Guest Post by Tasra Dawson. Learn more about her at mystere.life.
At my first photography convention, I hid my camera in my bag and absolutely refused to take it out in front of any professional photographers, which I assumed everyone was. I also assumed everyone I met was better, smarter, and more experienced. The number of opportunities I missed because of that faulty assumption are staggering, especially since I would repeat that behavior for many more conferences. In truth, many were better, smarter, and more experienced, but that didn’t mean I had to hide my passion and desire to learn.
It all boils down to one overriding emotion: FEAR. Fear has been a nemesis in many areas of my life, but perhaps none greater than my passion for photography. Fear kept me from taking a risk at my first photography conference to even claim the name “photographer” for myself, which meant missed opportunities for learning, mentoring, connection, and growth. Fear of failure and rejection made me put my camera down for over a year after a harsh and uninvited critique.
In my work with women and teen girls, as an author, coach, and teacher, I see this all the time. More recently, I saw it at the Pictage PartnerCon Conference in a For Women Only seminar I moderated. I started the meeting by asking each photographer to share her number one fear the responses were heartbreakingly similar.
This pervasive fear of failure, rejection, and loss keeps some women from even claiming to be professional photographers. If they don’t make a certain amount of money or have the right amount of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, they minimize not only what they create with their camera, but their very selves. I believe many women photographers are bound by a fear that keeps them from ever truly reaching their potential.
That has to stop. It’s time for women photographers to step into the frame. The most recent photography conventions I’ve participated in are attended by at least 50% women. This is a dramatic shift from just ten and certainly twenty years ago. Women are gravitating to the profession of photography at a rapid pace, but when I look at the speaking rosters at many conferences, the reviews and articles in industry magazines, and interviews on photo podcasts, I don’t see an equal representation. Why is that? Are women photographers being held back or holding themselves back?
The answer is probably both. But the one that is most easily impacted and changed is the latter. If we are holding ourselves back, then it’s time to work together and stop it. The first step is awareness and I’m working on that every day through my site at tasra mar | transform, speaking engagements for amazing companies like Pictage, and guest blogs on industry leading blogs like Photofocus. To really make a difference, you must get involved too!
Here are my top tips for becoming a fearless woman photographer (tips might work for men too!)
Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses: Women see the world differently, thats a good thing. Have the courage to take and share images that others aren’t taking. Different is good. Just be you behind the lens.
Celebrate your successes, learn from your mistakes: Redefine what mistakes mean. They don’t equal failure. If you only compare your progress to where you were the day before, you’ll release yourself from pressure of competition.
Find a community that encourages your development: You can go it alone, but the journey will be longer than it needs to be. Open yourself up to a community of fellow photographers who can encourage and provide valuable feedback.
Clarify your purpose in photography: If your goal is fame and fortune, you will take a distinct path from the photographer who wants to express their personality through the art they create. Get clear on who you are.
Bottom line is that it’s time for women photographers to step into the frame. One small step at a time is all it takes. One image a day with the tasra365 challenge has been radically changing my confidence and courage. What will it take for you?