Today’s lesson is a valuable one. It’s one that I seem to need to re-learn on a regular basis. It’s one that is a struggle for every single artist I know, no matter what your medium is. It seems so simple, but yet is so challenging.
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS!!!!
I’ve been running my photography business since 1996. I was just 20 years old when I launched the business and I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time. I’ve grown and changed a lot in that time too. I remember when I first started out, I almost quit, because I was constantly comparing my work to the work of other photographers that I admired. Mine ALWAYS fell short in my mind. Here’s the thing, when you compare yourself to others, you will always, always, always be harder on yourself than you are on anyone else. The other thing that you often forget is that you have no idea where the other person is in terms of their journey. You may be comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle or end.
I took this photograph just after finishing my photography program in 1996 and it still hangs on my wall. It’s my Baba. My parents rented garden space from her when we lived in Alberta and she adopted them as extra family. So I grew up thinking of her as another grandma!
The image is a lot darker than it is in real life, but the first time I showed this image to another professional photographer, he critiqued it so harshly, that I was almost in tears. However, Baba’s daughter LOVES it. She thinks it’s amazing and should have been entered in all sorts of competitions. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder… so if your clients love your work, that’s all that matters.
That said, I can see some of the faults in this image that were pointed out to me so long ago, and where I could have improved it. I also see the woman that I remember with her constant companion. I feel the same emotions looking at it now that I felt when I took the image 19 years ago. A deep sense of peace and contentment.
I’ve come a long way since I produced this image. I know more now about lighting and composition and the technical side of photography, but that still remains my weakness. Where my strength lies is in being able to connect with the people that I’m working with and drawing out their personalities. It’s in being able to see things in a way that not many other people do.
So to those who are just starting out or those who are at a crossroads… believe in what you do. Love what you do. But mostly, just stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and focus on what makes you happy.