Self Doubt and Frustration

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I recently got an email from a dear reader. She wrote asking if I ever felt discouraged and doubted my work. She has been on this journey for about 3 years like me and felt stuck. At the end she asked if I ever felt this way. I was almost in tears reading the email because I could have written it word for word. I have shed many tears over this wonderful craft that I love but struggle with so often.

Self doubt and feeling lost in your photography isn’t talked about much so I’m going to lay it out on the line. I have been in a huge slump with my photography. I’m talking months. I think as photographers we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to continue to grow and improve and when we aren’t able to see that growth in our work it is extremely discouraging. I have taken tons of workshops and feel “over-educated” (that is how the reader described her feelings). I know exactly what my photos “should” look like but for some reason I am not able to achieve the look I’m going for. It’s frustrating!

It has gotten so bad that I feel so much pressure to capture these perfect images of our children and especially Claire. I know better than I did when the other two were babies, so my photos so be great, right? That is a lot of pressure. Of course, no one is saying this to me, I have said it myself. So what do I do since I can’t produce what I want, I don’t shot anything at all.

It isn’t a matter of comparing myself to others because I don’t really do that. We are all on our own journey. I know for me photography does not come naturally. Teaching, that came naturally. Photography is something I have to work at and think about to improve. I do compare myself to myself and see some growth but not as much as I would like.

I was encouraged when I spoke with a few photographers whom I admire who also shared that they have been or are in a slump with their photography. Even the greats struggle to find their creativity from time to time.

So what am I going to do to get myself out of this slump? I have spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. It is not a matter of buying a new lens or any other type of quick fix. It’s going to take hard work and dedication. I’m going to start shooting everyday again. I realize my photography really flatlined when I stopped shooting daily. I miss that. I am going to take some of the workshops I have taken and take the information and redo them. I will give myself little assignments. I’m going to get a portfolio critique. I would love to have a photographer I admire look at my work and tell me what I can do and should do to continue to grow.

Have you ever been in a slump? What did you do to get out of it?

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  • October 4, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    I was just in a slump myself. What I thought was going to be a never ending slump. I was ready to give up entirely until I got a phone call. Someone had seen my work and wanted me to do a family session for them. I panicked and almost said no but something inside me said this was what I needed.

    I went. It was 90 degrees and the kids were hot and crazy, there was people and construction everywhere at this park we met at but ya know what? It helped. It forced me out of my little rut because I now not only had to be more creative to avoid certain obstacles but I also had something new and inspiring to shoot.

    Now as I’m editing the photos I couldn’t be more proud. They might be some of my best. And yes, a few of them are not technically correct in composition but they really captured the moment for this family.

  • October 4, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    I feel this way a lot. Thanks for opening up about your own journey! It gives us encouragement.

  • October 4, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I, too, am in a slump. Some days I struggle just to pick up my camera. I’m just not inspired to shoot anything. (And I’m in my third year of a Project 365). So just this morning, before reading this post, I put a post out on Facebook asking if anyone would like to let me practice on them. For me, I think the only way I’m going to get out of this slump is to push myself to do something different. So I’m very hopeful that I will get a nibble or two on my offer and see where that goes.

    Thank you for your honesty! I’m sure it wasn’t easy to write this!

  • Tori
    October 4, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Wow…welcome to the inside of my head! You must be in there as you have put in words exactly how I feel. In this day and age where EVERYONE has a camera, and the ability to share their shots on any of a number of social media, its sometimes hard to stay excited.I am still new to the photography game, and shoot more because I love it then to make a buck or two. Right now my skills have not advanced to the level I hoped to be at by this time, so my passion is looking more like a hobby. I too have decided to reattach my camera to my hand and click through the slump!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts…it feels good to know I am not a failure…

  • October 4, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart! I find myself doubting my ability as a photographer All. The. TIme. I want each image to be perfect – technically and aesthetically. And I have all these grand ideas and ‘images’ in my head of how my images should look, and when they don’t, I do a downward spiral. But then I have an image that not only do I love, but others do as well, and I immediately think, “Yes! I can do this!” It’s really quite an emotional roller coast ride, being a photographer! :)

    Photography, like art, is so personal and not everyone will react the same way to it, nor will their reactions be how you think they should react! Personally, I really need to develop a better sense of myself, as a person and as an artist. I think that if I was more self-confident {personally and artistically}, then others’ opinions won’t matter quite as much {note, I am not speaking about people who are qualified to critique my work!} – if someone doesn’t like what I create, it’s OK. But ‘m not there yet.

    • October 5, 2012 at 6:07 AM

      Hi Michelle,

      I could have written this! You described my thoughts and feelings exactly.

  • October 4, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    It’s me again! Right after I posted my comment, I went back to my Google Reader and read the next article on my list … here it is. Just a bit of encouragement for you! :)

  • October 4, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    Feeling a bit stuck myself. I am just a hobbyist, but would love to make this a career some day. I feel lightyears from that point, and need to start taking baby steps in the right direction. So today, I did two things: 1. I subscribed to the new Click magazine that is coming out in hopes that it will both teach and inspire me periodically throughout the year and 2. I put out an email to my friends asking if they would be so kind as to give me the opportunity to shoot their family photographs for their holiday cards this year. I am hoping that working with other families (usually I just photograph my own kids) will push me to grow and give me a renewed energy to continue on my path.

  • Janell H
    October 4, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Wow this brought tears to my eyes. I know exactly how you feel. I go through periods of slumps, especially when I don’t know where I’m going with this whole photography thing, being a hobbyist, and feeling stuck. I like being a hobbyist, but to be honest I’m so bored taking the same pics of my kids and life! Does that make me a horrible mom? I feel like I’ve already spent so much money and I still have lemmings for a full frame and pro lenses and workshops, wondering if that will give me the motivation and encouragement. For the record I think your pics are AMAZING and you’re doing awesome with the blog and photography! You inspire me and I’m sure a lot of other people.

  • October 4, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Thank you so much for posting this and opening up a discussion that is so often looked over. I think as a photographer and a blog writer you are expected to show and discuss only those “happy” moments. To me photography is so much more than that. (It is also so much more than portraits but that’s a subject for another day :) I am a relatively new photographer compared to others in my area and it is really easy to get discouraged when trying to get your business going or just sharing your work with others. I often have days were I look at my camera bag and say “nope, I can’t pick it up today” but then there are others were I do nothing put look through my viewfinder. I often compare this to other life situations were you just don’t feel like doing it today. I think this is normal but it’s great to hear it from other photographers and know that it is not just you! Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and inspiring others!

  • October 4, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    So glad you wrote about this today. I have felt this way for several years and just kind of stopped shooting. I haven’t even photographed my own kids as much as I should. Its very reassuring to know that other people feel the same way. I was just talking to my mom today about feeling like this isn’t meant for me. I just don’t feel inspired like I use to be. But after reading everyone else’s comments and your post it does give me light at the end of the tunnel to just try to shoot a few times a week and who know’s maybe I will be doing my own 365 blog.

  • April M
    October 5, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    I think this very thing is what had me in a slump for so long- like years. They just flew by and I neglected this part of myself. You know how it is- military wife, mom, moving etc. It’s so easy to put things on the back burner, especially when they aren’t going the way that you want. Photography takes time. I think for me getting out of the slump was just a matter of a decision to have fun again. All of your pictures don’t have to be award winners, and some of the best ones are unplanned. So I made a plan to un-plan more of my photos. Thanks for writing this, it seems to have resonated with a lot of us!

  • October 5, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Thank you for this! I feel like every artists journey is constant battle and I constantly remind myself that only the strong survive. On any given day I think… am I strong enough?


  • October 6, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    Thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing your heart with us! While I don’t feel like I’m in a slump at the moment, I definitely struggle with self-doubt. I was inspired by why you said about how you don’t compare yourself to other photographers – how great! I DO compare myself (as a photographer, as a mom, as a cook, as a homemaker, with my fashion sense… you name it!), and I know that nothing good comes from it. I’m reminded of Paul’s encouragement to think on whatever is true, and lovely, etc. (Phil. 4:8).

    On another note, I got to try a 70-200mm zoom lens this last month for the first time and have had so much fun just trying something new and different. Having that new perspective (vs. the 24-70mm I already had) has definitely helped me grow this last month!

  • October 7, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    OMG…about a year ago, that’s exactly how I felt…FRUSTRATED!!! My problem was working with sunlight. I could not grasp how to combat those horrible face shadows when the sun was shining, so I would only shoot on a cloudy day. I was always checking the weather forecast and driving myself insane.

    Finally, I figured out how to USE sunlight and now I WANT it in every portrait I take. I can shoot at any time of day using this method including high noon. I share the technique on this blog post because I want others to get past this awful fear of shooting in sunlight:

    After I learned this technique, I started my own portrait business and now I never feel stuck. I hope it helps everyone!

  • Tina
    October 8, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Thank you for this post. I am going through a slump right now. I honestly thought it was because I was so new to the craft and still have lots to learn. I didn’t realize that it happens to everyone.

    As a mom and wife, I find that my biggest thing is having time to get behind my camera. But, thanks to working The Artists Way I have also figured out that it’s me holding myself back. Easy to make excuses. I love being behind my Nikon and I know I have the knowledge to do it. God, knows I’ve taken enough classes and workshops but when my shots don’t come out exactly like I pictured them in my mind it drives me crazy. Like you I am trying to shoot everyday. Even if it’s just one or two shots. It’s better than nothing. I have seen that I feel better about my photography when I do so. Thank you again.

  • October 8, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    I feel this way a lot, especially when school starts taking over my time and I can’t spend the time getting the shots I want, or can’t “waste” hours on site like this reading through all the comments and articles trying to glean as much information and knowledge as I can.
    I’ve been in a slump for the past month, although recently I reminded myself all I had to do was pick up my camera every day and shoot and eventually I’d find my way again. So thats what I’ve been doing, shooting the simple stuff I see every day (my poor teammates :P). This past weekend I was shooting races at a regatta and realized that even though I thought I was in a slump, by shooting rowing practice for the past two weeks my photography had improved. Even though my brain told me I wasn’t a very good photographer and I doubted my self very time I heard the shutter fire, I’m happier with more of my photos from this regatta then any other regatta over the past year. So for this next week I’m going to try turning off the part of my brain that says “I dont know what I’m doing, that wont make a good picture” ect.. and just trust that my eye and finger know what they’re doing. Worst come to worst it’s just more practice and will pay off in the end. Right?
    Knowing that other photographers struggle with this helps a bit too – so thanks for the article :)

  • Tina Carlson
    October 8, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Wow…I did not realized there were so many “me’s” out there! This was such a great reading, thank you so much…I need to do a 365 day/shoot, I keep saying this to myself and then don’t “feel” it for a few days. Now I know that I need to push through the slump and do what I love/enjoy…in fact, I am strapping on the camera and bundling up to go shoot the falling leaves!

  • October 8, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    This has been so helpful to know others are feeling the same way I am. I have been reading everything I can online about photography and I’ve taken several online courses. Yet my photography is not where I would like it to be. Discouraging…yes, but after reading all of your comments I am not giving up. I can hear a little theme…practice, practice, and don’t give up! Thanks for your insight.

  • Jesica H.
    October 8, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    I am so glad you talked about this! I am just starting out and I get so depressed when my pictures don’t look like everyone elses. I get even more depressed when I try to ask different photographers questions and NO ONE wants to share their precious secrets. I have to remind myself it’s a hobby so there is no rush in becoming the next famous photographer. Just like previous comments have mentioned… practice, practice, practice & patience, patience, patience!

  • October 8, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    What helped me the most was my aunt who is incredibly artistic and creative – and just a wonderful soul. She explained that photography, and any other type of art, needs to flow through you. Once you start over-thinking, and trying to create from your mind – you will lose. In comes frustration and self-doubt.

    Of course you need to learn about your camera settings, lighting, all kinds of technical stuff. But when you are actually shooting, just rely on your innate ability – enjoy what you are doing – remember why you love doing it and be happy. This will produce the best end result.

    Your subjects will also sense your positive energy or your stress and anxiety – and whichever vibe you are putting out there – it is bound to rub off on them. When they see you’re having fun with it and are relaxed, they can be too.

    In the end – appreciating the great shots you captured, and not comparing yourself to other people is key. We all have our own styles, and even the best photographers aren’t perfect.

  • Rachel
    October 9, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    You are such a doll :). Thank you for being real and so encouraging, too. I bought a dslr hoping to capture my family with photos about 1/4th as beautifully as you do :). Not sure where my numbers are at today, but I love the moments I’ve captured and enjoy the challenge. Also blessing friends and family is a great joy… I love seeing your images and all the growth in your work is obvious and exciting to see. Thank you for sharing!

  • Juanita
    October 19, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    I am sooo there with you Courtney! And I will join you in the daily shooting and creating a photo critique album for just certain photographers I admire to help me grow! How can I include you in that list? You know you are one of my favorites!!! I will be praying for you in yor journey as well! ;-) thank you for all that you do for us!!

  • October 23, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    Thanks for posting this, I feel so frustrated with my photography at the moment. It’s just painful!

  • May 6, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    Thank you SO much for this. Self doubt can be such a struggle and really can be crippling. Just knowing that I’m not alone is a huge encouragement. :)

    • Courtney Slazinik
      May 7, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      You are definitely not alone :)

  • May 9, 2014 at 9:24 PM

    I am so frustrated right now, actually. I am currently in school working on my AS in Photography, and I want to get my business up and running to help supplement income for my family. I can’t seem to get anywhere with it. I am on the verge of throwing in the towel. I can’t seem to even get a few shoots set up that are free to get my “people” portfolio going (other than my own kids). I get great feedback from my instructors, and I think my photographs are pretty good, not perfect but worth getting business, but I can’t ever get a “bite”. Even those local “photographers” who produce photographs that are what I see as beginner photographs that my instructors would give bad grades for are bringing in the business left and right. Like I said, I am so frustrated and I have no idea what to do. I feel like I am getting nowhere even though I shoot photos on a daily basis. No one seems interested in my work.

  • Mandi
    May 9, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    Thank you for sharing!!!! I find myself often in a slump similar to yours but I do compare myself to others. You brought home the idea that I can grow and learn more by picking up my camera each day. Thank you

  • May 9, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    I feel the same way. I am constantly getting frustrated that I know how it should look + I can picture how I want it to look. Yet something is always missing.

    I started a 365 in November when I came across your page & it has REALLY helped me. I will admit that I don’t shoot as daily as I would like, but multiple times a week and having an excuse to bring my camera with me has really made all of the difference. My friends and family don’t think I’m quite as crazy clicking away when I can say “Sorry, have a 365 I have to stick to.”

  • Donna
    May 9, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    Wow it’s nice to know others are out there too. I think even as a hobbyist, I find myself comparing myself to others and I really need to stop doing that and just try to improve I was in my doctors office and noticed no pics on any walls ( he knows how much I love Photigraphy) I ask him could I hang some pics up of nature he said of course you can !!! Well I don’t have a web site or business however this might be a small break for me to sell some prints im going to put 5 20×16 frames in his office this week. I just felt excited for myself for a moment :) even with no money , I felt a bit successful. Donna.

  • Brooke
    May 9, 2014 at 11:13 PM

    This post has made me feel so much better! I feel that I go back and forth with my feelings all the time, one day feeling confident and happy with how I’m progressing, and on other days wondering if I will ever reach the level I want to be.

    I keep reminding myself that even though I don’t get it right every time, I am improving and that all the time I’m spending learning is not wasted because even if I don’t make it as a professional, I will have a great skill with which to capture my family. Thank you for sharing Courtney.

  • Judy Cocchiarella
    May 10, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    Thank you for this post and for the reminder to Just Get Out and Shoot!

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