The Confidence Game

By all accounts, things are going great with my photography.  I’m in more gallery shows this year, my prints are selling, I’ve been in a couple of magazines, etc.  And yet I have a confession to make:  My confidence is probably at an all-time low.

I should warn you ahead of time that there are no answers in this post.  No pithy advice, cunning plans or anything of the sort.  I just wanted to share my inner thought process because I think it’s more common among photographers than we usually care to admit.

I’m a compulsive self-analyzer, and I’m usually pretty good at it.  I’m relatively intelligent, reasonably self-aware and can usually nail down what the cause of an emotional state is within a relatively short amount of time. That’s what bugs me about this.

My best guess is that it has to do with expectations that I put on myself.

I’ve also determined that there are many levels of success (at least as how I define it, everyone is different).  The problem is that I can now see quite a few levels ahead of me, and getting there seems so far away.  The insecurities creep in…the doubts.

This topic came up when I was talking to one of the most successful fine art photographers out there (again, as I define it).  He mentioned that these thoughts are normal, and even he still has them – those days where you just lay on the couch and think that you suck.  Somehow that’s comforting.

One thing that I do know is that I have to shoot through it.  Once I get into a roll of film, I’m usually okay.  It’s getting out and doing it that’s the tough part.  At least when I look at the negatives, I can analyze things and see where I can do better.  Without those negatives though, I’m just lost in my own thoughts.  The negatives make it tangible.  Plan-able.  Resolvable.

I know that these things are cyclical.  I’ve also had times where I’m “in the zone” and getting some of those shots that make you look at them and say to yourself “Damn, that’s good – who took that?”.  That’s the bonus – the thing that makes all of this agony worthwhile.  There’s no high like it.

I just have to keep telling myself that it’ll come, as long as I keep shooting.





  1. I have the same problem… mine with editing my work at this stage. I have been so frustrated with the whole thing that it keeps stopping me from shooting for long spans of time.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on the next stage of the cycle, whenever you get there. Good luck Mark, and congratulations on your achievements thus far. Wish more of them were online for the rest of us to see.

  2. Just get out there. I’m in fact talking more to myself right now, as I’m also very much in the “I suck/Just what do I actually want my photographs to say” phase. Feeling a little lost, and it’s somehow heartening to read about your journey through this.

  3. Mark, this is the most honest thing I have seen written in a long time. I think we all go through similar thoughts and I think one of the keys is to socialize with other photographers of all skill levels. Sharing what you know builds confidence and learning something new keeps us humble. Great post.

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