Every photographer wants to create masterpieces. Buying a camera is easy, learning the basics is also not difficult. Next comes learning to visualize and compose. Ideas start forming in the minds that get expressed using powerful photographs. However there is small problem here that prevents most photographers from progressing to artistically creative from their technically sound status. Each and every photographer has some fears which prevent this metamorphosis.
(Mooring – Nikon D200 with Nikkor 18-35mm lens)
Here is a list of top ten fears that every budding photographer has. These fears act like a mooring for a boat, not permitting the creativity to go loose. Overcome these and you will be on your way to creating those masterpieces that you had always dreamt of.
1. Fear of equipment getting spoilt
This happens with every new consumer item purchased. Be it a new car, new furniture or a new camera. A person puts in money. The camera or the lens comes home in a beautiful box with all the branding. Even the packaging smells new. The prized possession inside looks gorgeous. This is where the fear is. Photographers get scared of dusty environments, humid atmosphere or even dirty hands. Get rid of this fear. The camera, lenses and all the accessories will get dirty with use and they are supposed to get dirty. Small specs of dust in the viewfinder are fine. These do not interfere with the photographs. Finger-prints on the camera body or marks from oily nose on the preview screen are also nothing to worry about. A few scratches on the underside of the camera body from the tripod mount or the back of the camera from shirt buttons are common and nothing to worry about. Cameras age with time. The important thing is to let them age gracefully. I do recommend caring for your precious camera equipment but do not try to protect it so much that those fine moments, which would have provided the opportunities for creating those masterpieces, get lost. Do not worry about your photography equipment. As long as they are creating wonderful images, everything is fine. Cleaning them is also not a big task. Just a few minutes, once a week, is usually enough to keep all the equipment in reasonably well-cared for condition.
2. Fear of dust on sensor and front element
These are another big concern for most photographers, even for those who have overcome the first fear that I have mentioned above. Earth has dust everywhere. Some places have less of it and others are bombarded with it, but it is omnipresent. Dust also has a nasty habit of getting everywhere and that includes that holy sensor in your precious camera. Even if you do not change lenses, practice common sense religiously and click photographs only in a hospital’s operating room – dust will find its way onto the sensor. The good news! This can be easily cleaned. So stop worrying about the dust on the sensor and create the photographs that you have always wanted to. The same thing applies to the front element of the lens. It is not as fragile as most photographers think. The coatings are strong and easy to clean. Once in a while even I end up with fingerprints on the front element, but then these too can be easily cleaned.
3. Fear of theft
Cameras are expensive and if you are anywhere like me, you’ll happily spend a fortune on cameras even if it means cutting corners in all the other expenses. I have come across people who buy really expensive cameras and then do not take it to crowded places fearing theft. Some of them use it only for some family photographs and keep another inexpensive camera for regular use. My suggestion is to overcome this fear. Use some common sense to avoid thefts but do not let this fear take away the opportunities for photography.
4. Fear of being a nerd
This is something to do with our understanding of the image we project. Imagine a group of macho men and gorgeous girls on a trip. How well would a photographer with a camera around the neck and a camera bag across the shoulder mix in that group? Yes, the photographer will stand out as a sore thumb, but does that actually matter? If there are photographs to be made, do not be scared to look like a nerd. Be ready for capturing those wonderful photographs. Now, do not carry your heavy DSLR to your friend’s wedding party or there are chances that you’ll end up being the person behind the camera most of the time while others will be enjoying the party. There are places and times when you should not have your camera with you, but do not leave it behind when you expect good photographs to be captured but you don’t want to look like an odd man out.
5. Fear of the unknown
An old friend of mine had planned a trek in the mountains with a couple of his croonies. This was their first visit to this place. This friend of mine has a wonderful Leica and is an accomplished photographer. However on the trip, he did not carry his camera along. He did not click any photographs on this trek. It seems that this was a new place and he was scared of carrying his camera along. It was not the fear of camera theft or fear of people there but somehow it was just the fear of going to an unknown place and clicking photographs. I have frequently come across photographers who first visit a place and if they like it, they end up planning another visit to the same place with their camera. Every day and every moment is different, so overcome this fear of unknown and be prepared to capture photographs.
6. Boundaries formed by various rules
Most photographers stick by the common rules of composition. Learn to break them. Instead of blindly following the rules of composition, learn why they work and how these rules actually enhance a photograph. Learn to use this techniques to capture your photographs. Compose to bring out your subject and to add impact. Photographers initially use these rules to improve photography. Then with time, the mind gets brainwashed into seeing everything through these rules. The biggest irony is that even some of the influential names in photography are also bound by these rules subconsciously. Even photography training schools try to force these rules on most beginners. Get over this fear in your initial days of photography and learn to break these rules of composition.
7. Fear of unknown (part II)
I could not find the name for this fear so I have named it as the second part of the fear of unknown. Here the fear of unknown is due to the lack of knowledge and experience. A lot of photographers, with time, end up using some specific settings in their cameras and photography equipment. Even when photographs would have been better, these photographers are scared of trying out those settings. Landscape photographers start using Aperture-Priority most of the time and then sometimes when faced with action shots, I notice them fiddling with aperture to get the desired shutter speed. Photographers who use the present day speedlights, struggle with setting them up manually using their guide numbers. Internet reviews show the lenses performing at their best in the mid region of apertures provided and as a result many photographers shy away from going to the extreme ends of the apertures. Out of every ten photographers whom I meet, I see just about one photographer who is comfortable with the camera menu and changes settings without any fear.
8. Caged in comfort zone
This is yet another fear. The most common is the genre. With time, many photographers develop a comfort zone for a genre of photography and then even when the opportunity for something new knocks, they are scared to go ahead. I rarely see wildlife photographers comfortable while doing street photography. I am yet to see a fashion photographer who is equally comfortable with clicking birds. Genre, though good, can become an invisible cage, killing the creativity. Overcome this fear of change and learn to get out of the comfort zone. For clarity’s sake – clicking photographs within a specific genre is fine but being bound to that particular genre due to the fear of stepping out of the comfort zone is not.
There are others who click photographs only in the golden hour and that happens to be their comfort zone. For some photographers the equipment itself maybe the comfort zone. Someone who is good with a DSLR gets lost when there is an equally powerful rangefinder at hand.
9. The weight
Lugging around heavy weight is another fear that weighs heavily (pun intended) on the minds of many photographers. Though I do adovocate travelling light but it does not mean leaving behind almost everything. The fear of treading around with a tripod can play a spoil sport while capturing those golden hour images with motion blurs. Going on a birding trip while leaving the long lens at home is like going to a gun-fight with a knife. Overcome this fear or discomfort of carrying weigth and learn to tug along the stuff when it is actually required (and no, that does not mean carrying your studio lights on a family vacation).
10. Fear of people
World population is at its all time high. Humans are everywhere. Sometimes they are the subject and at other times they make up the supporting elements in a photograph. There are special instances when they are not there in the photograph but their acceptance or permission is required for photography. Learn to approach people confidently and with your camera in your hand. Let them know your intent and you’ll be surprised how welcoming people can be.
Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” So, shed your fear of people and go close to them, interact with them and be a part of their circle.
(Tree and Marsh – Nikon D60 with Nikkor 18-55mm lens, f/8, 1/60 sec at ISO 100)
This list of things that scares photographers is based on my personal experiences and on observation of other photographers around me. I have been haunted by some of these many times and still do. I am still trying to overcome these fears and in the process I hope to improve my photography. So accept these if you are in the same situation and start working towards overcoming these.