This is a topic that I have wanted to write and talk about for several years now. Imposter Syndrome is something that affects over 80% of the population.
What really surprises me is that the majority of us amateur photographers who use a smartphone as our primary or even only camera are not comfortable or feel good enough to call ourselves photographers!
Cambridge dictionary: Photographer - a person who takes photographs, either as a job or hobby.
In photography... particularly smartphone photography, we are reluctant to call ourselves photographer because we have not invested in expensive dedicated camera gear. Often, we do not use flash, hire models or get paid to take photos.
I understand why we feel that way about training. After attaining my Diploma in training design and assessment - I value the importance of passing an assessment to demonstrate your comprehension and ability to apply what you learned.
This current way of learning on YouTube feeds this feeling of imposter syndrome. The lack of confidence in your photos is because we do not know what to improve and guessing what we need to learn next. We are not receiving the quantative feedback of qualified photo critiques and are left not knowing how to measure and analyse our photos more objectively.
I have feelings of Imposter Syndrome creep in occasionally as a mobile photography educator - even after producing over 200 videos, delivering Live on YouTube and recently published a book!!
Over the years, I have taught photography principles to thousands of workshop attendees.
Many show me their photos and are truly fantastic photographers. But, they don't believe so! They will then try to convince me why they are not worthy of my praise.
Why do we do that? I do that... I will attribute my successes to external factors, such as luck. The growth in our Club paid member numbers was due to many having time to explore hobbies over the pandemic!
The phrase, "imposter syndrome" was coined by two clinical psychologists, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, as recently as the 1970's. It came about when they were studying successful women in the academic world who had reached great success, but felt like they were just lucky.
Imposter - person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive - a fake - a fraud
Syndrome - a combination or collection of concurrent opinions, emotions or behaviour that form an identifiable pattern. Greek words - running together
There are two parts to Imposter Syndrome, self-doubt regarding your capabilities and achievements and dismissing recognition as undeserved believing you are less qualified or skilled than your peers.
82% of the population experience Imposter Syndrome.
That 18% who do not feel this way are not smarter or more capable than us. They just think differently. I read a quote from Dr Valerie Yound - co-founder or Imposter Syndrome Institute summed it up nicely; 'The way to stop feeling like an imposter i to stop thinking like an imposter'.
1. You are not alone - it is not shameful
Reminding yourself it is normal can be quite freeing. Once you recognise that imposter syndrome is a form of fear, we can start to identify the triggers that prompt those feelings.
2. Feelings are not facts
At times you may feel like you cannot take a decent photo. Remember the last time you felt like an idiot. I am betting you are not an idiot. It is just the way you felt!
3. Welcome help from others
You may find it hard to accept help from others. You do not need to be self-reliant and feel like you should know everything. You do not need to have all the answers and feel caught out if you don't have them.
4. Address knowledge gaps
Don't let that identified knowledge gap become a source of fear or concern. Invest in your skills and prioritise progression over perfection.
A great way to tackle imposter syndrome is to learn, grow and improve yourself as a photographer and equip yourself to meet those high expectations and standards you set for yourself.
My Smartphone Photography Transformation Program (included as part of your paid Club Membership) is a structured way to learn. There are many other options to learn out there from Skillshare to Phlearn, Kelby One and many others.
5. Stop playing the comparison game
Easy to say, don't waste your time on this. Opportunities or the success of others is not your failure. Comparison often leads to negative thoughts of not feeling that we measure up to our peers.
I get jealous and compare my videos to other Android and iPhone photography educators who have drone footage, over the shoulder shots and create that really polished video. My main limitation is time. I know my strength is explaining and demonstrating complex stuff without jargon... and I don't need to be in an exotic location to do that.
Place your attention in your own photos and experimentation to find your own style. This is what you can control. Find your inner storyteller, your consistent capture and editing process and make photos that only you can make.
6. Recognise your achievements
Remember your transformation journey, the obstacles you have overcome already and how far you have improved. Rewarding yourself on a job well done can break that cycle of seeking and then dismissing validation from others. Identify your strengths and double down on that.
7. Perfectionism is ok
Being a perfectionist can be paralysing and frustrating when we cannot create or perform at out best all the time. It plays a major role in Imposter Syndrome.
This is one of my struggles. I feel like there is a perfect photo waiting for me to create. I spend too long in that internal dialogue of analysing and assessing that my photos are not good enough and that they need to be 'wow/ photos every time.
Being a perfectionist shows that are passionate about your Android or iPhone photography and this separates you from the happy snap takers.
8. Not being the best is ok
The fear of not being liked, of not reaching our own high standard is ok. The thought of being embarrassed or imagining the worst-case scenario reactions really holds us back.
If sharing a photo on social media. The worse that can happen is you do not get likes or additional followers. That does not sound any worse than not posting that new photo. We are not professionals considering if including a photo in our portfolio will impact our brand.
9. Feedback can affect your self-confidence
Apart from the keyboard warriors online in some forums and social media groups, feedback should always be welcomed. Learn to distinguish between criticsm and effective feedback. Honest and most importantly, qualified feedback is difficult to obtain.
As part of your Smartphone Photography Club membership, you may receive photo feedback during our monthly Zoom calls.
Assess the feedback, knowing where you are in your development against your goals and ambitions. Then valuate the credentials and intention of the giver of the feedback.
10. We are all bias
Our perceptions are not always the reality of what is going on. When we assess the success of a posted photo, we are comparing it to previous reactions to photos we have shared. When we present our photos to a camera club, we are comparing it to the perceived value and success or other presentations we have observed.
11. Take pride in being a photographer
Be proud of what you produce as a result of your creativity and skills. There is no threshold or line that you cross to be able to call yourself a photographer. You do not have to be in receipt of payment for your work or have a certain number of years of experience.
If you take the time to consider how to better compose the photo, make use of available light.. then you are a photographer. You know the value of storytelling and making your photo more than a recording of what is in front of you.
12. Be confident in your abilities
You do not need to know everything about mobile photography or even your preferred genre of photography. If you have a basic understanding of photographic principles, then you are already miles ahead of most amateur photographers who love taking photos.
13. Use social media moderately
Don't let the number of likes on your social media posts or comments affect your self-confidence. Likes and engagements online are mostly based on algorithms. In my observations, negative posts get more people commenting, driving up engagement and get pushed out in front of more people
I know several amazing photographers who gave up photography because they do not receive the instant gratification that they used to.
Sharing only your very best photos can portray a level of ability that does not match where you are in your journey. This higher set expectation can increase those feelings of being a fraud that will get caught out.
14. It's a passion not a career
Remember why it is that you enjoy taking photos. Even if you have a creative slum and stop taking photos for a while, you can re-ignite and re-affirm your passion. A quick exercise of capturing a single scene/object nine different ways is a great way to spark your creativity.
The 14-Day Photo Creativity Challenge inside the Smartphone Photography Club contains daily activities to get your creativity mojo back!
15. Reframe the negative narrative
Being aware that you are feeling imposter syndrome is a huge step to identify those triggers and flip them into a positive.
Instead of thinking you do not know enough to be presenting in your camera club or delivering training Live on YouTube, flip that narrative into a positive. Remind yourself that you know enough to know how to find the answers and that everyone feels nervous in that environment.
In my experience presenting with a group in YouTube lives, I changed the narrative in my head to these photographers are brilliant... I am going to learn a lot!
16. Fake it until you make it
This age old phrase had to be included! Basically, don't wait until you feel confident. Suspend your perfectionism, accept that you may not hit the high expectations you set for yourself, take risks, be creative and allow your confidence to build.
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