Take a moment to remember the first weddings you photographed. Did you have any idea what you were doing? Did you know whether you should direct the couple or photograph them au naturel? Whether to use strobes in the middle of the day or trust natural lighting? Whether to photograph using fixed lenses or a 70-200? Luckily, most of us began photographing in the digital age, in which one can easily be inspired by wedding blogs and social networks.
So we searched and browsed online, and started following well-known photographers from around the world whose style we liked. We were exposed to their work and took something from each one of them, until we developed our own individual creative language. As time went by, we also began following photographers who’ve become close friends, makeup artists we met at work, wedding event halls and blogs we’ve contributed to.
Today, within only 5 minutes on our feed, we can see dozens of different weddings; endless pictures of enamoured couples, excited guests and fantastic locations. However, in time, instead of being happy for them, we begin ignoring all of this and immediately enter the judgmental and critical wedding photographer’s role. All the happiness and creativity radiating from the feed slowly evaporates, only to be replaced with criticism, jealousy and comparing ourselves with other photographers.
Entire stories run through our head:
- I photograph much better than he does
- I wish I could take beautiful pictures like his
- Yet another delusional rookie photographer
- Seriously awful editing of photographs
- Why don’t I get to photograph in these exotic places?
- I need to buy more equipment to photograph like this
- How come I don’t have as many likes as he does
- I don’t get how he has that many likes.
These stories are useless. They only further us from developing and growing in a way that is just right for us. They motivate us to waste energy on irrelevant matters. We encounter a thought process that differs from ours, and immediately, negative critique arises. Our truth, worldview and photography method, which we have carefully nurtured and developed over the years, are momentarily shaken. We feel attacked at the sight of photography that is completely different from ours.
To be rid of these unhealthy behavioural patterns, we must first be aware of them. Notice what goes through our head and body each time we encounter another photographer’s work on social media. Stop, and look within.
If you begin to tell yourself some sort of story, categorise it: make a note of its character in your heart using one word, such as “criticism”, “jealousy”, “comparison”, “anxiety”, etc. Be kind to yourself. There is no need to judge yourself or feel bad about it. Just be aware of the stories running through your mind. Feel which type of sensations happen within you at that moment, for example: tense shoulders, shorter breath, cramped stomach or a faster pulse.
Let go. They’re just pictures online. Their intention is not to hurt you.
Now you can fill the space with beneficent comments:
- Compassion and happiness in your own success: It is easy to be enticed by the delusion that happiness will come when you achieve the ideal you are chasing after. Happiness is already in the here and now, in your daily development. Be grateful for the path you have followed until now. Remember all those small and big accomplishments you’ve gained since the moment you decided to photograph weddings. Listen to all the couples who never cease to praise you after making them happy by documenting their lives’ most special moments. Be whole with where you are in your career today, and be curious about what is yet to come in your future. With an open heart and a true intention to grow, you will arrive at even more amazing places, one step at a time and with much patience.
- Compassion and happiness for others’ success: You cannot possibly see what other photographers have gone through until this moment by looking at their pictures online. I’m sure that their success did not happen instantly, and only occurred after a lot of work, along with frustration and difficulties. Perhaps they’re even experiencing the same difficulties now, despite it looking all peachy on screen. In your heart, wish them happiness and peace. In your heart or via a private message, praise their success and the amazing work they do.
- Get off the stage: Nobody dictates the rules in the world of photography. Each photographer chooses a style that he or she loves. Every betrothed couple chooses its favourite photography style. Learn to let go of your image. Release your point of view when there is no need for it. Discover the sensation of freedom when you let go of the need to justify yourself.