Just how good a photographer are you? Are you comparing all your shots to that one shot on National Geographic or on the Topshop advert? You’re probably a lot better than you thought, it’s just that you’re your own harshest critic.
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel” – Steven Furtick
So just how many photos, looking at those captured compared to the end result, do photographers actually churn out? How many are they happy with? I know my ratio of keepers at weddings versus travel photography is gravely different. When I shoot a wedding I’ll usually have my camera set on continuous high speed mode and that allows me to essentially spray and pray during the times that I need to be shooting for reportage or photojournalistic images, and that is the sensible and tactical option to counter the effects of people being people. By that I mean people blinking, contorting their faces, others walking between me and my subject etc. For every moment that I shoot, there are about 5 exposures for me to choose from. But that only answers part of the question – so what about the ratio of photos taken to keepers to hero shots? Well the ratio of photos taken to keepers is usually quite high, but of those keepers the number that make it in to my portfolio of hero shots is low. Very low. In fact, if I take a photo every six months which I deem worthy of being included in my portfolio (note that I’m saying portfolio, not gallery) I’ll be very happy.
But what about comparing our thoughts of our highlight reel to others thoughts? To paraphrase a very good point made by Brad Moore (@bmoorevisuals) recently – What we may think is an incredible photo for emotional reasons could appear fairly mundane to others. We may show someone a photo of the sunrise over Mount Kilimanjaro which we think is amazing because it evokes the memories in us of sorting the gear the night before, getting up before dawn and trekking miles through rough ground and searching for the optimum spot to capture that moment of golden morning sun peeking out from behind the snow capped mountain – the journey is just as important, if not more important, in the emotion of this photo. But if you show that same photo to someone else who is subjective and doesn’t have that emotional attachment they may just think, ‘yeah, nice mountain picture.’ Make sense?
So in summary, for this short post about self critique, the moral is this… Don’t be too harsh on yourself, but similarly try to be objective. The best photographers in the world bin tons of photos and end up with just one. Peter Hurley (@peter_hurley) will get one headshot out of 30, Moose Peterson (@moosepeterson) will get one wildlife picture out of 30, Gary Fong (@garyfong_REAL) will get one bridal shot out of 30. Don’t beat yourself up, you aren’t the only photographer who bins pixels!