Life, Photography, The Family Circle

Battling Self Doubt


I took a photojournalism class and it totally threw off my game. I had a flow going, a style of shooting that I liked, a simple post processing routine that I could apply effortlessly. All I had to do was concentrate on the subject matter. Frame the shot. Find the light. Shoot for the moment and not have to think about technical settings.

I’m not talking full on auto shooting either. I like to shoot in shutter priority and adjust my ISO ad shutter speed according to the situation. ISO is a term carried over from the days of film photography. It stands for the International Standards Organization, the really smart guys and gals who decide how to standardize sensitivity ratings for camera sensors. Fiddling with the ISO adjusts the camera’s sensitivity to light.

The subject matter that I currently shoot requires a fast shutter speed. I switch between having the camera to my eye and shooting from the hip. I turn the ISO up when I’m in dark areas like alleys or shadowy sides of the street. I adjust the shutter speed to either allow motion blur or completely freeze time. I can stop it up to 1/8000th of a second. I control light and I stop time. I am a God.

Then I get to Beginning Photojournalism and it’s just nothing but constraints. Don’t shoot in shutter priority, don’t use Lightroom, don’t use Silver Efex Pro. Don’t use any of the tools that help make your photos look awesome. Just do an unsharp mask and slightly tweak the levels. That’s all they allow me to do. I need more freedom than that.

I’m doing fine in the class, and I think my final project will be a good one, but for being a guy that loves photography more than anything, this class killed me. I did learn how to caption in AP Style though. I also got some great tips on how to get access behind the scenes. I’m ready to get serious. I have one huge, enormous, gigantic obstacle left to hurdle. Self doubt. Nervousness. Feeling inadequate. That’s my problem. I have the guts to get the shot in the heat of the moment, but I have a real hard time initiating contact. I don’t hide that I’m taking pictures, but I don’t make myself available to talk to anyone. It’s a mental block. I just freeze up.

This entire semester I worked really hard to force myself to talk to people. I talked at length to a homeless man who collects scrap to get by, I got an Anonymous protester to unmask himself to me and reveal his identity. I met a group of activists from the Occupy Denver movement and went to a few of their gatherings. I talked about green beans with a nice elderly lady who feeds the homeless every Friday night. I met a guy with a freshly beaten face who talked to me for at least 30 minutes. A guy with a red beard named Irish and his buddy Juan. The point is I talk to people, but I’m not getting deep enough. I just can’t seem to let go of that last little bit, and that hurts, because that could be the one thing that stops me from ever finding success in this endeavor. The one thing that makes me the guy who isn’t really a photographer. The guy who has to swallow his pride and admit he’s not good enough. Because the competition is fierce, and there are some really good photographers out there pushing the envelope and doing amazing things. I want to do that too. More than anything.

I want to teach my children that it’s okay to stumble and fall while you are chasing your goals. You don’t have to quit because you suck at first, or because it seems too hard. Keep trying. Don’t give up.

That’s just how I feel.

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8 thoughts on “Battling Self Doubt

  1. Midwestern Plant Girl says:

    I feel your pain and passion.
    I’m not sure what’s holding me back from writing my grants. A basic fear of failure is there, however I am also missing that kick-in-the-tucuss that gets all things moving. If I figure it out, I will pass it on. You are definitely moving in the right direction.
    I’ve taken classes like this also. I just take the useful info and sh*tcan the rest.


  2. Apart from that I think you’re already doing great shots (and I’m not talking about effects!), you may find this video by Zack Arias helpful to raise your head again 😉

    Remember, choosing to go pro means to shoot what and how others expect you to. In the end, you’ll have to sell it somehow.


  3. Yeah. I fully understand what you’re going through. It is so easy for some people to strike up a conversation with strangers. But even so, those conversations are often shallow. They don’t plumb the depths and explore the ticking inside the stranger. To both approach a stranger and to initiate a meaningful or insightful exchange takes enormous courage and skill. I think you’ll get there. Your determination is palpable.


    • I think having a set if questions trady for people like the HONY guy does it is a good start. Ice Breakers, amusing anecdotes to keep them talking, showing empathy. Im bot going ti get ruch, but thsys not ehst im in this for anyway. I’m just curious, and i want to know more about why we do the things we do. Gonna brat this hang-uo bevsuse I neliebe it is possible.


  4. I love this post. Love. There’s so much envy I have for you, not just because of the opportunity to dedicate yourself to a photojournalism class, but because despite your lingering self-doubt, you’ve described experiences that most of us would love to have, interacting with people on that street. I don’t think that ever really goes away. It’s just a matter of how much people share about the experiences. I’d never have known you had self-doubt if you hadn’t been candid about it.

    Please keep shooting and talking with people. The photos you’ve taken and shared in this post are phenomenal, and it’s clear you’ve gotten a lot out of your class.

    (Was this through a local school? Would like to do something similar.)


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