When I began taking photos (5 years ago this July), I thought everything I did was awesome. It was my first “real” camera and I was amazed at what I could do with it! Combine that with there being a LOT less photographers on the scene, and I thought I was the next Annie Leibovitz. Boy, was I wrong. As the years have gone by, and I have met more wonderful photographers, my faith in my work has decreased and wavered many, many times.
It’s hard, if not virtually impossible, not to become jealous of someone you admire at some point during your career as a photographer. There is nothing like seeing a gorgeous image pop up in your feed and immediately feeling, “Why can’t I do that?”. And beyond just images, there’s so much more to be jealous of nowadays – Facebook likes, a thriving business, props, happy customers, traveling and teaching…. It all has the potential to make us salivate with jealousy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had that pang of jealousy twinge through me as I see a friend’s Facebook likes climb by the thousands or another friend post photos from another part of the world where she is teaching. Almost always, I am genuinely happy for these gals, and I know they have worked super hard to get to this point in their career, but it’s so hard for that little green monster (lovingly known as jealously) not to sneak in and haunt your thoughts.
Most of the time this jealousy is harmless and is nothing more than a passing, wishful thought BUT other times it creates a monster inside you. Honestly, I believe MOST of the unkindness between photographers nowadays is the direct result of this type of jealousy – a pent up frustration buried so deep that the only way to deal with it is to project it onto someone else until a full out “hatefest” has exploded on social media.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. You WANT to have photographer friends. Scratch that – you NEED to have photographer friends if you are going to thrive as a photographer. I can’t tell you the number of times my friends have supported me, lifted me up, offered advice, and helped me become a better photographer. Am I jealous of their work and their business? EVERY SINGLE DAY! Do they make me a better artist? EVERY SINGLE DAY!
So how do you take this jealousy and turn it into a good thing, a proactive feeling? When I start to feel the green monster creep into my heart I have forced myself to automatically look at my images and my business and figure out what I can do to make them better. It’s so simple yet so hard to do at the same time. Let me tell you though, the results of turning that feeling inward to create a better YOU are much better than letting that green monster grow inside of you. Almost all my growth as a photographer, I can attribute to jealously of some kind. Jealousy has made me strive to become a better photographer and a better business owner. Now, when I see a beautiful image or a newborn pose that captivates me, my first inkling is to figure out how I learn how to do it too!
And sometimes, if you find you’ve been banging on the door and no one’s answering, you have to ask yourself “Am I knocking on the right door?” I am going to bring faith into the discussion now; and I hope I don’t offend anyone by that but, I strongly believe that everyone has a purpose and if you find yourself consistently not getting anywhere with your business/art then consider the possibility that maybe God has other plans for your life. I’m not saying He does – I don’t have that kind of close, personal relationship where I know what God is thinking, but I think it’s always a question worth asking when you repeatedly find yourself at a dead end in your life/work.
Jealousy isn’t just reserved for photographers who are growing, the view isn’t always sunshine and roses for those on the top of the heap either. Even the best of the best get jealous – someone’s copying their style, someone else is teaching what they teach, someone is trying to undercut their prices, etc… Now many times their jealousy and frustration is very much warranted, and I won’t even get into the moral and ethical issues with stealing from another photographer but at the end of the day, the answer is still the same. You can’t control anyone’s behavior but your own. And if you are the best of the best, remember, there’s a reason for that. No one can be you!
I’m not perfect. I don’t aspire to be. I still get jealous from time to time. I still have crab fests with girlfriends. But more often than not, I’m able to use that to fuel my own passion and move myself forward rather than festering on something that will do me absolutely no good. It’s hard to leave judgment and jealousy at the door but you HAVE to do it if you are going to move forward.
p.s. No, I didn’t invent this concept of thinking but in an industry where there seems to be an enormous amount of jealousy and hate, it never hurts to be reminded that it’s up to you to make it good
p.s.s. Remember the grass isn’t always greener on the other side
p.s.s.s If you find yourself upset reading this maybe then maybe you needed it more than you think