Do you ever wonder what’s really is one of the most important things you can have as a photographer?
Hint: it’s not the fanciest camera, or the most expensive software, or the most clients.
It’s confidence. True, deep confidence.
And, confidence is HARD as a photographer — really, it’s hard for anyone. I’ve been there so many times in my life, and confidence has been a really big struggle for me in a lot of different ways over the years.
Learning to be confident as a photographer, though? Guys, it changed my life AND my business, and it can change yours too.
My journey with photography confidence
In the earlier days of my business, I landed a HUGE job — shooting my first editorial, which happened to be a 6-page spread for a big magazine (i.e., a dream). I was so excited to get it, and I had been imagining shooting for them forever. This was a huge deal to me.
Then, I found out the shoot was actually going to be at a photographer’s house — and not just any photographer, but one who I really, really looked up to and saw as *super famous* and *super cool* in the photography world. Enter: panic, fear, and imposter syndrome.
All of the confidence and excitement I had sprinted out of the window, and every unconfident, terrified thought you could think of was popping into my head:
“Who am I to shoot this?!”
“I’m not good enough to do this.”
“I’m going to embarrass myself in front of HER.”
“What if she thinks my lighting is bad… what if my lighting IS bad?”
“What if the shoot turns out horrible?”
“What if I fail?
And, the list goes on and on… and on. When I finally got to the house on the day of the shoot, those feelings of unworthiness and self doubt had taken over every stream of thought I had. I was full of fear.
Long story short, it was nooooot the best experience, by a long shot. My own lack of confidence — paired with an unorganized shoot and a yelling/angry/mean creative director — was not ideal.
Was I incredibly capable? Oh, yeah. Did I ruin the experience for myself by not allowing myself to be present and enjoy it because of my lack of confidence? You bet. When I look back on that whole experience now, it makes me so sad — because I see a scared, young, nervous photographer not knowing HOW to trust herself and believe in herself.
That lack of confidence I used to have is actually a huge part of the reason I started (and the mission of) Horizon Found — because learning to trust and love yourself is just as important as knowing how to capture images. These days, I don’t get nervous before shoots — I just get really, really lit up and excited… and that’s what I want for each and every one of you.
These are some of my favorite tips for boosting your photographer confidence & taking all of your shoots by storm (like you deserve to!):
4 Ways to Feel Confident at Your Next Photoshoot
1. Understand how to manipulate light like the pro you are.
Being able to understand the fundamentals of lighting is the #1 skill any photographer needs — because when you can understand light, you can manipulate it. When you can manipulate light, you can do ANYTHING you want when you’re shooting. But, if you lack that knowledge and understanding, you’re going to struggle. Your job? Get to know light like the back of your hand. Study it. Practice it. It’s your best friend.
When I think about that ~infamous~ shoot I talked about above, I’m reminded that lighting is really one of the only ways I got through it. Our locations on that shoot were in the photographer’s zero-light kitchen AND outside at noon… AKA, a photographer’s worst nightmare. My understanding of light is what got me through that and helped me to make adjustments on the fly, even though I was still panicky and nervous the entire time.
See, as a photographer, you want to be able to face every situation with control and a knowledge that you know what you’re doing — and that’s really how you can feel confident every time you go into a shoot. By understanding lighting and knowing, deep down, that you can put it into practice, you can ensure that you’re going to consistently create beautiful, high-quality shoots… and that makes you feel better. It reminds you that you’ve got this. Because you do!
2. Always, always check out the location beforehand.
Going into situations blind is never a good idea, especially if you’re already struggling with a lack of photographer confidence. If you can, always try to check out your location before you arrive. From knowing where to park all the way to the technical details like getting a feeling for light during your shoot, there is a ton of value in doing this — and it could be just what you need to feel stronger and more confident heading into the shoot.
At the editorial shoot, I was able to arrive an hour early and walk around — which was KEY to actually being able to place models and find locations while being screamed at by the creative director (super fun, hmm?). While I’m not sure it helped my confidence that day, it did save me precious time and help me feel more in control… and that mattered so much.
If you can’t check it out ahead of time — or ideally, a few days early to really scout and get to know it — do your best to show up an hour or so early. This’ll help you calm your nerves, but also give you the time to walk around, get a feel for the location itself, and start making a game plan that fits the lighting and shadows.
3. Plan, plan, plan!
Okay, I cannot underscore enough how important it is to plan and get organized before your shoots. While planning and organizing your shoots is an essential piece of making sure it goes well, it’s also KEY to helping you feel confident. By being able to start a shoot with a gameplan, contingency plans, and ideas, you’ll get better photos, have a better experience across the board, and feel better.
One of the main things that went wrong with the editorial shoot was the lack of this planning — which was really on the creative director to do, in that case. As a photographer who was *already* lacking the confidence I needed in the first place, it resulted in a really stressful environment and lots of wasted time for everyone involved.
There are a couple of ways to plan and organize shoots, and it really depends on the photographer. I like to moodboard before shoots to have a vibe and feeling to pull from, and I’m a big fan of creating a (relaxed) shot list that helps us all make sure to get the shots we want. The goal? To have a PLAN, however that works for you — and then do your best to stick to it and adjust where needed.
4. Bring someone with you to help.
Having someone you trust alongside you on shoots is so helpful to feeling confident as a photographer, especially on bigger shoots or ones that you’re already nervous about. If you don’t have an assistant or a second shooter, that’s okay — just ask someone you know to come with you and help out!
Really, my assistant is one of the only reasons I kept it all together at the editorial shoot. When the creative director was yelling and everything was a mess, he was the one who helped me to push aside the comments and stay in the zone I needed to be in. It’s a good reminder that we can’t always control what’s going on around us… by a long shot. However, we can control how we react and how we deliver regardless of our surroundings, and having someone at your side is a great way to do that.
It takes the pressure off, and reminds you that you’re not alone — and remembering you’re not alone is sometimes all you need to feel more confident. If you don’t have anyone to reach out to, I can promise that you’ll find someone in the Horizon Found Community. There are tons of women in there that would love to support you on your journey that know how it feels, too.
Here’s the thing: having confidence as a photographer is soooo hard. Having confidence as a HUMAN is hard. But, as incredible photographers (and people), we all owe it to ourselves to be able to trust in ourselves — and that 100% goes for you, too. Some shoots will be easier than others, some days you’ll feel more confident than others, and some periods in your life might affect how you feel overall.
There’s nothing wrong with that, okay? Nothing.
But, I can promise you that practicing that confidence is like practicing anything else. It gets easier, it gets more seamless, and it feels more like second nature the longer you go — even though sometimes all we need is a good Kelly Clarkson “Stronger” jam sesh in the car on the way to our shoots to balance us out.
So, turn up the music and roll the windows down.
You’ve got this.
And, if you’re looking to cultivate your confidence as a photographer on another level, The Photographer’s Path is just for you and we are opening the doors REAL SOON. Hop on the waitlist here.