Five Things Holding Back Your Photography

By Roger (13 June 2015)

Photography is a fun hobby; a chance to be artistic; a great way to eliminate stress; and, on occasion, a great way to earn a living. It allows people, like me, the chance to dabble in art, even though they can't draw or paint. Almost every day we hear from people who say they want to do more and improve their photography, and, then, they sigh and say, “But....”

We have all given excuses for things we haven't done. Some are valid, but most are just words we use to hide behind. If something is important enough, we will find a way to make it happen or, at least, get us moving towards our goal. Here are five things that may be holding you back from your photographic goals. You need to push these barriers aside to move forward.

Fear of Failure can be a big barrier to achieving almost anything, including photography. The funny truth is: failure is pretty much guaranteed somewhere along the path. Everyone will screw up a photo (or hundreds). I've been on the scene when world-famous photographers you should know have messed up a photo, in front of a seminar they were leading. Join the club.

That may seem like an over-simplified reaction to your inner doubts, but there it is. You have to keep trying, despite the mistakes. The best response to this fear is pushing forward and making a concerted effort to learn from the mistakes. Try not to repeat them, but don't retreat from them. There are many big books on this topic, from highly educated folks, but they all end with, pretty much, the same advice.

Gear seems to be the next big issue. “If I only had the expensive, pro gear, it would be different.” Balderdash! You can read on almost every photography website that this is complete nonsense, but the feeling persists. Expensive gear is a wonderful luxury; it gives you some additional options; it will NOT make you a better photographer. The great photographers, throughout the history of photography, used cameras that didn't have the features you can find on your typical cellphone camera. Somehow they made great photos, and you can, too.

Photography is about your vision, not your gear. If you carry expensive gear, but can't make adequate photos, people will just think you're flaunting your bank account. You can read about my personal experience shooting a wedding, in Poland, with a “beginner” camera, in a blog I wrote two years ago. (Riding the Stupid Train)

Exotic locations are not required for good photography. You can make photos in your backyard that will amaze. There are innumerable opportunities right near you – wherever you are. I have traveled my entire life around this country and many other countries. I love it and would leave tomorrow on another trip, but most of the photos I make are no more than 50 miles from my house. Unless you manage to snag a gig as a travel photographer, the majority of your photos will be near your house, too.

When you go to someplace new, you get a charge of inspiration because everything looks so very different from your usual environment. It's a great feeling, and many of us would like to just travel to see the beautiful places, in faraway lands. If this is your dream, you should save your money and plan a trip to wherever that place is that you think is so fantastic. Call me, and I'll go with you. But never use that as excuse for not making photos.

Marion, MA, isn't exotic, but it is still nice at sunrise

Marion, MA, isn't exotic, but it is still nice at sunrise

Professional versus Amateur. Professionals make a living at photography; amateurs do it for their own pleasure. You do not have to aspire to make a living with your photography to be a “serious” photographer. There are plenty of amateurs making incredible photographs. You can find their work all over the internet, photo groups, and in local galleries.

Do you really want to turn something that gives you great pleasure into a full-time job? If you do the research, you'll find most photographers are struggling to make ends meet. Think of it as analogous to the music or acting world. There are many fine musicians who aren't burning up the charts with their latest hit singles. Very few make it to superstar status.

Amateurs can still enjoy their art

Amateurs can still enjoy their art

Does this professional job look glamorous to you?

Does this professional job look glamorous to you?

Job interference. The final thing that might be holding you back is related to the previous topic. You have a real job that pays for your hobby, and you don't have time. I hear you. I've just worked four of the past five weekends, and it's put a crimp in my photography, too. It didn't stop me though.

Only you can decide what you do in your free time. I use mine for photography. When I'm involved in family events, I have a camera. When I get to travel for work, I bring a camera for the time I'm free. Whenever and wherever I can, I have a camera. I'll listen to the news and the few television shows I follow while I'm sitting at my computer, processing photos. Photography doesn't have to be your only pleasure, but I feel pretty confident that people who use their job as an excuse are not using all, or most, of their free time improving their photography.

There are lots of other things that may be holding you back from moving forward with your photography. I've only listed five here. Maybe you're not that serious about it because other pursuits have a higher priority to you. That's fine, too. The point is you can probably do more than you're doing, and, if photography is something that is important to you, you shouldn't let anything hold you back.