Why do I doubt myself?

Since I was about 8 years old I‘ve had an interest in photography. However, it’s only since 2012 that I got into it in a major way. It’s now a big hobby and I spend most of my spare time and money on it.

I have studied and read up on it incessantly, learning from the greats and not so greats and even the rubbish (how not to do it). It’s now 6 years of photographing everything I see, whatever the subject.

A few days ago I had cause to look through a portfolio of images from the beginning to the present day. It is easy to see how bad I was when I started, but what blew me away was how good some of my more recent photos are.

Like most photographers, I like to look at others peoples work for inspiration and to learn. The upside of doing that is my learning and progression. The downside is that I see wonderful work and get discouraged because I know I will never reach that standard. At times I’ve even considered just giving up because what’s the point in producing sub-standard work like a million other people do?

I don’t photograph for recognition, although I do like it when someone appreciates my work. I do it for fun and I get a lot out of it. However, I have never been one to accept something below par and if that’s the best I can do, why bother? It’s embarrassing.

I know I will never be technically brilliant, so I have focussed on getting an interesting image; one that says something to the viewer or will grab their attention.

I started out 6 years ago photographing everything I could and after about 6 months realised that more than anything, I like photographing people. I am a people watcher, always have been, so street photography where I can watch and capture at the same time was a perfect match. My first attempts were just plain photos of people walking by but as I grew in confidence and experience I began to capture that ‘moment’. It has been a great training ground to capture life in its most honest form and produce something that I and others (mainly my wife) can enjoy.

So when I was inevitably asked to do a wedding for a friend (for free of course), after an initial ‘I could never do that’, I decided to have a go. Rather than a formal traditional wedding photography experience, I did it in my own way, i.e. capture the feel of the day (as well as the most obvious photos everyone wants). Was I pleased with the result? Yes in that it didn’t turn out to be a disaster. And yes in that they were pretty good. Were the bride and groom pleased? Yes they were, which is the most important thing, obviously. They weren’t perfect and I learnt from the experience, but they were okay. Other people saw the results and I now have another booking for a wedding and feel more confident, although it’s still a little terrifying.

Back to my portfolio. I have about 500 photos on my tablet organised into different categories which are represented on my website. Some of them are really good, if I say so myself. One of them was chosen by Rankin, who is one of the best photographers in the world, out of 11,000 submitted, to go on the front cover of a photographic book called ‘This is Britain’ which was sold to raise money for Children in Need. If someone like him can appreciate my work, what am I worried about?

I upload some of my better photos to the site 500px which is where the more serious photographers show their work. Many of them achieve ‘popular’ status which suggests others like what I do. So why do I doubt myself?

I’m not brilliant, I never will be. I will likely never achieve any significant recognition and I’m okay with that. But I reckon I’m good enough at what I do. If others don’t like it, that’s okay; I like my photos, they’re like my babies. I enjoy taking photos and I’m sure I always will.

I’ve realised that the time I doubt myself is when I compare myself to others. I’m supposed to be doing this for fun; I don’t need to do that. I will never be like them and I don’t want to be. I want to be myself.

Next time I catch myself doubting, I will remember why I do this; for my own enjoyment. I am what I am and that’s okay. If it’s less than others, that’s okay. If you like what I do, that’s great.

So have a look at my work. I hope you also see something you enjoy. If you don’t I’m sorry; but it’s also okay.

You can see some of my photos on my website. But wear sun glasses because they are dazzling mhbphoto.uk

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