Do you ever find yourself constantly comparing your work to others? I do. I will go out and have a great shoot, come home, edit, drink a beer and sit with the satisfaction that I have created something great. Only to then jump online and see the copious amounts of amazing photography that I feel I cannot compete with. That however, does not mean I don’t always take pride in my work, I most certainly do, and you should take pride in your work too.
Your toughest competitor is you
Competition is healthy, however in most fields it is unrealistic for it to be fair and balanced. For example, say you take an amazing shot - your best yet - then you go compare it to your favourite photographer and realise in comparison it is not that great at all. The difference between you and them is that they have 10 years more experience than you. Of course they will be producing more consistent, well rounded content, they have been running the race longer. It’s hard enough to catch Usain Bolt at the same starting line, you will never catch him if he has a 10 metre head start.
You can then get lost in comparing your work to those at a similar experience level as you. You may ask yourself “Am I as good as them?” or “Why are they taking that shot and I am not?” Before you know it you are in this unhealthy cycle of questioning your own ability. There are so many variables as to why someone is at a certain level and producing a certain quality of work, that it becomes almost redundant to try and compete. The only person that can offer a genuine comparison to the work your currently producing - is you.
What I mean by this, is as you progress and develop your craft, you are constantly evolving into a better version of yourself. If you look through your portfolio, from say 12 months ago, do you feel you have become a better photographer? If the answer is yes, then you are on course to win the race. Each time you evolve, or simply put, get better - you should be proud of everything you are creating.
It is somewhat cliché for a photographer to look back on their content and cringe as they review images whilst saying “what was I thinking!?”. It’s natural to do this, and a way to say “Thank God I have improved since then”. That said, we should never completely mock our work from years gone by. I was looking through some of my images which I may not necessary consider strong today, but I did at the time - and it was those images that were all stepping stones to me thinking more about the work I produce. I take great pleasure out of looking at old photos, thinking about times when I would be constantly thinking about settings and reassuring myself I knew the difference between Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. I will never have that time again, and whilst that is clear sign of progression - there is a sadness about it.
I look at my portfolio today and I feel warmth and a sense of achievement. I think of the time I thought my Nikon D3200 would mean I took professional looking pictures as soon as I hit the shutter - and then I smile at the thought of how far I have come, both in being realistic and in skill.
So whilst I am not the best photographer on the planet, I am the best photographic version of myself that I can be at this stage of my creative life. This gives me the energy and inspiration to keep out doing myself, keep shedding my skin like a snake and evolving into something better.
I want you to go look at your work, go way back and review your journey. Do it right up to your most recent shot, forget about me, forget about all the others and just focus on you and your development - that is what is most important.
You can be content with the work you produce whilst still having the drive and ambition to go further. Be happy, be loud and without any doubt - be proud.
Thanks for reading.
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