Do you find the thought of being a full-time photographer frightening? If so, welcome to the club!
There’s a lot to be scared of when you take the leap into photography full-time. It’s a world with an unknown future…and if there’s anything we humans fear the most, it’s the unknown. Sure, there are things we can do to help give some stability to our future. Through planning and marketing, we can make ourselves more valuable to potential clients, but it’s that inevitable feeling that when it comes right down to it, ultimately we have no control when it comes to other people hiring us. We try to influence their decision, but it is their decision (and that decision can quite often be “no”).
We’re also working in a world of unknown territory. There’s always something we don’t know or haven’t done that frightens us. We can be frightened of being hired to do a job that requires skills we don’t have yet. We can be frightened of other photographers and how we should interact (or how we should stay away) from them. We’re frightened to attend conferences or workshops where we don’t know anyone. The fact is, pursuing photography will take us places and force us to do things that are out of our comfort zone…and that is always, always frightening.
This career choice can also leave us with an unknown self. It may be the most frightening thing of all to question who we are and what our place is in this industry. What is my style? How do I want my clients to see me? How do I want my peers to see me? What is my voice in photography? Will I ever be good enough? Will I ever know what I am doing? There’s a host of never ending questions about self and how we fit into this puzzle we call “photography”…and it’s frightening. It really is. But just because we’re frightened, doesn’t mean that we have to be controlled by fear.
It’s ok to admit that we’re scared…and it’s ok to be scared, because the unknown is scary. It is not ok to allow fear to dictate our future or make decisions however. You may be at a point where you feel that your fear can’t be detached from the situation your in, but I promise you, it can! It’s not always easy, but it is always an option. Sometimes it helps me to look back at many of the other times I’ve been afraid. I can remember the first conference I went to, so afraid that no one wanted anything to do with me and that I’d be seen as a nobody. I remember the first time I was asked to speak in front of a group of peers and was afraid that they would think I was boring or a waste of time. I remember numerous jobs that required me to do things that I had never done before and was afraid of screwing everything up. I remember leaving my full-time job of nearly 16 years and being afraid of not being able to support my family through photography. …and on and on it goes with time after time of being scared and afraid to do things in this life. BUT, you know why I like to think back on these times? Because it forces me to realize that in every scenario, my fears were disproven. In fact, pushing through the times I’ve been most afraid has led to the best experiences I’ve had in this career thus far! Though I can’t help but wonder, what about all the times I allowed my fear to keep me from doing the things I wish I would’ve done? How would my life be different if I just hadn’t been so afraid?
I don’t know why our first response to every new situation is to automatically fear the worst, but I do know that in spite of how frightening the situation may seem, we don’t have to let fear control us. You may even be wrestling with a fear right now. If so, I encourage you to push past it and realize that life has so much more to offer beyond our fears. So be frightened, it’s totally natural…but don’t be afraid!