Constantly comparing yourself to other photographers is unnecessary & can lead to losing confidence in your abilities. Here’s why you shouldn’t do it, & how to take a healthier approach to the work of others
We’ve all done it (believe me, I have many a time); we see an image by another photographer that we love, but then after we've admired it, we start thinking, “How did they get their editing so good when mine isn't?”, “How did they get such good light over the scene, why do my images look flat in comparison?”. And so on...
Then, even worse thoughts can start to come into our heads, too, “Why can you get an image like that and not me?” and “I’m nowhere near as good as them”, and can lead to, “I’m never going to be as good as that; why should I even bother with photography?”.
While it’s a good thing to look at the work of others and appreciate it, it can become highly detrimental and unhealthy when you compare their work and abilities to your own. Ultimately, you may eventually stop enjoying your photography altogether. I’ve seen this in the photographer community many times, and it simply isn’t necessary.
Below, I’ve outlined some of the reasons why you really shouldn't compare your photography abilities to others, and what you can do to change your mindset:
1 Every photographer is on their own unique journey
Each photographer has gone through their journey, nurtured different skills over time, and had various resources and experiences. So, comparing yourself like-for-like is impossible; no two photographers are alike.
For example, you may see a photographer who has produced spectacular landscape or portrait shots and compare yours to them. Still, you don’t know how much time, practice and failure have gone into creating that final shot, whereas you may pick up your strengths and skills in different ways–everyone is different, so don’t compare yourself to them.
2 Photography as a medium is hugely subjective
When you look at photography as a visual art form holistically, you realise just how big and diverse it is; there are unlimited ways to create an image and equally as many ways a photograph can be read and interpreted by the viewer.
With this in mind, when comparing yourself to others, realise just how difficult it is to make a like-for-like comparison with photography, as everyone interprets images in their own way.
3 You'll only ever see the very best of a photographer's work
When viewing a photographer’s work on social media, on their website, in a gallery or book, or anywhere, you only see the best of their work and the images they want the world to see.
What you do not see are the many images that didn’t cut it, the photos that didn’t have the best light or images with awkward composition, the blurry pictures; I could go on. You never see the many trials, mistakes and not-so-great photos that can make up a considerable amount of a photographer’s overall portfolio.
It’s happened to me before, too, where you can go out for a shoot only to return with absolutely nothing productive from it, but of course, you’re less likely to share that on social media, aren't you?
Always keep in mind that, generally, you're only ever seeing a curated collection of the best of what a photographer will create when viewing their images.
4 Your self-confidence will take a nosedive
If you're frequently looking at the work of other photographers and comparing them and their images to what you make, no doubt, your confidence will tank at some point. You might even think you're a total failure at photography when scrutinising your work against others and could feel inclined to stop altogether.
My best advice for that is simply don't. Feeling like a failure will significantly impact your confidence with the camera, and the last thing you want to do is get to the point where you don't want to take pictures anymore because your confidence has taken such a hit.
5 Comparison can unnecessarily stifle your creativity
Suppose you’re forever comparing yourself to other photographers and thinking you should take the same types of images as them. In that case, it will harm your creativity with your camera and make you feel you must conform to looks or trends. This is not the case.
You should put your unique perspective into your shots wherever possible and do what you can to make your photography original. That’s what will make you stand out in the long run, and that’s what you’ll get to be known for by your followers, too: constantly thinking you need to take the same shots as other photographers just because you can see the reception they get will do you no good in the long run.
6 Constant comparison will take the joy out of taking images
This one has the most negative impact, particularly if you're a hobbyist and/or beginner photographer. As described above, when you constantly compare yourself to others, and the negative connotations it brings, any joy from taking images will soon diminish. You'll be taking pictures and thinking they aren't as good as other photographers, and you could find yourself just giving up.
The most important thing about photography is that you enjoy it–if you love taking a picture of something, then don't care about what other photographers have done previously or what people might think. Ultimately, take photos for your enjoyment; if you like an image, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of it, what it contains, or how it looks; it's a winner.
If you take anything away from this...
Photography should ultimately bring you joy, and remember that enjoyment matters most when creating images. Whether others appreciate your work or not, if you find satisfaction and fulfilment in your photography, that’s the only thing that counts, nothing else.
Don't let comparisons with other photographers take away the happiness that photography gives you. Embrace the unique perspective you bring to your work, enjoy inspiration from others, but be creative in your own way, and remember that your journey in photography is a personal one that is both unique and valuable.