For the longest time, I really resisted calling myself a photographer, let alone a professional photographer.
Upon reflection, I’m not quite sure why I was hesitant, but I think deep down, maybe I felt like I hadn’t “earned” it. Perhaps I didn’t even believe in myself or my work.
What is the root of this lack of professional confidence? Instead, I stuck with the familiar title of blogger, writer, or the more generalized “that girl from the internet,” downplaying my success and my work. Just because my preferred method of photo-sharing is Instagram and I type my captions with my thumbs doesn’t make it any less valid, right?
My photography is a massive part of my business and has been for close to a decade. Yet, here we are.
Over the past year, as I’ve done a lot of both personal and professional development, and with that comes a lot of reflection on how I talk about myself. It didn’t take long to have a staggering realization that I intentionally downplay who I am and what I do.
I feel like this is so common, especially with women, we don’t own our achievements or often minimize our successes. So often, we downplay our authority and talent in favor of being seen as approachable, feminine, and compliant. Fuck that! Every hair on my body stands on end in pure objection when I see that, and yet, AND YET, I find myself doing it all the time.
Undermining my own experience and expertise is something I often do without realizing it. Female confidence in the workplace still feels taboo. Or is it just me?
This is a question I’ve been grappling with my entire life. No matter what I achieve or how far I go, somehow, it just isn’t enough. I could always be better, be doing more, be more perfect.
Why do we think like that? And why are women in particular conditioned to feel inferior? To be inferior? I object! That nagging feeling that you’re just not good enough even has a name – imposter syndrome.
Plaguing creatives for years, I have found that it hits women in particular. If only feminine confidence in the workplace wasn’t considered a bad thing. Assertive and bossy aren’t a good look for us, even though I wish it were.
Call me cynical, but I reckon it all comes from a world that doesn’t believe in women. Yet.
It’s hard to walk with confidence, especially as a creative female when the world doesn’t have your back. It’s even harder to co-habit a space dominated by confident males. Hello, photography!
Even though women helped pioneer photography from its inception, and some of the greatest photographers we’ve ever had have been women, nowadays it’s a male-dominated industry.
From the photos we see in the news to the ambassadors for the kingpins of camera corporations, gender inequality is very real in the photography world today.
Even the way photography gear is marketed is uber-masculine.
Do you think men share the same feelings of imposter syndrome as I do? LOL!
I’ve met more men than I can count who don’t even shoot in manual, take super average photos, or haven’t yet sold an image, and they have no problem calling themselves professional photographers. I’ve been on jobs with photographers with a fraction of my experience who have zero qualms about selling themselves to the moon and back in a way I never could.
Discrimination at the workplace, sexism, and stereotypes have contributed to a general lack of opportunities for women in photography.
And don’t even get me started on the looks and comments I get with my cameras. “That camera looks a bit big for you, missy.”
I don’t know about you guys, but FUCK THAT.
Let’s start to change things. While it makes me wildly uncomfortable to be proud of my successes and achievements, I’m going to show up and bloody well own it — 10 years down the track to boot.
While this is painful, it’s part of the work. And I’m not doing it just for myself and my mental health; I’m doing it for all my fellow females out there that often struggle with the same feelings as me. It’s exhausting, and I’m over it.
I want to acknowledge myself and the work I’ve put into becoming a better photographer over the past decade.
I’m always working, always learning, always upskilling, and trying to learn new tricks. I’m privileged in my line of work in that I’ve been able to connect with some of the most talented and creative photographers in the world, many of whom have taken me under their wing and taught me so much.
And I want to fully recognize this happened of my own damn merit. I hustled my way to where I am, and through my ability to build powerful human connections, I’m able to have a real impact with my work.
Since I picked up my first DSLR in college, my photography had taken me around the globe and earned me over six figures a year.
I’ve licensed images to some of the biggest brands in the world and had photos featured in publications I could have never imagined. Pictures I have taken had appeared on billboards, and I’ve broken so many cameras I can’t even keep track anymore.
I’ve even managed to dig deep within myself and find the strength to take photos of the most horrific moment of my life, finding 145 beaching whales in New Zealand, knowing that I had the voice and the ability to share their plight with the world.
The New Zealand government even granted me residency for my work as a photographer.
What was I saying about imposter syndrome? Is my newfound confidence making you uncomfortable yet? Because I sure am, haha!
I love the ability to express myself through my photos and to be able to bring viewers along with me on my journeys. And I never stop complaining about how heavy my kit is, the true testament to a real photographer, I imagine.
As I try to step into my role and be confident in my abilities and work, I hope you do too. Use this as a chance to be proud of yourself and what you’ve accomplished. We’re all in this together, and imposter syndrome only collectively brings us down. Let’s change that.
So what do you guys reckon, am I photographer yet or still that chick from Instagram?
36 Comments on “Am I a real photographer yet?”
Hi Liz, I’ve been following you for years now and you are such an inspiration. You are by far my favorite photographer out there and I’m amazed reading you didn’t see yourself like a pro until now. Keep up your amazing work and keep inspiring other woman like me.
If only how you could see yourself from the perspective of your followers. I honestly look up to you as a photographer, and when I got into blogging, females were the ones I sought advice from as far as equipment, tips, etc. They way I see it is that, to quote a cliche, “you are what you repeatedly do”. If you take photos, you are a photographer. If you get paid to take photos, you are a professional photographer. Especially when they end up on billboards! 😉
I love that!!
I don’t know whether you should consider yourself to be a professional photographer or not as I know too little about the subject to make a judgement. What I do know is that I am a pointy shooty type of photographer that takes reasonable images with a reasonable 2nd hand Canon automatic. I never plan what I am going to take and just seize the moment when and if it occurs to shoot something which I consider to be of interest when out walking or running in the hills. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I do feel comfortable with what I take and of the way I approach my photography…. and so should you. Be proud of what you have done and why you do it!
I’ve followed you for years now and I think you are a wonderful professional photographer, travel writer and nature journalist!
I feel a bit the same – I’ve ben blogging for over 10 year now, but have a super tiny following compared to other bloggers in my country. It feels like I’m not good enough to write to companies to ask for collaborations and sponsorships.
But this year, I’m going to do JUST THAT, because there’s more and more people saying they are inspired my me, and even my boyfriend (who totally isn’t into this blogging and social media stuff) says that blogging for so long is impressive.
I just don’t feel it myself. Stupid imposter syndrome.
it’s the worst hey? Be proud of yourself and go for it!