Turn The Lights On

Photography is a creative art, and like all arts, there is one emotion that can bring our artistic abilities to a screeching halt—fear. A basic human emotion, fear normally arises from the perception of danger, but in photography, it’s not as much about danger as it is about our photos being accepted by others and what others might think about our images.

Fear Photo, Head in Sand

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

It’s not uncommon for a photographer to fear the results of their photography, and whether or not they’ll like what they’ve produced. It’s about satisfying our self, not just others plus with photography being subjective, we often fear negative rejection and hope for positive affirmation. (See more about affirmation in my article, “Like Me, My Life Depends On It.”)

Though don’t confuse fear with anxiety, an emotion that “occurs as the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.” It is the fear of failure in our art that can lead to anxiety, fear being the actual threat, however, if we can control that fear, we can avoid anxiety. Here are some pointers on how to face our fear in photography to avoid anxiety:

1. Pick up your camera and take photos—of anything, of anyone, and as Nike says, “Just do it!” Yes, go do it with confidence; while you’re doing it, don’t think about what others will think—this is your shoot. You can only build your confidence in photography to overcome your fears if you just go do it. You have to make an attempt, and if you fail, get up and do it again and again until you get it right even if it takes days or weeks. Trial and error is acceptable as long as you strive to improve. Your photography only improves if you are proactive, not inactive.

2. If you must think, think about “The Law of Attraction,” which states, “like attracts like.” While this law is not scientifically proven, many claim it works and it’s often based on “pure energy” between the person and the their thoughts. Its concept is that if you think you’re going to take a bad photo, you will, and that if you think plus focus your energy on creating a great photo, you will do so.

3. Accept constructive criticism and ignore destructive criticism of your photography. Don’t fear the critical words of others, and accept, positive or negative, the words of those that matter. If someone is critical of your work, ask yourself, “Who are they to criticize my work? Do they have the credentials? Are they experienced photo editors?”

If they are credentialed, then take their criticism as a lesson learned and utilize it to your advantage. If they are not credentialed, never fear to ignore them and remember, some people are critical only because they are jealous of your work, which is a compliment, or they have a need for their own affirmation or your attention. Other people’s negative or positive criticism is not truth; it’s only an opinion. We all know everyone has an opinion, so take it as just that, they are not verdicts.

4. Face fear, when you think you feel it, as a form of procrastination; then ask yourself if you like it when people procrastinate you? The lawn will never get cut if you tell yourself everyday that it might rain. Think positive thoughts and you’ll have a higher chance of achieving positive results. In the military we called it a “Can do attitude.” You can do it! It’s not so much about courage as it is about determination.

5. Fear is often brought about by uncertainty, so ask your self certain “close-ended” questions. I like to call these questions, questions that build confidence. Close-ended questions can only be answered with a “yes” or “no” answer. Focus on the yes type of questions, as the word yes carries a more positive connotation than the word no.

Write these questions down as a “pep-talk” list and carry it in your pocket for motivation when you need it. Here are some sample questions that work, “Am I alive? Do I use a camera to take photos? Are there others better than me? Can I improve my craft? When I like something do I smile? Etc.” The idea is to get your mind to think, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes…and this will help get you motivated vs. no, no, no, no.

6. Alway remember the most famous quote about fear and really think about its truth. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fear, a basic emotion all humans face at some point in time, is a creativity killer but it’s not a game changer in photography unless you let it change your game. Championships are won with adjustments and if it’s not working for you, then learn to adjust. I always tell photographers at my photography workshops, never fear to move on to the next idea or pose if it’s not working. Fighting something that is not working when it comes to photography only slows you down and creates a downward spiral. It’s the fear to fail, and if you move forward to something else, it fades fast plus instills confidence, thus improving your flow in photography.

Never fear to turn on the light in your head—there is a reason we drive our cars at night with the headlights on, so that we can see what lies ahead as we move forward. It’s hard to move forward in total darkness. We naturally have a fear of danger in complete darkness, so why not, literally, turn on the lights and brighten up the room? We see better in a brightly lit room than a totally darkened room.

With that I close and as always, let’s not forget the men and women who often put their selves in harms way to protect our freedoms, including the freedom to express ourselves with the art we create. God Bless them, their families and friends, Rolando.

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