Tips for Overcoming Anxiety as a Photographer
For some people, socializing is no big deal. I am not one of those people! Photography can be a pretty nerve-wrecking profession if you have anxiety, like me. But here's the good news: it gets easier.
Listen, I have said no to a lot of really outstanding photo opportunities in my years because of anxiety. I have said "no" to opportunities because a shoot...
was high pressure
had a lot of subjects
was with clients I had never met
was out of my niche
was in a public place with onlookers
had unpredictable lighting
And (on more occasions than I like to admit) I've cancelled sessions last minute because my stomach cramps got so bad I couldn't breathe.
Here's the deal though, if you love photography you are going to find a way to make it happen. That is exactly what I have been able to do. After more than ten years of shooting, I have identified some things that help me overcome my symptoms and stay calm going into sessions. And I'm hoping they can help you, too!
Here are my tips for anyone who is scared, nervous or anxious going into a shoot.
1. Reflect on Past Shoots that Went Well
You wouldn't be offered the opportunity to shoot if you weren't talented! When you have a shoot coming up, reflect on some of the photos you've taken that you are most proud of and think about why that went so well. And do yourself a favor and don't tell yourself "well that was just luck". Really think and remember what went right! Or, my favorite, think of times when you though a shoot was ruined but did a wizardly editing job that made you impressed with yourself!
2. Name It Something Else
Something I always find myself repeating in my head or to my boyfriend before a shoot is "I'm so nervous!!" That is, until I read Tony Robbin's book Awaken the Giant Within. In one chapter he talks about how our language controls our reality. The words we choose have so much power! Instead of letting the nerves control you, change their name. Instead of saying "I'm so nervous", I now say "I'm so excited!" It's a small, seemingly insignificant adjustment, but I promise it will work. Try it in other areas of your life, too, and see what happens.
3. They Have No Idea Who You Are
I love this one! Just like in tip number two, you can use this one in a ton of life events. When you are meeting completely new clients or are shooting in a public place with onlookers, just remember: they have no idea who you are. They have no idea how long you've been shooting. They most likely have no photography knowledge, lighting knowledge, or status knowledge. That should boost your confidence! You are the pro in any shoot you book because you have the camera in your hands and you know what the heck to do with it!
Often times, this makes me level up my business and try things I would be too nervous to try otherwise worrying someone knew how inexperienced I was. I look at it as a way for me to act far more controlled and calm than I am on the inside.
4.They Won't Have Nothing
This one might put some of you off, but for me it was a relief. I was worried at a wedding once because I couldn't get dreamy lighting on something & it wasn't turning out exactly the way I had envisioned. I beat myself up about it for the next hour and a half, until someone I was talking to said "at least they have the shot!".
How simple and true! People are so grateful to have ONE perfect picture. Yeah, it makes you feel great to deliver 50+ outstanding, perfectly lit photos -- but you can't always control the lighting and you won't always have time to be picky. As long as they have the photo, the quality can have a flaw or two. Think about it: would you rather have a poorly lit, slightly out of focus photo of you and your first child in the delivery room
... or none at all?
5. Do a Gear & Equipment Check
This one should be obvious, but it's always important to get a reminder. Especially if you've got anxious tendencies. There's nothing worse than being a ball of stress and anxiety going into a shoot, and then getting there and realizing...
you're out of battery for your flash (exactly what happened for the above shot)
you didn't bring your favorite lens
forgot to put the SD card back in (YES, I've done that)
or something along those lines.
6. You're Making Art
If nothing else, remember that you have an opportunity to create! Whatever you capture, you get to show to people a piece of art that you pieced together, laid out, and orchestrated. And yes, the pictures might be for someone else, but at the end of the day they are yours! Get inspired by that and you will find yourself getting more and more excited with each shoot you book.
I truly hope these tips help you go into your next shoot with a clear and confident mindset. If you are still in need of help with this issue after trying these tricks, please don't hesitate to reach out and ask for more ideas. I am always coming up with new ways to quiet the chatter in my mind and replace it with more productive thoughts and I'm happy to share.
Jess with Nettik