Discouragement ramble

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TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2304
Discouragement ramble

Can I share a few thoughts on some discouraging feelings I've been having lately about photography? I think other people here will relate, so I hope you don't mind! I think the long-timers around here probably know by now that I struggle with depression and so it's probably just because of my own 'issues', but I'm willing to guess that all of us have 'been there, done that' with the couple of things I'm having a hard time with... at least a little bit.

One thing I've been finding hard lately is that I follow quite a few photographers on Facebook, and I'm somehow finding that while they do at times inspire me, lately it seems hard to enjoy and appreciate my own efforts in comparison with theirs. Yesterday I saw Meg Bitton critique one of her own images on FB (oddly enough, not the critique I would've had, and I rarely do have any criticisms for her work, but in this case I wasn't quite as crazy about the image as most of her work)... but anyway, I was like, "Wow! She's nitpicking THAT in such a gorgeous photo?" Then I read some other photographers saying, "Yeah, you're right," in essence, and I thought, "Gee, if they're in agreement with her, then I have a LOOOOOOOOOOONG way to go to get to that point." And yeah, it's good to know that, and to strive for the best, and to keep working toward it. But sometimes it feels like there is just no earthly way I will ever reach that goal of being THAT good. It just wears me out mentally somehow.

Another thing that's kind of pulled me down lately is that I did that glamour birthday shoot, and the mom of the birthday girl has said SO little to me about the images, I wonder if she's at all happy with them, if they totally suck, or what. And the reason that's discouraged me is because *I* thought they were quite good! I was proud of them. So to get so little feedback from what you'd expect to be a proud mama is kind of like, "Huh? Where did I go wrong?" (An added dynamic, rightly or wrongly, is that we ended up doing the shoot for free, because the mom lost her job and I thought her daughter would be heartbroken to have the party canceled, so I went ahead with it anyway... and it just strikes me somehow especially depressing that in light of a free shoot, the mom has so little to say. Does that make any sense? I think if someone did a free shoot for me, I'd be extra motivated to tell them how much I appreciated their efforts, you know?)

The last thing is... and I think this is good in a way, but I see how far I've come in the past few years and so while I should be encouraged by that, I sort of cringe at my older work and wonder how I ever thought it was any good... and then it makes me think, is my current stuff kind of cringe-worthy too, but I just don't see it? Because I seem to get less feedback than I used to (i.e. on Facebook and other sites), and even in our crazy local camera club, I am not getting any better results than before, either.

I think because I am struggling with my mood lately, these issues all seem very BIG to me, but the thing I find hard is just continuing to motivate myself to TRY, when I feel like I'm falling so short. Does anyone else ever feel that way? I suspect part of it is the result of being a creative type of a person... we are hard on ourselves, and our moods are a bit more up and down? But boy, it's frustrating!

Thanks for listening... I hope no one minds me being personal about my struggles, but I figure here is one place we all kind of understand the emotional ups and downs of this craft, right?!

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2965

First off, I want to touch on Meg's post. I saw exactly the image you're talking about, and I felt like that kind of self-critique should have been left for the photography forums, instead of her business Facebook page. I'm not sure what she was trying to accomplish with that image, besides fishing for people to tell her that it was an amazing photo anyway. The thing that I notice about photographers (in general), is that they're show-offs. Some people pull it off without seeming self absorbed and other's don't. (And I'll admit right here and now, I'm a show off Wink I get discouraged when an image I love doesn't get the response I would have liked)

I'm not sure why that mom hasn't doted on those images. They were REALLY beautiful, and you should be incredibly proud of them. Maybe it's not in mom's personality to go on and on about things like that? Or maybe she just has a lot on her plate right now? At any rate, I know how it feels to not get as much positive feedback as you would have liked. It's hard when you think you've done a great job, but you aren't hearing that you did. Be confident in yourself and your work. It's natural to look back on old images that you think were awesome and look at them in a new light. It's eye opening, and it just shows how far you've come, since you're able to critique your own images like that. You may have even seen the same things back then, and just don't remember it. It's good that you have learned from your "mistakes" and are able to produce technically better images than you did before. Try not to cringe at the old stuff. (I know it's hard) I think that, in the photography world, unless it's something innovative or controversial, it doesn't get as much feedback. ALSO! If you're posting on your photography page on FB, I think that it's hard to get people to see it. It doesn't automatically show up for everyone who has liked your page. They have to be interacting with the page for it to automatically show up. So perhaps that has something to do with the lack of response?

Anyway, I have been right there in your shoes. You're definitely not the only one. Maybe to get yourself out of this "funk", you could plan a shoot with one of your kids. Get really creative with it. Costumes, or props, or just any concept that they might be into and have them help you come up with ideas. I guarantee that they will have a great attitude about the shoot, and it will get your creative juices flowing. I am willing to bet it will get an awesome response from FB and your camera club for stepping out of the norm.

Joined: 10/26/01
Posts: 3360

I'm glad you posted Tracy. This kind of support is a big part of what I hope this board will be for everyone. I know that I, personally, have received so much support from this board over the years.

I think we've all been in your shoes. That doesn't make it any easier to deal with at the moment, but I hope you can take some comfort in that.

I have done quite a few free shoots at judo and karate over the years. I've put my heart and soul into them and then never heard ANYTHING good or bad about them. It tears me up. Especially b/c the owners of the school (judo) have come to me especially asking to help them out from time to time - at belt promotion ceremonies, etc. I mean, I suppose that I should just be flattered that they asked me, but I know how it feels to put so much of yourself into something and then not get anything back in return.

And then, one day, you'll snap something at the playground and the mom you share them with will go NUTS when you really didn't even try. I think that may just be the personalities of the parties involved. And I"m afraid that is largely out of our control. In those times, come here and let us provide you with the feedback you deserve. Biggrin

I love Steph's idea of something really special w/ your kids. I keep picturing some kind of super hero shoot or something like that. Are they really into Frozen right now? Maybe the theme of a favorite book or movie. Something to get them excited so you don't have to bribe so much. Wink

I'm bribing Logan. I have had an idea in my head for about a week that I *really* want to try. He doesn't like the idea and is resistant to it, but I promised him a couple of friends could come over for a FULL DAY of junk food and video games when school is out for Good Friday. Blum 3 These are the things I do to get a photo of my boy.

Maybe you could work on something totally different from your "norm" right now? I've been trying my hand at food photography. I don't love it, but it's different and it doesn't require the cooperation of any models. Maybe you could try some new technique and work on that for a while to give you new inspiration.

I know you didn't post this fishing for compliments, but honestly Tracy, you do beautiful work! TRULY! If you were local, I would be lining up at your door wanting to watch how you work and begging you to do some family photos for me and my guys. SERIOUSLY! You started off with a really nice eye for composition and your technique has grown to match your innate abilities.

As a creative type, I suspect you will never be satisfied with your work. It's part of the life, I guess.

But hang in there. You can always count on those of us here to give you feedback and to help you to continue to learn and grow as an artist.


TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2304

Interesting that you saw Meg's comment, Steph. It was a bit weird! Yes, photographers are show-offs... Me too, I freely admit it. Which is why it's hard not to get feedback sometimes. We all want it. Otherwise many of us wouldn't even take pictures; because while we LOVE the process, to us it's art and art is meant to be shared. You know?

GiGi, you're right about the personality thing with the mom and the glamour shots. People are funny, aren't they? I guess you know what I mean, though, having done freebies for the karate/judo folks too. It feels odd to have it 'dismissed' somehow. Maybe it's because they think it's no big deal to you, because you're so good at it. They don't know you pour your heart into shoots, I suppose. I appreciate hearing that perspective, it does help me.

LOL about the Logan bribes. A whole day of junk food and video games? Biggrin

I do like the idea of doing a special shoot with the kids. I've had an idea for a while about a 'teddy bear picnic'. It came about as an idea for a camera club challenge, but I just really love the idea period. Taking some props up to my brother's acreage and setting up there for a fun shoot. Maybe I can try to set that up soon... some stuffies, a pretty blanket, some old china tea cups... Nora is not cooperative with these things a lot of the time, but if it's something fun like that, she'd be into it. Maybe I need to challenge myself just to get myself out of the doldrums, you guys could be right about that.

Thanks SO much for listening. It's crazy how discouraged I get sometimes, and DH is so amazingly supportive, but it's one of those things where it helps to talk to people who can identify with the things you're struggling with.

Muddee's picture
Joined: 03/13/08
Posts: 2119

Wow that's a long post.

First don't compare yourself to others but use them for inspiration, your style might be different than theirs but it doesn't make you wrong. I like warmer photos, I know that, so if I was looking at a person that had cooler photos and everyone was giving them praise I wouldn't take that as lack of ability on my part, just that we have different views on what we like. That is the great part of there being many different professional photographers out there, different styles for different people.

I do find it ungrateful that she didn't say a thing about your photos, even just a thanks for doing them. But sometimes when people are having a stressful time they forget.

I have found on a whole that people are less active in contributing input online, I think it's because all the social medias shine has worn off. As for the camera club maybe it is because you are doing good, you tend to get more feedback if you are struggling, but people still try to be polite and give you the positive aspects when pitching the bad.

Sending hugs your way, hope you can find something to lift your mood. I find my photography suffers over the winter and at this point in the year I can get bummed about it but then I keep in mind that the flowers will be blooming soon and I will have lots of beautiful things to capture pictures of over the summer.

daniellec.parker's picture
Joined: 09/06/09
Posts: 895

Just dropping by for a quick look through, and had to log in to comment. First off, ((hugs)) your work is beautiful!

Everyone has made some really good points. All of which I agree with. I have been feeling this way about some of my stuff lately too. I'll have what seems like a bunch of really good pictures, but then something happens that makes me feel like I still don't know what I'm doing. I can look at some really inspiring photos and feel like I'm never going to get there. But I look at where I started and how far I come. It feels good knowing how much I've grown, but discouraging to think how far I still have to go. I do think there's always going to be some way to grow, and that's just part of being an artist. Always critiquing our work.

I wish I had more time to give a more in depth response, but it's past time to get the kids to bed. I don't know if you are a member of Clickin Moms or not. If not, maybe swing over there for some inspiration. I wish I had $ for another workshop, but I just don't right now. There are a few breakout sessions that I might try though. Look for something that might push you out of your comfort zone. It can help you think of things in a new light.

Again, you do such a great job. Smile

TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2304

Your second paragraph sums it up pretty well, Danielle! That's it exactly.

I'm not a member of Clickin Moms and not likely to become one due to the membership fees, but I will try to get out of my doldrums with a shoot with the kids or something. (Problem is, if it doesn't go as I envision, I will get bummed out again. ;)) And looking back has encouraged me at least insofar as I can now say, "Yes, I really am a MUCH better photographer than I was two years ago" even if I do feel I have so far yet to go.

daniellec.parker's picture
Joined: 09/06/09
Posts: 895

Tracy, they run specials on membership all of the time. Right now there is a 30 day free subscription. And throughout the year I've seen them take like 40-45% off lifetime membership. Maybe it can be a birthday or Christmas present to yourself later on..?

When trying something new with them, try not to get discouraged if it doesn't turn out as you imagine the first go-round. Have fun with it. Use it as a chance to remind yourself why you enjoy photography so much, without major critique. The point is to become inspired again, not knock yourself back down.


sadieruth's picture
Joined: 06/09/05
Posts: 6149

Tracy- first off (((HUGS))). I know what you mean. I follow quite a few as well and feel like such a beginner compared to them. However Tracy- please hear this part- you take AMAZING photos. YOU do. You amaze me with your nature photos and your portraits have been amazing too! I know you said you struggled with portraits, but I think you are rocking it. We aren't pros by any means. But, we are mothers who love to capture our babies and God's Creation around us, and you do just that. I would much rather see your work than some of the other pros b/c there's something behind them. They mean so much more.

As for forums, to me, they make me feel worse. I too struggle with depression and getting hard CC is a bit tough. Randall is always quick to tell me to do it like I want it, not how others do it. Photography is something we will always be "working on". It's a never ending hobby that we can always grow in. (((HUGS))) You are an amazing photographer!

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