The comparison game
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
Photographers, have you ever found yourself comparing your own work to others around you? Have you ever compared yourself and then suddenly felt discouraged, under qualified, and intimidated? Me too.
There was a time when I first began my photography business and all I knew to do was to compare. Starting a photography business isn't easy, like you may know. You have to develop a brand, an identity, a style, an approach, and most importantly who you are. So many components that, as a teenager, I had no idea how to do.
This mindset has validity. We all live in a society where people care about how things look. Many of us follow famous people on Instagram and we dream of their wardrobe and their lifestyle. Media portrays appearance as the most important thing we could ever achieve.
As a photographer, it is easy to compare. Our company literally makes clients based on whether people like our look or not. We can fall into a rut of comparison because we have easy access to beautiful images on social media at all hours of the day. We can take those images and hold them up to our own and see the physical difference. "My white balance isn't good enough. Why can't I have those warm tones that she has? Why does he keep getting more clients than me?" Sound familiar?
From Another Photographer
So what do other photographers have to say about this? I had the pleasure of interviewing four other photographers, at very different stages in their businesses, and asked them if they have struggled with the comparison game and how they overcame it.
The first photographer I interviewed is Bri Schubert from Spencer, IA. She has a beautiful photography company called Bri Lifestyle Photography. She specializes in the fresh 48 (recently born babies) and young families. Her style is very clean, neat, and soft which is very fitting for her subjects! Go check out her page!
In response to this blog, Bri stated, "I have definitely struggled with comparison. I think it’s human nature, unfortunately. In every area of life we are tempted to look towards others and question if we measure up. Are we good enough? Do people enjoy my work? Sometimes it might be out of insecurities, sometimes it might be out of curiosity for our own creative needs. It changes often but mostly I think I struggle to be confident in my own style and work.”
In your opinion, how can we combat comparison, Bri?
"I try to follow other photographers that inspire me. It ends up being photographers in other states, cities, etc. This is healthy for my heart because I can enjoy their work from afar, be happy for them, and lean into perfecting my art within photography." Bri continued to say, "I want to always love what I do, be proud of my style, and always improve. I don't want comparison to steal the joy I find within my small business. I also want to celebrate other victories. This is a tiny step I take in order to stay away from comparison and be glad in what I get to do!"
The second photographer I interviewed is Stephanie Werner from Apple Valley, MN. Stephanie's photography company is called Stephanie Nicole Photography and it specializes in wedding photography. Her style thrives on lots of sunlight and golden hours and she rocks it! Her wedding albums are nothing less of dreamy.
In response to this blog, Stephanie stated, "I compare myself to other photographers as a way to push myself to be better and as inspiration for future work." She continued to say, "None of which I think are horrible things but too much comparison can be emotionally draining and it can kill your creativity to be your own photographer."
So what is your advice to combat the Comparison Game, Stephanie?
"I started adding time limits to Instagram and I think that has helped immensely. That way I'm not spending tons of time on Instagram comparing myself to other photographers. Now I can go look at some of my favorite photographers, find the qualities of their work that I admire and try to implement that into my work as well without spending tons of time on Instagram." Stephanie continued on to say, "My true goal with photography is being able to provide people with images that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. And they cherish these images because they are the subjects."
Thanks for the great advice, Stephanie!
The third photographer I interviewed is Coral Milbrodt from Minneapolis, MN. Coral's photography company is called Coral Mia Photography and she specializes in wedding photography. Her style is simple, natural, and earthy. She is seriously talented so go check out her work!
In response to this blog, Coral stated, "I feel like comparison among photographers is pretty normal, especially when you're first starting out. I've definitely dealt with it! Most of the time it's caused by seeing others success and comparing my own."
So what is your advice, Coral?
"Ways I combat the comparison game: 1) Remind myself that I have something unique to bring to the table. 2) Remind myself that I haven't been doing this as long as they have. 3) I sit down and make myself edit something that I'm proud of and reflects my own style. 4) Sometimes, I message the person and tell them what I appreciate about their style. They've worked hard to get where they are and respect is key. Practicing appreciation will help your overall mindset. 5) Last, always be willing and ready to learn!"
The last photographer I interviewed is Stephanie Shoemaker from Minneapolis, MN. Stephanie specializes in lifestyle photography and blogging. Her creativity, honesty, and uniqueness shines through her work. Go check it out!
In response to this blog, Stephanie stated, "Comparison was always a struggle for me in the past and it was always because of feeling like I wasn't as creative or producing as much content as others around me. I was even comparing the amount of work I was hired for."
So what is your advice, Stephanie?
"A way I combat the comparison game is knowing that what I produce is mine." She continued to state, "You come to a point where you realize that you're not producing creativity for anyone but yourself. And those that hire you are wanting you for that: your personal editing, style, creativity, etc. They're not amazed by your duplication but by the authenticity in your business."
Wow. That was straight wisdom! Thank you, Stephanie.
So in conclusion, be yourself! Don't change who you are to be more like another photographer. This world doesn't want duplicates, it wants you to be authentic and real. You don't need to feel that you are competing with other photographers but rather feel that you are in a community of artists encouraging each other and pushing each other to get better.
And if you struggle with the Comparison Game, don’t worry. You are not alone! Almost every photographer has struggled with that at some point in time.
Be encouraged by this: you were given the skills you have and put in the location you are in for a reason! Keep rocking it, photographers!