Think about all of the things you can’t do. Just think about it for a minute. If you started writing down everything you don’t know how to do, how long would your list be? What if you narrowed it down to what you are passionate about? What if you listed all of the things that you don’t know how to do in regard to your craft? The roadblocks of your passion, so to speak…
Auto (anything) in Photoshop
Working with Agency Models
Dealing with a Bright Background
Working with a Team
And the list goes on. *And* that is just for my photography. We all have countless struggles in our lives, be it professionally or personally. When we love something, we want to do it well. We want our hearts to be poured into something great. We put emphasis on what we love and so we do it, yet somewhere along the line we start focusing on all the ways in which we might fail.
No one will ever be good at everything. Even the most proficient person at their craft has a range of things that they simply aren’t good at. Yet at the heart of our challenges lies the simple idea that we are not actually bad at anything; we are afraid.
If someone tries hard enough at something, it is likely they will get past that awkward, uncomfortable phase of being bad at it. That doesn’t mean they will ever be the best, but they certainly will progress. The single thing that stops us from pushing past what we are bad at is fear of trying at all – being judged, judging ourselves, losing self-esteem.
For me, take artificial lighting. From my earliest days as a photographer people told me that in order to be “professional” I had to learn how to light my photos. I had learned about lighting a little bit in film school, and even then was terrified to touch a light despite wanting to be a cinematographer. I often opted for more unusual (re: low budget) ways of lighting a scene, like a 200watt bulb inside a paper lantern from Ikea. It worked, or at least…most of the time.
However, that does not mean that artificial light can’t produce the same results, or that I could expand my style even further by trying. So, then, why did I not?
Fear. That is what stops most people from doing most things.
Fear that my style will change and I will have the growing pains of growing into it.
Fear that I won’t be good at it. I have given artificial light a try, from huge softboxes in the forest to bare bulbs in my house. And to be honest, I don’t enjoy those pictures as much. But even more, I don’t enjoy that process. And in creating images with artificial light, I’ve learned something valuable – that I feel secure and fulfilled with my methods, and yet I don’t have a looming fear hanging over my head anymore.
I love creating for myself and by myself. I love my process so wholeheartedly it feels like an extension of myself. Yet that does not mean that there isn’t room for growth. There are always things to learn, even if it is what you don’t want to do. As long as you understand who you are, exploring other options can only act as a catalyst for a more secure and fulfilling life.
Today, when you write your list of things you can’t do, pick one of those items and change it. Do it. Break out of your comfort zone and try something completely foreign to your process, and own it. Fly or fall, that is no matter. The outcome is less important than the journey. Take a step forward to challenge your own fears and overcome them. The moment you do, you are free of them.
The above image was photographed with SweetLights in my living room, with a WHCC floor and black cloth background. Oh, and lots of painful body positions, as usual.
Margherita Introna - Strangely enough Brooke, it is not the things I am passionate about that fill me with fear. My art and expressing myself through my images is what give me the courage to face the world. What I fear most in all this world is falling in love…
brookeshaden - I often feel empowered by the things I am afraid of, so I definitely understand that sentiment. Fear of love – as close to something worth fearing as I can think of, yet so great a thing that we must push past it. xoxoxo
Carin Harris (Caz) - We’ve never met, yet I feel you know how I feel so very well. I will make that list and I will endeavour to face my fears, it’s a theme that is cropping up more and more for me. I think it’s because I’ve jumped professions so drastically, I’m still finding my feet.
Best wishes Caz x
brookeshaden - That makes a lot of sense – when we change such a huge part of our lives we face so many unknowns, and rarely with a roadmap of how to traverse the new ground. I applaud you for wanting to face those fears and for taking charge! I really hope that our paths cross in person some day!
Sabrina M - Without you knowing you have helped me such a lot. In live as in art. Since a day or two I know I have to overcome one of my fears and that’s speaking in public, showing my creative attempts, etc as I need to organise an exhibition an show my work.
So this blogpost is perfect timing.
I am going to face my fears and go for it. What’s the worst thing that can happen, right? 🙂
brookeshaden - Sabrina, that is so amazing! I am so proud to hear that you have all of these beautiful things unfolding. Public speaking is a fear I’ve also had to overcome and never thought I’d be able to, so I definitely get that one! Congrats as you organize this exhibition!! Send pics when it’s all ready!
Nikki Mulkern - A few weeks ago I took wrote a blog post called Fear, with a self-portrait of myself to go with it. The blog was about stepping back from the sessions I have been doing for 5 plus years and doing more of what I truly love and what I am passionate about, which is creating art. I had a huge fear about posting this blog because there was no going back after posting it, which is the reason I wrote it to hold myself accountable for what I feel. I don’t think I have ever been so afraid to post something, I was afraid of making people unhappy ( I am a people pleaser ) but to my surprise I got nothing but positive feedback, they had been seeing my recent work and said they can’t wait to see what else I come up with and to have that fear lifted was amazing. Another fear I got over was getting in front of the camera, I have used myself for most of my ideas because well I am here, so it’s easy and I know what I want,lol. I am getting more comfortable with being the subject now which is another big step for me. My fears I have to work on it artificial lighting, I am not a fan of it either but I want to try it and get passed that fear as well. There are many other fears, I am going to sit down and make my list and work on them. Thanks so much for another amazing post =)
brookeshaden - Ooooh Nikki how amazing!! It is so inspiring to hear that you are trying something new and you put that out there wholeheartedly. It is hard for an artist to do something different because, exactly as you said, others may not accept that. But it is important to remember that while you may lose one person, you may gain another. I’m so glad to hear you’ve made this leap! Your future looks so bright <3
Tea - Recently I have been overcome with fear about my photography. I am so afraid to submit to galleries, because I haven’t been featured before and I feel like I am just wasting their time. I have also been afraid of shooting around my house, because I am scared of what people will think. But, as scared as I am, I am not letting this fear take over my passion. I am continuing to submit to galleries, and I do take photos near my house even if I look silly and awkward. So thank you for another inspiring post, Brooke! I look forward to them 🙂
P.S. I love your new hair color!
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - Hi Tea! I saw your work and I really enjoyed it. My favorite is the “the last song”. It is normal to be afraid! I also had and is part of our path as humans. In the past, the fear knocked me, but not now. I learned to deal with fears and overcome them. You do well to continue to submit your work and shooting around in your home. Sometimes we may even seem silly and awkward, but we are also, happy. Congratulations!
Tom Newforge - Catching me all off guard not being Monday and all that. Haha. Wanted to tell you earlier but I’ve had some time lately to jump headfirst into legitimately researching how to do the stuff I can’t in Photoshop. Watch a ton of videos. Tinkered with a few “throw away” images for practice. Had one in particular with a lighting issue that I couldn’t figure out. Watched a few videos that just weren’t addressing it. Scrolling through a YouTube search I stumbled upon a vid you did for creative live. Not at all addressing the problem but I figured I’d watch it because ya make me smile. Ironically, something you said about curves reminded me of a different technique I had forgotten involving WB. Long story short, you inadvertently helped to solve my issue AND I was smiling watching the whole vid because your energy just makes me happy.
On another note, I read this piece and get it. You don’t necessarily fear artificial lighting anymore, you just don’t need it. Let me propose something. When we are together in June, why don’t we make it a point to attempt to shoot 1 image a day using my flash and mini soft box? Even if they’re horrible images and we hate it. Just to try to be creative and see what we can pull out of it? Emmanuel got some really cool stuff playing with my flash and I’ve been able to get some unque stuff as well lately. Not trying to push ya do do something you don’t enjoy so don’t take it the wrong way. Just a chance to play and be creative to see if we can maybe come up with something unique:)
brookeshaden - You are so totally ON! I can’t wait 🙂
Scheila Maria - Olá Brooke Shaden, meu nome é Scheila Maria, e me apaixonei por seu trabalho, é fantástico!
Parabéns e obrigada por nos inspirar!!
Quando virá ao Brasil? Avi-se por favor!! 😀 😀
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - E de repente, vejo uma mensagem em português! Que giro! Mas Scheila, não sei se a Brooke entenderá! 🙂
Jen Sulak Pink Light Images - Most of my fears regarding my craft has been people relations….
-Am i good enough?
-What if they don’t like it
-will ANYONE like it.
and then I just added my new one to do the teaching….in which I am pursuing….if only to get better at relations/ relating/inspiring on new levels. I was telling Brian Demint yesterday – the main reason I am pursuing it is because I’m tired of just “taking” all the time. It is not that I’m only taking…but I wanted to give back to creatives on a grander scale. To realize that I don’t always have the ideas – but want to help others unlock THEIR ideas! )and dreams, and passions, and stories)
That, to me, is a huge responsibility and pretty scary!
As for off camera lighting….the only place i REALLY don’t care for it is at weddings…but I have to use it. all.the.time. But what I’ve come to realize is that I just like minimal equipment. I learned a lot about it, I just don’t use it unless I have to. 🙂
Julie Shi - Many thanks for your timely post. I’ve been traveling down that hole for many years only to discover this truth a few days ago.
I’m in process of using my photography in an art journal to feat these fears; one, the fear of breaking rules. What’s so interesting for me is that when I was attending Pasadena City College for photography (film only days), I received gallery awards for my photography of ‘coloring outside of the lines’. I always broke the ‘rules’ even in classes where the prof was a ‘purist’. The rule breaker in me went back to being a 5 year old and having my mom pull me out of ballet because I wasn’t following the rules, rather, I was creating my own creative steps. Then, one day, I started following the rules as I finally listened to those around me.
So, now to continue down the rabbit hole, I will tackle one fear at a time while learning to stay true to who I am and not what I think others want me to be.
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - Hi Brooke! Great post today! You’re right when you say that fear stopping us from doing the most things. For a long time I let the fears knocked me down. And that prevented me from progressing. In fact, we have to leave the comfort zone. From the moment I left the fears behind, I have progressed. I also do not intend to be the best, because the pleasure is not being better, but enjoy this path of learning. And I am loving it! I already worked with flash and I have 1 Speedlight and 2 strobes, but lately, I do not have used them. I have not felt this need, and to tell the truth, in this type of fine art, I also do not really like. Wish you a great and beautiful weekend.
Stephanie Studer - I shoot food/still life/products and your work speaks to me…loved this.
I have quite a long list since I have been mostly teaching myself, so this will be interesting. thank you!
Mira - Oh! Brooke! As always a wonderful post! I think that achieving desirable we rise to a higher stage. Achieving desirable, conquering his fear, we climb on TWO levels!!!!!! Already working on my list. Sending you light and love from Russia.
Sydney Paige Richardson - I keep making goals to photograph myself. A self portrait.
But that’s my fear.
I hope to overcome that.
Thank you for a beautiful post.
Vanessa - I can’t figure out how you manage to do these shoots on your own and I’ve seen you on cL! Your images always inspire me to try but I just can’t wrap my head around the how. I think I need to overcome the fear of effing it all up and just try. Get out there, give it a go. Come up with a crazy idea and just do everything I can to rock it. But it’s that fear… funny thing. Even when you know it’s fictional. It’s still a strong force. Wish me luck! I gotta try. working on personal projects is so fulfilling and often not really meant to involve anyone else… *shrugs shoulders*
Maybe I’ll figure it out!