A few weeks ago, my good friend Brittani wrote a blog post about making changes. Little things like disconnecting from Facebook, focusing on real life + taking a hard look at the things you can actually do for yourself instead of comparing yourself to others. It’s something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. I think all small business owners do, but especially photographers.
Our industry is an industry of highlights. Photographers usually only show their very best work, talk about only the wonderful things that happen to them, and everyone always puts on their happy face when it comes to social media. Never mind the under-exposed images, the Photoshop tricks, showing what really comes out of the camera, persistent self-doubt, and the constant worry about whether or not you will book the next job so you can pay your rent next month. No one talks about that. This tendency to only show the highlights makes it even more difficult for photographers to really gauge how they are doing based solely on what they see from their colleagues + competitors because you just don’t know what is real and what is being hyped up to be something way better than it really is.
I’ll admit that I suffer from comparison syndrome. I follow tons of pet + wedding photographers on Facebook – some who are more experienced than me, but also a lot of photographers who started their business around the same time as me. I’ve always looked to them for motivation + inspiration, but it’s so easy to look where they are with their business and wonder “what am I doing wrong?” I look at their images and get jealous because mine don’t look that way. Is this a fair comparison? Of course not! I’m only seeing the highlight and I have no idea how much editing had to be done to their image or how many duds they threw out before coming across this gem. But even though I know I’m only seeing highlights, it still makes me question myself constantly.
I also see local colleagues + competitors receive all sorts of great opportunities that make me wonder “why aren’t I good enough?” Partnerships, collaborations, relationships that I struggle to make and honestly, I feel like I am just trying too hard to get “in” with the cool kids. When an email I send goes unanswered or a great opportunity is given to someone else, I can’t help but wonder what I’m doing wrong. Am I not coming across correctly? Am I being annoying? Is my work not good enough? The self-doubt is absolutely paralyzing and I know this is not good. So instead of continuing to try and break into these circles, to try and prove that I am worthy, I decided to just stop. Stop trying so freakin’ hard.
There are so many wonderful things happening for me + my business and they are happening on their own. Not necessarily because I know someone (although that definitely helps), not because I pay to advertise with a certain publication, not because I went to school for photography or anything like that… but because people actually do value me as a person and an artist. So I made a conscious decision to stop trying so hard to forge relationships with people who obviously don’t want one, but focus on the amazing things that ARE happening for me + my business and the relationships with people who DO believe in me + care about me. Because in the end, those are the only relationships that are worth putting effort into and they are the ones that will last a long, long time.
So thank you to all of the vendors who have actually emailed me back, taken my business cards, and agreed to meet with me. Thank you to the photographers who have emailed me back, agreed to grab coffee with me, gave me a chance to work with you, and have sent referrals my way. Thank you to the editors who have given me a fair chance to showcase my work and who have eagerly published my work, both online + in print, this year. And thank you to everyone who has become a dear friend of mine in the process. I truly treasure our relationships – our friendships – and hope that I am able to give back to you as much as I’ve been given. Thank you.