Ditch the Doubt: 3 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Photographer

Katya Mulvaney

Mon Apr 22 2024

Ditch the Doubt: 3 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Photographer

Someone telling you to overcome imposter syndrome as a photographer is a bit like someone telling you to “just relax” when you are stressed out. But fortunately, there are ways to curb these gnawing feelings of self-doubt. First, lets' take a look at what imposter syndrome is all about.

What is imposter syndrome?

Let's face it, imposter syndrome sucks! It's something that is felt by many in the freelancing space. But what exactly is imposter syndrome?

Without diving too deeply into things, imposter syndrome is essentially the feeling that you don't have what it takes to make it, that you're someone merely acting as or looking like a photographer, but not actually being a photographer.

As defined by verywell mind “Imposter syndrome is the psychological experience of feeling like a fake or a phony despite any genuine success that you have achieved. …. The irony is, that people with imposter syndrome are often highly accomplished, impressive individuals. On the outside, there is no apparent reason for them to feel like an imposter, and yet they still do.”

Imposter syndrome can show up as feeling like a fraud, like everyone else is far more competent than you are. It can even make you worry that one day your client will discover that you're not cut out for the job.

We all have some degree of self-limiting thoughts, or at least we've experienced them at some point in our lives. Those in the creative space are particularly prone to imposter syndrome - not believing their work is “good enough”. But is there a way to help ourselves curb these beliefs? There sure is! Let's take a look at 3 ways to help you ditch the doubt and overcome imposter syndrome.

Person lying with notebook covering face Photo by Karolina Grabowska

3 ways to help you ditch the doubt and overcome imposter syndrome

1- Stop comparing yourself to others

This is especially true on social media. While these digital platforms provide a good place to market yourself and get inspiration, they are not a place for comparison. Remember that what we're seeing on social media is a polished version of what people want us to see. So you'll likely be comparing your unedited photos to super-polished images that have been shared on social media. Images which have been carefully chosen and curated to create a particular impression.

What we don't see in these online spaces is the other photographer's struggle. Their own challenges, the countless hours they've had to go through to post such a photo. And perhaps even their challenge with facing their own imposter syndrome.

It's important for creatives in all fields to get inspiration from others. However, you need to be aware of when that inspiration turns to not feeling good enough. Social media spaces are excellent for connecting with other photographers, to get inspiration and to become part of online communities. But you need to be aware of the nature of these places and keep yourself from placing too much importance on comparing your work to the work of others.

We each have something unique and valuable to share with the world. And art is a wonderful way to do this.

2- Focus on improvement, not perfection

A nice way to focus on improvement is to see where you've come from. You can do this by looking back at old photos and/or videos and seeing the improvements that you've made along the way. Doing some self-reflection in this way can give you concrete examples of your progress. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself. And yes, I know this is far easier said than done.

Celebrating your successes can also help you shift your perspective away from focusing on your failures to seeing your wins. Even the smallest improvement or success should be noted as an achievement, a sign that you're moving towards becoming a better photographer.

When we focus on perfection, we see every imperfection as a failure, which can limit our creativity. This feeling of ‘falling short of perfection' also can create a negative sense towards ourselves and our work. But, when we focus on improvement, we allow ourselves to notice and celebrate even the smallest of wins. These incremental wins will help to create a more positive overall sense of self.

Person taking a photograph of food Photo by Alexy Almond

3- Focus on what's important to you

Why did you start photographing in the first place? What's your reason for even being a photographer?

At the crux of it, there's some form of story-telling involved and those stories still need to be told. Focusing on why you're doing what you're doing, can help you realign your motivation. This may help you shift your focus from “getting somewhere” to “being where you are”.

More often than not, the hardest challenge we face is not necessarily the challenge itself, but rather our perception of it. Changing that perception takes awareness, time, and practice.

By focusing on your reasons for doing what you do, you'll shift your awareness to your passion for photography. Your passion for picking up your camera and wanting to get out there and capture something beautiful and unique. One of the best things you can do to combat imposter syndrome is to just keep shooting. Keep trying. Keep improving and keep celebrating your achievements - no matter how big or small they may be.

If you want to know a bit more, here's a lovely video from Nigel Danson (a professional nature photographer based in the UK) who discusses his own experiences with imposter syndrome and his thoughts on dealing with it.

Don't let doubt get you down

It's also important to note that you're not unusual in your feelings of self-doubt. In fact, it's one of the more common feelings to have - especially in a capitalist society that is geared towards making us feel that we are lacking in some way.

Don't let doubt stop you from picking up your camera and engaging with the incredible art of photography.

Written by Katya Mulvaney | Katya is a brand creation and digital marketing specialist. She heads up marketing and communication here at LightRocket. If you subscribe to our emailer or follow us on social media, then you're probably already familiar with some of her work. She also never shies away from a good plate of pasta.

To read more helpful articles on photography, check out our blog page.

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