10 tips to boost your self esteem as a photographer



You've been there. You made this killer shot that just barely believe is yours. You process it and you upload it to Facebook and Flickr and call it a day.

Surely this is is, right? EVERYONE will probably like it or favorite it. Happy as you can be you wait, and then wait, then wait even more…..nothing. Barely 3 likes and 2 flickr favorites. You feel like dirt. You want to hang up the camera. But fear not, here's 10 tips to boost your self esteem as a photographer.


Self esteem is your confidence in your own capacity, it can be called self respect. The problem with self esteem as a photographer is that we put it in the hands of others, making roller coaster of our emotions.


The 10 tips that follow will show you why this is bad and end up in a better place to put your self esteem. I mean, in life context the only thing putting my own self esteem in other's hands did is lead me to drugs and right about everything I said I never wanted to do. Go figure ><


1) Let's hear what those who have 1 week to live have to say
There's 2 kinds of people: People who learn for themselves, and people who learn from people who learn for themselves. Wouldn't it be wise to get some info from people who completely lived their lives to ask for a retrospective? There's a nurse you see, whohad a great idea: To interview terminal ill patients.


After interviewing many who had about a week to live, patterns started to emerge in terms of regrets. The first two regrets were working too hard and not spending enough times in relationships. The third regret has something for us: Not having the courage to live how they wanted to live, to do what they wanted to do.


You gotta have the courage to make images true to yourself. It's a sobering realisation on your death bed that you did things that were expected of you, not the things you wanted to do. I think the lesson here is to die empty, to make all the photographs that you wanted to do the way you wanted to do them, because let's face it, no one else can do them.


By not making images that are yours, you are denying your own Vision….and you my friend were born an original, don't die a copy.


2) What your lover can teach you about loving your images
Your photography is like your girlfriend, boyfriend, or wife/husband or even kid. What do I mean? The value of your significant other (besides their value as human beings) is essentially tied to you. In other words…..For the world they are but one person, but for you, that person is the world.


Think about your significant other. Isn't what's most important the fact that you love them? Do you really care if no one loves them the way you do? So why do you care when people do not like your photography the way you do? To put it simply, love what you do, you give it value.


3) People are too busy with themselves

This is the counterpart to loving what you do. People are too busy doing what they do to give time to what you do. Plus we live in an increasingly self centered society. so no one can give your work the love that you do.

So if you are not receiving the feedback you expected, it's pretty much to be expected. People are mostly self absorbed nowadays.  The way to break this is to pay it forward, give others your attention in their photographs and most likely they will reciprocate. Both of you will benefit.
4) It's impossible for everyone to like your images

Truth exists, because if I say that truth doesn't exist it presupposes that it is true. When you are dealing with art, you are not dealing truth but with subjectivity. If you have a room of a thousand people, and put up a photo up, some people will like it, some people won't.
That's just the way it is. When you shoot the way you want to, by default some people will drool over it, some people will think it's crap. Your work is like a magnet, and basic magnetism tells us that the positive pole will attract the negative pole of another magnet and the negative pole will attract the positive pole.
There's nothing a magnet can do to change that fact, likewise you can't change that about your work. There's just nothing you can do about your work not to repel some people. I'll be as bold as to say that it is impossible for everyone to like your work! And keeping the magnet image in mind, if you wish to attract those who you repelled, you have to turn the magnet around, repelling those who you initially attracted!
It's better to focus on shotting like you want to, attracting whose who like your work, repelling those who don't.

5) The neverending cycle of people pleasing

The problem with not being grounded in what you want to do is that you are like a leaf at the mercy of the wind. Someone doesn't like what you do, you change it to please them. Now others don't like it, you change it again and then more people don't like it, you change it again. When is this going to stop?
The biggest issue in putting your self esteem in others is that you are at their mercy. It's a never ending cycle because it's impossible to please everyone, so make sure you please the most important person, namely, you.


6) How “good” you are is proportional to your popularity

Let's take two photographers, a very very good one that only shoes their stuff to friends and family and another ok photographer that is often published in magazines and blogs.
Statistically the second one is the “good” one. Let me explain. The first photographer polarised his family and friends, 30% love his stuff, 70% don;t. Let's say that the second photographer likewise has the same 30% liking his work. Now let's say the first photographer's reach is 10 friends and family, and the second's reach is 1 million.
For the first photographer, 3 people like his work, and for the second 300.000 people like his work. People who come into photography are much much much more likely to hear about the second photographer as good. And because of social proof, newcomers are most likely to see his work as good too. Crazy. no?
What does this mean for you? There's math involved in being perceived as good. So you can give up on living off likes and favorites, as they are proportional to your popularity.
7) You only need one person's approval

To get approval, do not to create the need in the first place. You make the approval for yourself. Shoot for yourself, and be happy doing so, simple!
Like stated above, others liking your work is subjective and even the number of people liking your work is relative to your popularity. And don't think popularity would fix anything….did you know that Madonna's drive to perform is based on the fact that she feels inadequate? Crazy, no?
People liking your work is great but shoot first and foremost shoot for yourself. If you don't people will determine how your photography turns out for you. Now you know why Madonna loves pushing them' boundaries….


8) Grow like Pole Vaulters
I'm not saying not to listen to criticism or negative feedback. Nothing is worse that a bad shooter thinking he's good. But you know better than I do how to differentiate between things that are going to enhance your own photography and things that are aimed to change your core completely.
To grow, always be your most compassionate yet worse self critic. You did great, but you can do even better next time. If you have that drive to outdo yourself in every turn, you have the seeds of greatness because you are growing your own way at your own pace. That's what Pole Vaulters do, they put the bar ever so higher every time they reach their goal. They grow slowly but surely, looking only where they are and trying to outdo the previous jump.


9) Be your biggest fan

By now, it's pretty clear that no one will ever love your work more than you can. So be your biggest fan. What do fans do? They admire the object of their fandom. Noooooo I'm not talking about and ego trip there, but what I'm saying is to get some curtain wires and print your images to create a nice gallery for yourself. I mean, didn't you work hard on your images? Isn't it the least you could do for them?
Print your stuff, frame them nicely, give them away. Put your images as your wallpaper on your computer and on your phone. It's all about you showing your own work some love. I cannot stress enough how much this is important for your self esteem as photographer. When you start doing things with your images, you jump from the realm of saying you like your stuff to actually showing that you like them. A world of difference!!!


10) Free your intent
Your intent should be yours and yours only. When you are out shooting, sometimes buzzers get in your mind….. “You would get a more popular image if you shot it that way” kind of buzzers and they need to get out. I remember I was shooting some stuff for a client and apparently there was one of the world's top Psychic present or something. She revealed to me that she saw that every time I put the camera up to my eye, there was a flash of light going from my heart to the camera.
Whether you believe this stuff or not is not is besides the point, she accurately described the unencumbered photographer. To reach the state of flow when making images, you have to free your mind of all the crap, criticism, the wants of likes and all and put them in the garbage. When creating your images, there should only be you and your images, no distractions between you and the image.



At the end of the day, your images are stuck inside of you until you decide to free them. If the terminally ill taught us anything, it's that it will probably lead to regret. What you do as a photographer is validated by you first and foremost. Putting your validation in the hands of others is the surest way to bang your head because not everyone will like your stuff in the first place! So remember, you've probably have something good to offer the world, so go out and shoot your way, be the best that you can be….be awesome.


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20 thoughts on “10 tips to boost your self esteem as a photographer”

  1. This article comes at a perfect time for me. Another photographer friend of mine and I were having a discussion about this very thing. We both have periods of “Why am I doing this? Am I even any good?”. More often than I would like, I get sucked into how many views and favorites a photo of mine on Flickr gets, or how many views a blog post receives and it does take away from why I started taking photos in the first place. I started because I genuinely enjoyed doing so, but by getting distracted about what other people like, temporarily lost my passion. Great article!

  2. Thank you for taking the time n effort to write this n all of your articles. Inspiring n needed to hear. These days it’s so easy to get caught up in social media people pleasing. I appreciate the great reminders of remaining true to one’s self.

  3. Olivier – I used to read a lot of photography related blogs, articles and posts online. They were all purported to be ‘inspiring’ – a word that has been used to death – but they all were superficial and hackneyed. So I stopped reading them. Your articles however have come into my artistic life as a breeze of fresh spring air. Truly they strike a deep cord in me and through them I feel renewed and yes….inspired.

    Please, please keep it up! Thank you!

  4. Pingback: INSPIRED EYE | The big, fat list of all things Street Photography

  5. Good one Olivier!
    Thank for all your work. I’m totally agree with each word here. I just wish I could read something like this 20 years ago)))) Good staff!

  6. I really love these posts. I was having a day of low confidence today and stumbled upon your site while looking for inspiration. I want to let you know that your words really moved me. This article and the one on becoming more confident in street photography. You gave me a much needed boost and I ended up having a fantastic day of photo taking. So I really and truly thank you.

  7. That did make me smile because my self esteem as an artist and photographer sometimes hits rock bottom and i think just give up . Especially where you get excited about something in photography show your work or try to discuss ideas with family and friends and they have absolutely no interest what so ever .

    Thanks for clearing my head of the clutter .

  8. Today I found this article and that on the photographic discouragement and in both I reflected perfectly. And just in these days I wonder if what I do is valid, maybe because I do not find immediate feedback .. I do not know, but sometimes I really feel I’m not capable. All of this has happened since I embraced street photography. I noticed that several friends, when I still did not do street photography, were full of comments and appreciations. Even my wife .. but now not .. But in the end this is what I feel like doing now, this is what makes me feel good.

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