If there is just one piece of advice I can give to any aspiring photographer, one thing I can give you that you’ll take away with you and remember throughout your entire career, it would be this…
You are your own worst critic. No one, and I mean no one, will critique your own work as harshly or as brutally as you always will.
Photographers, like all creatives, are a bloody strange bunch. We strive for absolute perfection with our work and, despite others around us protesting that our work is beautiful!, incredible!, amazing!, for some reason it always falls short of our own expectations.
We are always a disappointment to ourselves.
Even on those occasions where we produce something we are actually really proud of, that we will happily show to others and even pat ourselves on the back for, there will still be a point where we’ll whisper to ourselves, “But it’s not totally perfect.”.
So where did this quest for perfection come from? Why, as human beings, do we strive for perfection in all things? Because this really isn’t just limited to photography. Couples want the most perfect wedding, the perfect house or the perfect children or pet. Bosses strive for perfect employees and perfect work. Kids strive for perfect exam results . But what, really, is perfection? Does it even exist? Or is it, more likely, an ever-moving, long-distant and impossible-to-reach goal?
By placing such high standards on ourselves, it’s no wonder we wind up feeling inadequate and disappointed. I learned, a very long time ago now, to lower my expectations to a level I like to call “ordinary”. I expect only to do the best job I feel I can do and nothing more than that. That probably sounds quite pessimistic but I prefer to look at it a different way. Because, think about it, if you’re striving for perfection all the time and are failing to meet your own high expectations, aren’t you always disappointed in yourself? Whereas if I only strive to achieve mid-range results, “ordinary results” if you like, I find I am rarely disappointed and, more often than not, surprised and overwhelmingly happy with the results as they tend to far outweigh my expectations. I see that as quite a positive and optimistic outlook, wouldn’t you agree?
Of course, I’m not suggesting you lower your actual standards, not by an stretch. But lowering your expectations of your standards goes a long way towards a happier, prouder you, producing work that makes you smile every single time. You will still be creating the best work you can possibly achieve but, instead of being disappointed by it, you’ll find yourself becoming ever prouder of what you are achieving. And this goes a long way to ensuring that others, namely your clientele, will be far happier with what they are receiving from you as well.
Give it a try on your next shoot. Before you get started, tell yourself that you will produce the best work to your abilities and you will be happy with your work, even if the results are only of an ordinary standard. By telling yourself this you take the pressure off of yourselves from trying to obtain the elusive “perfect shot”, you’ll feel more relaxed during the shoot and I am 100% sure that, when you get home and load up your images, you will be pleasantly surprised and pleased with the results. And remember what I said earlier, no one will critique your own work as harshly as you will so by being happy with your results, you can totally ensure your clients will love them even more!