Why this is a really dangerous question.
You just started in photography. You set up your business a year ago and clients are not banging on your door to reserve sessions. You realize you need to make some money or you’ll end up homeless, and agonise to make a price list you can live with. You’ve been a photographer for years, and business is not going as well as you think it should.
No matter where you’re at, the terrifying question is lurking at the back of your mind. All. The. Time.
Are my photos good enough?
You sign up for another workshop (and you wish you could go to the one in Venice, but maybe next year), or yet another CreativeLive course, and you practice with mixed results because you don’t have the right clothes and the right models and who can find a good makeup artist willing to work for free?
You look at your work and find it lacking. It looked OK in-camera, but now? You shake your head.
Two important things to consider
There are two important things to consider when we start to be consumed by doubting our own photography skills.
The first is that it comes from a deep, honest willingness to look at our own work and not think too highly of ourselves. Stay humble. Stay hungry. Keep learning. Improve all the time. We never arrive.
This is a good thing!
We’re in this business because of our passion, and it is our innate drive for “better” that keeps us growing and improving our skills over time. Every year we’re a little better. Or a lot. Every year we look back and wonder how did we have the nerve to sell those images — OMG — today we’d do something completely different.
But does the fact that we’re constantly improving mean that we’re not good enough today? Of course not. The most well-known photographers on the planet will tell you that they constantly strive to improve — it certainly doesn’t mean that their images aren’t good enough today.
An excuse for lack of action
The second consideration — and the reason why this is a dangerous question — is that this is often our excuse for lack of action. We subconsciously self-sabotage an awful lot, it’s way more common than you’d think. If we’re scared that our photos may not be good enough, we won’t post them on social media. We won’t blog them. We won’t show them around.
And how are we going to get clients if we don’t show up? They can’t see us and we certainly won’t see them. And then we’re stuck, in despair, and so we truly believe that we’re not good enough, and the evil circle continues.
Yesterday I shot a newborn baby, a good client whose first son I shot six years ago. She proudly showed me the album I made for them, loving it, and I must say that while the layouts I do now are quite different, the images were mostly alright. But alright! Not great. Not amazing. Six years later, I like to think I’m a lot better than that, but you know what? She LOVES that album and swoons over every page.
And this brings me to the realisation that no matter which stage you’re at, your clients will love your photos because whatever you do will always be better than what they can do for themselves. If you have mastered the basics of photography, enough to bring a session home every time, you’re good enough.
The difference between an amateur and a professional is not on the quality of the photos. The difference is that the pro will work to a brief and bring the shots home on the day, no matter what. The amateur doesn’t need to do that, they can go back another day and shoot it again if they mess it up. But as professionals, we’re called to deliver. Can you deliver? Then you’re good enough.
Are your photos award-winning images? Probably not right now, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not valuable to your clients!
So get off your pity-potty and show up. Learn to trust yourself a little more. Post your images, be confident when you show your work to your clients, be proud of what you do. Strive to get better, but make images that you can be happy with today. When nagging doubt comes knocking, say politely: “I know you’re here, now just shut up and be quiet while I make my best images today.” Because you will. Today and every day.
And one day you’ll look back at them and maybe you’ll cringe a little, but you will know that those photos are cherished — and THAT is what makes them good enough.