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Confession: Being Myself Doesn’t Come Naturally To Me

Yes, I’m a living paradox

I actively try to post images on my social media that I’m happy with - rather than those which I think other people will like. I say “actively” because this isn’t necessarily something which comes naturally to me, due to an underlying lack of self-confidence, supported in its endeavours by a seemingly omnipresent need for acceptance.  

I think it’s really important to be aware of your idiosyncrasies, like this, because it means you can combat the ones which you view as self-destructive, or self-limiting. That said, awareness only goes so far, as our brains seem to find some incredibly sneaky ways of dragging us kicking and screaming back to the status quo.

A bit of background

I got asked an interesting question in an interview I did for Carve (surfing) Magazine. I’m paraphrasing (massively), but I was asked: ‘Whether I prefer shooting professionals or amateurs?’

[Spoiler alert - if you were wanting to find the answer in the magazine:] I think both have their perks.

With any skill-based sport, professionals are without a doubt easier to get ‘better’ images of; they effortlessly and consistently perform acts which us mere mortals can only dream about - and this makes for good photos, even in otherwise poor conditions (light, location etc.) It’s not just their mad skills though, it’s also the effortless style which they ooze from the tens of thousands of hours practice they’ve invested in their art.  

In contrast, what amateurs lack in aesthetics, they make up for in an unmatched level of appreciation for the time you invested in capturing their moment and immortalising it in a digital frame for them to savour and share. Not that pros aren’t appreciative - some are grateful far beyond what you’d anticipate - but generally, they’re just used to having their photo taken, so they’re less likely to care; It’s nothing personal, I’m sure. 

When you think about it, they are vastly different ‘types’ of enjoyment. One has its roots in the sense of achievement associated with being able to recreate your own version of popular art. The other comes from the fulfilment of creating and providing something for another human - I’d also argue that the sense of achievement might be higher when you get the money shot with an amateur, given that everything hasn’t been handed to you ‘on a plate’, so as to speak. 

My realisation 

Today, trawling through some old photos, I stumbled across this shot. I took it at a local cycling club’s time trial event, last year.

Amateur Cyclist in Time Trial in Yorkshire

It’s a shot I like. I love the emotion in the rider’s face. I love the fact the sun was low and bright, casting and deep orangey/red hue across the rider. I love how sharp it is. I love the depth and contrast. Despite all of this, I hadn’t posted it on Instagram. 

It dawned on me that despite the equality of enjoyment I find (and described above) in shooting amateurs, this doesn’t translate into an equality of enjoyment in sharing the material produced. If this was a pro, I’m fairly certain I’d have posted it a long time ago - particularly it was a Chris Froome or a Mark Cavendish!

Already dissatisfied at myself for this prejudice, it got worse when I questioned myself as to why I hadn’t shared it. I could think of only one reason… It wasn’t likely to attract as much attention as a recognisable public figure might. And I think that’s pretty sad. It certainly goes against everything I’d actively preach in terms of developing your own style in any creative field. At the end of the day, I’m a photographer, not a celeb-hunter, so the status of the featured individual shouldn’t have any bearing on whether I deem an image good, or not. And despite this realisation, even as I sit here now, typing this blog, a little of me still thinks ‘no don’t post it’. 

But, I’m ignoring myself. In fact, not only am I ignoring myself, I’m giving myself the metaphorical middle finger, by writing a whole blog post about this one image! Take that ego *kapow*.

Something to take home 

From a creators perspective I think it’s important to be honest with yourself about why you like your creation(s) and share them on the merits of the creation; As opposed to the reception you anticipate it’ll receive. Even if it is all about the likes to you (which it definitely shouldn’t be), you’re better to get 20 likes for something cool you’ve created, than 50 because you happened to see a famous person.

This mindset has wider implications though, for those outside the field of photography, art and content creation. If you are proud of anything you have created (that includes (and isn’t limited to) thoughts and speech, as they are created in our minds, like any other piece of art) you shouldn’t be prevented from sharing your creation - especially by yourself! Try as you might to  blame other peoples’ reception or reaction for stopping you, but these exist and matter nowhere other than in your own head.