Confidence is contagious and comes from strength. Confidence is not arrogance. Arrogance comes from insecurity. Confidence arises from one’s known abilities, arrogance is a self-deluded exaggeration of one’s abilities. In photography, as in many other endeavors, there is a saying: Fake it until you make it. I think this can be the action of a confident person. On the other hand claiming you’ve made it before you have, and believing it yourself, is typically arrogance.
From an early age I dreamed of being a professional photographer. The fantasy is different from the reality. For one thing the word professional implies a certain level of competence, or at least it used to. In my travels I have met a few folks with their entry-level DSLRs claiming they’re professional photographers. They’re not. Their family and friends might engage them to take some photos now and again, but this doesn’t make them a professional photographer.
When viewing their online portfolios, usually on a Facebook fan page, their photography doesn’t pass muster. Why do you claim to be something you’re not? Insecurity. Or you’ve convinced yourself that you’re good enough to be a professional. The other part of the professional equation is money. Do you earn money with your photography (some photographers would go so far as to say you have to make your full-time living with photography to qualify as a professional).
Colombia, South America
The point I’m trying to make is the label doesn’t equal the fact (in any profession). When people ask me what I do I simply say I’m a photographer, writer and world traveller. That’s the truth. In a resume of my experience I will include that I’m a “professional” photographer, a “published” writer and a “seasoned” traveller. This is also true. Be comfortable with who you are and where you’re at. People respond to ability not to labels.
A quick anecdote. Shortly after arriving in Merida, Yucatan, the owners of The Yucatan Times newspaper approached me to see if I would be interested in hiring on as their one and only staff photographer. I quickly said yes. I had never shot for a newspaper before, but I was confident in my photographic abilities. It was definitely a case of “fake it until you make it” but I knew I could do it. This wasn’t arrogance on my part, I wasn’t deluding myself into thinking I had already made it, it was just confidence that I could perform adequately.
I held that position for a year in 2012 and learned a lot. It wasn’t the fantasy career I had dreamed about, it eventually became just another demanding job with deadlines, pressure and a lack of flexibility about what I could shoot. I finally resigned on a positive note, retaining my press credentials and contacts, and went back to photographing the things I cared about most. Confidence allowed me to carry off this experience, and that confidence convinced others that I knew what I was doing (even though I hadn’t done it before). Be confident, don’t be arrogant.
Relative to photography I’ve met many professional photographers who are adequate; I’ve met a few who are not. I also know many amateur photographers who are superior photographers, and have the ability to shoot professional level work, but either lack the desire or the business acumen to pursue a professional career. The label doesn’t make the photographer, the work does. Again, you will find this to be true of almost any profession. Enjoy your photography and don’t worry about labels. Visit me at Indochine Photography at www.IndochinePhotography.me.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveller