6 common photography fears when starting out (and how to overcome them)

First published:
October 4, 2022
February 6, 2024

6 common photography fears when starting out (and how to overcome them)

First published:
October 4, 2022
February 6, 2024

Photographer at sunrise by Jaromir Chalabala

Have you recently started on your photography journey? If so, you may already have some of these common photography fears that newbie photographers face when starting out

I think all photographers will have some or all these fears when they first pick up a camera. But it’s important to know that these common photography fears can be easily overcome. Doing so will help you become a better photographer as well as feel more confident about your work. So, here are 6 common photography fears and how to overcome them.

1 Fear of switching from 'auto' mode on your camera

Canon 5D Mark IV camera. Photo by Valentin Valkov - f/11 | ISO 100 | 1/125s

I always find it strange when I see newbie photographers spending a ton of money on a great new camera and instead of embracing it by using its full capabilities, they leave it on auto mode. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with leaving your camera on auto and you can capture perfectly good photos. But it’s a bit like buying the latest smartphone and just using it to make phone calls. Yes, it does the job, but you are missing out on lots more functions.

By taking your camera off full auto, not only do you have more control over your settings but also more importantly you will learn much more about photography. Which in turn will allow you to improve your photography. So don’t be afraid about taking your camera off full auto because with practice it will become second nature to you.

2 Fear of getting closer to your subject

Mongolian Helpers. Photo by Maureen Ruddy Burkhart - f/5 | ISO 400 | 1/25s

Robert Capa, the famous photojournalist once said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. The advancement of telephoto lenses over the years has made it much easier to take photos from far away. While that’s useful when you are photographing subjects like birds and wildlife, in other scenarios it’s better to be closer to your subject. For example, if you are photographing people, being that far away means that your photos will lack that engagement and connection that you can build with your subject when you are close.

Of course, sometimes you may want to capture a fleeting moment when your subject isn’t engaged with the camera, but that should be an intentional decision. In other words, because you actually want to take that photo and not because you are worried about approaching the person you want to photograph.

3 Feeling the need to be 'safe' with your compositions

Flatiron. Photo by Sven Hartmann - f/8 | ISO 250 | 1/60s

One of the biggest mistakes that amateur photographers often make is being too safe with their compositions. I’m not talking about using techniques like the rule of thirds or other compositional techniques, but rather falling into the habit of always taking photos at eye level. One of the biggest advantages of digital cameras (especially those with a flip LCD screen) is that you can compose your shots from a whole new variety of angles.

So don’t be afraid to lower your camera near the ground or even raise it above your head. You will begin to find interesting perspectives of familiar destinations. But even in other genres of photography like portrait photography or even architecture photography, changing your view might just give you some amazing results. And of course, there are times when breaking those well-established photography rules might just give some fantastic results.

4 Thinking that editing software is too complicated

Camera and SD cards on laptop. Photo by James Barton - f/14 | ISO 100 | 1/160s

To put it simply, every single photo will benefit from some degree of editing. That doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours retouching and manipulating colours. Editing might just involve straightening, cropping, or tweaking the white balance. The point is that if you are negating the editing part of the photo-taking workflow, you are potentially not getting your photos to the level they can be.

Photo editing software is incredibly easy to use so don’t feel overwhelmed by it. With just a bit of time exploring the different functions and even watching some YouTube videos, you can more or less get a hang of the most used functions. And it’s incredible how much a photo can transform with just a few simple tweaks.

5 Being intimidated by other photographers

Flakstad. Photo by Primpaul - f/11 | ISO 320 | 26s

In any profession or hobby, it’s great to have people that you admire and can use for inspiration to improve your own work. But where this can have a negative effect is when you are in awe or even intimidated by other more experienced photographers. The reason I mention this is that I have seen it first hand, often in places where there are a lot of photographers all vying for the same shot.

For example, I remember being in India at a ghat in Pushkar at an Atari ceremony which naturally gets very busy. There was a lady who had arrived early and grabbed a great spot for photos. When the ceremony started, she was asked by a photographer to move so he could take photos and rather than standing her ground, she gave up her spot. She would have only taken a couple of photos and missed the best of the action. The moral of this story is to never be intimidated by anyone just because you are a newbie.

6 Fear of negative comments

Studio photographer. Photo by Emanuele Ravecca - f/2.8 | ISO 160 | 1/800s

One of the best things about photography is that it is so subjective. A photo that I love may not be to someone else’s taste. When you have that level of subjectivity, there are always going to be negative comments about your work. So, one of the most important attributes that any photographer needs to have, is to develop a thick skin. That doesn’t mean that you should never listen to other people’s advice or even negative comments if they are constructive. But rather, it’s about ensuring that you don’t let those comments affect your work or your confidence.

Unfortunately, one of the worst arenas for this type of negativity is social media. So if you find yourself being affected by it, take a break for a while. Eventually, when you have been working in this industry for long enough, negative comments don’t affect you. But when you are starting out, they can really knock your confidence.   

Author notes:

The most exciting time in your photography journey is when you are first starting out. You don’t have the pressures of having to get clients, or work to briefs, and can simply experiment, learn, and improve at your own pace. But it is also the time when most newbie photographers have fears and make mistakes. So, hopefully, the tips above can help you overcome some of these fears.
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