For most of us photographers, there will come a point when you find yourself up against the comparison trap (which I like to fondly call the comparison dragon). She rears her ugly head and you find that you are facing her dead on, or worse, losing to her and you just don’t know exactly how to fight against this comparison dragon. Well here are a few tried and true ways to focus your attention elsewhere.
At the end of the day, you are in charge of your own photography journey. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself, taking inspiration and learning from other photographers along the way. Then you’ll reach success in your own way and discover the joy and satisfaction of building your own style and voice.
Focus on Your Own Journey
The biggest comparison trap I see is when you are looking at photographers who are years ahead of you in their journey. It is so unfair to compare yourself to someone with tons of experience. I mean, can you imagine watching someone walk when you haven’t even started crawling. Must be annoying. Knowing that you do have to crawl first before you can walk sounds annoying, but most children do indeed do some sort of crawling (or worming, or butt shuffling) across that floor before they take their first steps. And you too, as a photographer, need to put in some time to explore your own vision before you fill your horizon with others vision, style, and voice. Mostly this is done by experimenting, challenging yourself, getting to know your equipment, and so many other small little steps before you have a full vision of what is ahead of you. I offer a few ways of enhancing your creativity when you feel you are struggling.
Look At The Greats
I find, for whatever reason, that this option is not often mentioned. Yes you should not be looking at other photographers who are doing the same things as you and are years ahead of where you are. But how about you look at someone who has been revered for their greatness. If you focus on someone doing something entirely different than you might be able to stop that comparison trap.
When I am feeling overwhelmed by other photographers who are further along in their career (or ones that I deem more talented than myself) I actually go back to my roots and look up some favorite artists. Favorite photographers who inspire me, ones who do something entirely different than me, and get re-inspired to try new techniques or just get out there and create again for the sake of creating. Not all art is created equal—not all photography is either by the way—and looking at my favorites reignites my own passion for this art that I love, the one I love outside of my professional photography career. I started out as an art photographer and will likely always be a fine-art photographer. No, not the kind that calls themselves a “fine-art [insert wedding/portrait/landscape here] photographer” but a bonafide fine-art photographer, one that creates purely for the sake of creating. They may still be more talented than I am, but how wonderful is it to be inspired by something truly great, instead of something my mind has decided is great.
Define Your Level Of Success
I bet when you started this photography journey you had an idea in mind. You wanted to do X,Y, and Z. Maybe that was learn your camera, perhaps you wanted to build a portfolio, go back to school, or start a business. Look at what started you on this path and refocus your attention on those things. This is closely tied to the first point of focusing on your own journey, but this one requires some personalized attention. Say your idea was to learn your camera, then I suggest taking a class (in person or online) to gain some more experience with your specific camera. If you want to build a portfolio of landscape photos, find a group that goes out photographing or explore local hikes to amazing vantage points, or book that trip to that amazing location and make it happen. Trying to start a business? Then decide what kind of business you want and look into how to make that happen. Maybe there are local workshops for portrait photographers, maybe there are posing guides you can download, perhaps you put out an option to photograph your ideal clients for free until you feel a bit more comfortable? The options are endless and the paths to get there are numerous.
There are tons of ways to make these things happen but your level of success probably looks entirely different than mine. You might want to make money, or just try something new. Define what you want before trying all the things out there and focus your attention on getting to that goal.
The best way to become a successful photographer is to focus on improving yourself, not on comparing yourself to others. Don’t get lured into the photographer comparison trap. Don’t compare your successes and failures to anyone else’s. Spend your time honing your craft, rather than comparing yourself to others. Learn from other photographers, take inspiration from them, but don’t worry about whether you’ll ever be as successful as them. The only way to succeed in photography is to be the best version of yourself. So focus on the process and stay dedicated—take action and don’t be afraid to try new things.