good supportive club and seen their photography soar.

To find groups and clubs, Facebook community groups are a wonderful place to start, or ask at your local camera shop if you have one.

Focus is the one I’m an active member of and shoot leader for.

Head here if you live between Sydney and Port Macquarie (including Central Coast and Newcastle) and I’ll happily share the details of the ones that I’m aware of.

The more that you surround yourself with other like minded photography lovers, and receive some encouragement, the more your confidence in your photography will build.

6 - Do Workshops and Tours

This was without a doubt the number one game changer for me in regards to my photography. You can read here all about the reasons I feel that tours can help you grow exponentially - and I still go on them regularly.

person in the snow taking  a photo surrounded by gum trees
On tour - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't willingly be in the snow if it wasn't for being on tour - but it was fabulous and pushed me out of my comfort zone

These are the main reasons that tours are incredible for learning and growing your confidence -

  • Organisation - all the planning and thinking is done for you so you get to focus just on the locations you’re at and improving your photography

  • Locations - a good leader will make sure you get to the best locations at the right time to get the conditions to improve your photos

  • Learning - you not only get to learn from the leader, but also the others in your group

  • Community - all the same reasons I mentioned in joining groups and clubs. I’m still in touch with people that I did my first tours and workshops with when I started over 5 years ago

  • Safety - nothing like safety in numbers if you don’t have anyone to go out with regularly otherwise.

Landscape with lake and frozen grass in foreground and snow capped mountains in the background reflected in the lake
Going with a guide that knows the area is when you get to gems like this off the tourist trail - Mackenzie region New Zealand

Recommended Workshops

Brett Wood - Hosts boutique tours in NSW, Great Ocean Road, Tasmania, New Zealand and beyond. Brett and his partner Lisa are committed to ensuring you get to unique locations and come away with photos that you are proud to not only share with friends, but actually print and hang on your wall - large!

These are usually multiple days (4-6) and are landscape focused. They include sunrise and sunset each day, plus plenty of other photography opportunities during the day.

I’ve just booked my 6th tour with him and cannot recommend him more highly. Brett’s tours usually sell out in advance so get on his list here to check out his tours and sign up to be the first to know.

The stunning red rocks of Tasmania

Christine Bernasconi - runs 1 day workshops in various locations around NSW including Kiama and Sydney, as well as occasional longer tours further afield. Christine is an excellent teacher that has a way of breaking down the technical aspects of photography so you can actually understand them and implement them as you go.

I discovered Christine’s workshop when I very first started my photography journey in 2017 and have lost count of the number of workshops I’ve attended - her tutoring and support has been incredibly valuable and I’m sure I’ll be attending many more to come.

Sign up here to stay up to date.

I also recently attended one of her Vivid workshops in Sydney and highly recommend you get yourself on one of them if you have the opportunity.

laser beams lighting up the harbour during Sydney Vivid 2022
Vivid 2022 with Christine

How does this help with confidence I hear you ask? Well, the more you learn and get to new places enjoying beautiful scenery, the more you will like your photos and want to share. Also, as you will learn from others in your group, you will be sure to offer help to others along the way, also increasing your confidence.

7 - Ditch the Idea of Perfection

It is so easy to get hung up on the concept of perfection that the important details of a photo can be disregarded and might never see the light of day. This is probably more true in photos of people as many of those special family moments will never be repeated. Most people won’t notice an error in composition for example, if you captured a powerful emotional moment.

Learning the fundamentals are absolutely essential, but if you focus too much on perfection it can lead to a sense of failure. While you need to review your work and assess where you need to improve, it’s equally important to acknowledge what you did achieve in your efforts.

Give yourself credit where it is due. Bonus points for recognising the time, energy and effort you are investing in your art. Be honest with yourself about where you can improve, but also note the aspects that you did like and by focusing on that, you will find your confidence growing.

Regardless of what you like to photograph, keep going. Keep learning, and seek inspiration from anywhere you can and avoid the comparison trap. Learn from your mistakes, aim to improve, but don’t get hung up on perfection. Enjoy your photos and, most importantly, the process of creating them.

Most feedback was very positive and encouraging which of course helped my confidence. I have every belief the same will happen for you. At the end of the day, even if your photo is not ‘perfect’, you have captured a moment in time that will never be repeated. This alone will spur you on and you will appreciate what you have recorded.

Final words

Confidence doesn’t come easy to many of us, and nor is it constant. It will ebb and flow like creativity and motivation, but if you keep working at it, it will build.

I remember feeling like I was never going to get it right - my images were either out of focus, wrong shutter speed and poor composition - or all of these combined. There was always something ‘wrong’ but somehow I was still excited to be learning so wanted to share it with friends and other photographers on Facebook.

As you do this, your skills will grow, you will create more photos that you are proud of and prepared to show, and your confidence will skyrocket. This in turn will result in improvements followed by more confidence - what a wonderful cycle to be a part of!

Do you have any other confidence building tips? If so, please share them in the comments below.

That’s it for now - Keep clicking and stay caffeinated

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Note - This post does not contain any sponsored or affiliated links. All suggestions and opinions are mine. Unless otherwise stated, all photos are mine and remain my copyright images - Sam Wilson Photography.

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