I am going to share something I am not proud of: comparing my photos with the ones taken by other photographers makes me a bitter person. Yes, I too, have these moments in which I hate all the photographers in the world. OK, I am exaggerating. I don’t hate them all. I just hate the ones that are better than me. When I come to this realization, I feel even worst. I will give you a real example.
The other day I went to take photos of a valley close to my home. It is one of my favorite landscapes. I know that sunsets are beautiful in this area. And now is already summer, so everything turns golden. I was feeling happy and inspired. I found the perfect spot, set the tripod and my camera and I was shooting until I got what at that point I considered the perfect picture. I ran home and first thing I did was to transfer the photos to my computer. I searched for “THE PHOTO” and I did some post-processing using my best photo edition skills and Lightroom tools. When I saw the final picture I thought: “This is a great landscape photo”. I felt happy and proud. Such a great moment!
I decided to share it in a photography community to see if people like it. I usually post my photos in 500px. In case you don’t know it, 500px is an online community that encourage photographers to share their best work. It is a good place to connect with other photographers and get some inspiration. At that point I just needed to wait for the “likes” and the comments. I decided to have a look at what other photographers posted in the landscape category. I started comparing my photos with all the others. And so I entered into what I like to call the “negative criticism spiral”. I am so familiar with it that I can even describe it by stages.
Can you relate? In just five minutes I went from having a positive mindset (I was happy and enjoying my photography) to a deep sadness. I was either putting myself down or putting others down in order to feel better. Why do I do it? I guess that the answer is simple:
I compare myself with others because I am human.
I was not getting any benefit out of these comparisons. They were just making me sad and angry. I was losing my passion for photography too. These comparisons are destructive, so instead I decided to turn them into something constructive. I want to share with you my 3 ways not to become such a bitter photographer:
For some reason I tend to think that these photographers are not making any effort. I just see their final photo and I forget that it is the result of their work. You can’t know just by looking at one photo how many books they read about composition or how many years it took them to find their photographic vision. They might be travelling all the time. But you can’t know what they left behind. Maybe they did a big sacrifice in life in order to become a landscape photographer. Maybe they feel lonely. Maybe they took 10000 photos that day in order to get this one outstanding photo. Maybe they also feel that other photographers are much better than them. Now when I see that I start hating some photographer, I take a deep breath and I imagine all the efforts that this person might have done for taking the photo. It also helps to appreciate the picture even more.
Now every time I see a photo that I find great I add it to a gallery. This way I can come back to it at any time I want. I study them. I try to figure out what I like in them so much. Is it because of the composition? Or maybe it is the mood of the photo? When I focus on the photo and not on the photographer, I go into a positive mindset and I feel like I want to learn from the guy (or girl). I end up following them as a fan.
If still feel like I need to compare myself with something, I do it with one of my old photos. That I can see how I evolved and improved. I would like to go over all the learning process and take awesome pictures NOW. But photography doesn’t work like that. You learn, you practice, you make mistakes, you keep learning… and you improve. Slowly but surely. Put a new and an old photo next to each other and feel proud of yourself. Then comparing your photos can become something positive. Be aware of your strengths and keep learning to improve. Enjoy the journey. Love your photography. Appreciating yourself is the best way to keep motivated!
Each time you feel you are entering into a negative spiral of comparison, take a breath and apply one of the tips I told you. Think that it is all about mindset. My strategies are focused on promoting a positivity. When you’re looking at photos with a negative mood you close your mind, you don’t want to learn or to see any more good photos. On the other hand, a positive mindset will keep your mind open, You will learn from others and this will lead you to good places!