Turn the Discontent for Your Own Photographic Work into Motivation

Stop hating your work, right now! We all do it; we look at our own work and scoff, we feel like we do crap work a lot of the time but, in fact that’s not the case at all. The first version of anything, is anything but polished.

In today’s photo community, we follow and surround ourselves with people that inspire us. Often times however, the constant barrage of amazing works can cause the little voice in the back of your head to sneer at your own photos. Does that sound familiar to you? Putting hours of effort into an image only to look at it and decide that it's not as good as Joe Shmo, or all those people in some cool kids Facebook group? You are not your peers, nobody sees what you see though that lens. You’ve had unique experiences and trials, that’s what makes your photography, yours. Draw upon those you choose follow for inspiration but, do not compare yourself to them. The only person you should be comparing yourself to, is your past self.

Just like Tony Stark in Iron Man, we start out with a version of something that is constantly in a state of improvement. That thing is our body of work. It doesn’t mean we should look back at our past work and hate it; we should embrace where we came from. Without those stepping stones we’d never be where we are now. Yet, some have the tendency to get complacent in moderate success and their work never moves forward.

The photographic industry is in a state of perpetual flux, if we fail to adapt and improve we will be left behind. Instead of simply hating your work because it’s not at the level of your peers, use that feeling to push yourself at every opportunity. Try a new technique or lighting scheme. Remember, the first time will be janky, keep shooting, keep reading blogs, and watching tutorials. Even the best in the game learn something from teaching and talking with other professionals. My desire to shoot landscape was totally revitalized after watching the Photographing The World: Landscape Photography & Post-processing tutorial.

I came across this tweet from Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit), which inspired this post.

This photo of mine was many hours of working, stepping away for a few hours, trashing what I’ve done and starting fresh because it didn’t look right. I kept attempting various techniques until I was happy with the result. Janky at first? Yes, but after many iterations I was finally happy with the result. I’ve attempted a conceptual type of photo in the past and as you can see, it’s not nearly as refined as the latest.


I’m sure in the future I’ll look back at the former with similar feelings. The point I’m making is instead of just not liking my old work, I used what I learned, learned from the mistakes I made to craft a new image. I wasn't discouraged that my work wasn't and isn't anywhere near that of Bella Kotak or Joel Robinson's. The people we look up to all had to start somewhere as well! Keep your head in the proverbial books and keep shooting. I often will jump into the way back machine and look where I started; it isn't pretty but, it's a reminder of how far I've come. 

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Ralph Hightower's picture

I have to admit that I am my own worst critic and that also applies in my day job as a software developer. But I did give myself a "Yea!" when I stitched together three frames for a panorama and the seams appeared seamless. There were a few others; my wife and I were at a rock concert and she heard the shutter during one of the laser spreads and she said "You got that". I agree.

Delixir Sorbano's picture

Awesome reminder. Thank you for sharing examples of your own work to illustrate how far we can come simply by continuing to work hard.

Kyle Ford's picture

Glad you enjoyed it!