Do you sometimes get down on yourself when you look at someone else's gorgeous photography and wonder, what's the point? Don't worry, it happens to the best of us! Here's some tips on how to stop comparing yourself to other photographers.
Because its not a great feeling, is it?
Today's video is all about the curse of comparison. Let me know in the comments if this is something you struggle with.
Before I get started here I want to make sure you know I am not immune to the comparison disease. I suffer from it too. I might be making this video but I also need to take my own advice.
I compare my photography to others too. But I am particularly susceptible to comparing myself when it comes to motherhood. You know, always thinking that other mums are so much more organised than I am or that they feed their children much healthier food than I do or that they do loads more spontaneous arts and crafts than me… and so on…
You know the feeling, right?
Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. And how true that is.
Now I am not talking about comparing ourselves to movie stars or olympic athletes or for us, rock-star photographers. When the gap is soooooo wide like that then we tend to be safe from the really horrible side of comparison. We can be more lighthearted about it. I mean I don’t see the work of Annie Leibovitz and feel bad about myself. She’s in another world.
No, comparison becomes a particularly icky experience when we do it with people we know or people we think of as equals. In the photography world that might be a fellow photography enthusiast in your town or a friend who shares your passion. Or it might be someone in the same online photography group as you. Maybe they just seem to just be getting better and better and better whilst you feel that you are standing still.
But comparing yourself to others is one of the most dangerous habits you can have. It can absolutely cripple your progress. If it’s a habit you suffer from then its one you should put huge effort into getting rid of.
Here are some tips to help you stop comparing yourself to other photographers;
Even if you have been pursuing photography for the same number of years as this person, for the comparison to be fair you would have had to have taken the same number of photographs as them, practiced for the same number of hours as them, undergone the same training and mentoring as them, read the same books as them and be using the same equipment as them.
Maybe then the comparison would be approaching fair.
But that’s never going to happen so you shouldn’t compare unless you know it’s a fair comparison.
Remember this cool little quote from Jon Acuff,
‘Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle’
2. Think about what else you could be doing with this time and energy?
The very act of comparing yourself to others takes up your precious time and headspace and you have absolutely NO CONTROL over this other person and their photography. There is absolutely nothing to gain whatsoever. They are not all of a sudden going to pass over their skills to you just because you are brooding over how much better they are than you.
But you do have control over YOUR photography.
So you know that speed light you have been meaning to learn how to use or the photoshop technique you need to practice?
Yeah - do that instead!
3. Think about what you are good at.
We’re all on our own journey aren’t we? You might not be where you want to be with your photography but that person you are comparing yourself to - you can bet they have their own comparison demons.
Maybe they would love to be able to cook like you can. Perhaps they would give anything to have the kind of family life that you have, or run a business like you can, you catch my drift.
4. Be aware of your feelings and turn comparison into appreciation and inspiration
This has been a biggy for me. And it’s so easy!
Every time you feel comparison creeping in it means you have seen something that impresses you. But the admiration doesn’t get a chance to surface because the comparison monster appears quite quickly and makes you feel bad about yourself.
So in our case, someone we know posts a photograph we love and wish we had taken and before we give ourselves the chance to appreciate it fully, we start thinking;
‘how did they get it so sharp - I can never get mine like that’
‘I wonder if they have had training in that’
‘I bet they have a better lens than me - I hate my lens’
‘I might as well give up - they are so much better than me’
The first step to this is that you MUST become aware of how you are feeling. That sounds so obvious but so many of us don’t examine our feelings at all. And awareness is where it has to begin.
As soon as you are aware of the beginnings of thoughts like this - flick an imaginary switch in your head.
Yes, you have to imagine an ACTUAL switch in your head - it works.
That switch turns off the comparison monster and it turns on your appreciation. Then just look at the photograph and admire it. Make sure you reach out to the person with a comment about how much you like it too. That small act will ensure that the comparison monster stays away in this particular instance.
Allow that photograph to inspire you. Start thinking about your next shoot and how you could incorporate some of those ideas.
Always remember that you can admire and appreciate someone else’s talent without questioning your own. They are two separate things - keep them that way!