Okay fellow photographers, let’s be real… While social media is great, it does open the door for the not-so-fun comparison trap. We’re all guilty of comparing our work to that of other photographers we see on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest. It’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up… our photos aren’t good enough… we’re never going to be as successful as that other photographer. It doesn’t matter if you just started out or if you’ve been running a successful business for years – We all have moments when we think this way.
So if this hits home for you, my advice to you is: UNFOLLOW all the other photographers out there! No, I’m just kidding. Kind of. But it IS time for you to shift your focus elsewhere. The best piece of advice I could tell a photographer is: Stop looking around and start looking at your own work. The only person you should compare yourself to is yourself. Your past self, to be fair. The goal should be constant improvement, learning, growing, and fulfilling your sense of purpose. When you’re feeling down about your work, just look back to some of the first images you took. I guarantee you’ll see the fruits of your hard work. And hopefully it will even remind you of why you began this dream in the first place.
I recently took a stroll down memory lane and went back to the VERY first engagement & wedding I ever photographed. Meet Jeanette & John. They are my first official bride & groom. I photographed their wedding in January of 2012 — almost exactly five years ago. I had no wedding experience and very hesitantly agreed to photograph theirs after Jeanette gave me a pep talk and told me that she trusted me. That’s where it all started for me… A couple who trusted me enough to give me a shot. And that’s what every couple I’ve worked with up until now has done. And I’ll never stop being grateful for that. In fact, the trust that clients place in me is what drives me to constantly produce better work and images that they will cherish forever.
I look back at the engagement photos & wedding photos I took of Jeanette & John, my first official “clients.” Five years later and I still feel the joy of those moments, and I remember how proud I was of those images. They remind me of a time when my dream of being a professional photographer was just beginning to blossom. And I realize now that the feelings I experienced during Jeanette & John’s special day are the same feelings I feel at every wedding I photograph: love, joy, & purpose.
But while much has remained the same, the amazing part of looking back to where I began is being able to see the growth in my craft. That even though I might still not be as good as Susie-Q-Photographer down the street, I am MUCH better than I used to be. Part of this is due to building my way up to better cameras and lenses, but I’ve gained a lot more than improved equipment. I’ve learned composition & lighting. I’ve learned how to elicit emotions from my couples and how to capture the quick, spontaneous moments between them. I’ve learned how to edit consistently, and most importantly: I’ve discovered “my style” – something that took years to accomplish!
So photographers, if you ever feel like you’re falling down the comparison trap, go back and look at where you started. That’s the only comparison that matters. Stop looking around at who is “better” and give yourself grace. Compare where you used to be to where you are now. This is how you will appreciate those long nights of editing and expensive photography workshops you attended. This is how you will find joy in what you do. This is how you’ll discover your unique “style” of artwork, because you’ll never compare if you’re trying to mimic someone else.
For fun, I’m going to share my trip down memory lane. Below you will see the difference between photos I took five years ago of John & Jeanette (my first official engagement session & wedding!) vs. photos I’ve taken this past season. I hope you find this post encouraging!