4 Ways to Build Confidence as a Beginner Photographer

June 3, 2021

I remember on my first few professional photo shoots, I was so nervous I could hardly speak. It was crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE people and love taking photos to capture their memories. But there’s so much going on in your mind during those first shoots—things you don’t want to forget, making sure […]

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I remember on my first few professional photo shoots, I was so nervous I could hardly speak. It was crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE people and love taking photos to capture their memories. But there’s so much going on in your mind during those first shoots—things you don’t want to forget, making sure your camera settings are set up correctly, hoping your clients feel comfortable. It just takes some time and experience to build confidence as a beginner photographer.

As someone who now teaches beginner photographers how to start and grow meaningful businesses, I love helping them feel more at ease behind the camera and with their clients. 

Something I firmly believe is that confidence isn’t a natural state of being. It’s learned and grown, like muscle memory with working out. As humans, we understand we’re innately flawed, and we have this deep, inner desire to be liked, right? To override that understanding and still show up positive and confident, it takes daily work and a reframing of our self-talk.

And in such a vulnerable industry as photography, where you’re literally cementing people’s most treasured memories in images that lasts a lifetime, it’s easy to feel insecure. But just know, you are WORTHY of doing this work. Even if imposter syndrome tells you otherwise, you are talented, you’re a joy to be around, and your clients are lucky to work with you. I truly believe that.

4 ways to build confidence as a beginner photographer

If you still feel wishy-washy about your confidence at shoots, though, don’t worry! It’s a totally normal thing, and something that does go away with time. Meanwhile, here are a few ways for you to build confidence as a beginner photographer, so you can start feeling like your best self at each and every shoot!

1. Get in your own head.

Meaning, when those little voices start telling you you’re not capable or unworthy, shift the narrative. The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn is, just because we think something doesn’t make it true. So those limiting messages that our brains are so good at whispering to us over and over again? They’re just not true.

Begin noticing anytime your mind starts spinning and harping on these moments of negative self-talk, and flip the narrative. When you think, “There’s no way this client is going to want to work with me,” change it to, “I am worthy and capable of working with my dream clients and providing them with excellent service.”

It’s a shift that takes self-awareness and active work, but with time those more uplifting messages of self-talk will be more second-nature than the negative ones. And it will show in the way you carry yourself and interact with others, your clients included!

2. Keep practicing and honing your skills.

I know it seems obvious, but honestly just growing in your experience and skills can do wonders for your confidence as a beginner photographer. Take your camera with you on vacations and family outings. Ask family members if you can practice your photography on them. Keep finding ways to hone your signature style and create art that is true to YOU.

Simply expanding your portfolio and experience can make you feel more sure of yourself and your skill set. And, it’s something that happens with time… so be patient! Some of the best images come from playing around and experimenting with what works for you, so keep working at it whenever you have the chance.

3. Find a way to connect with your clients.

Beyond your self-talk and practicing your skills, it’s also helpful to remember you’re a human and your clients are humans. At the end of the day, as human beings, all we want it to be understood and feel connected to others. Before even starting a shoot—and maybe even on your discovery call before someone books with you—look for small ways to connect with clients.

What do you have in common? What interests them? Can you make them feel more understood or comfortable in some way? When all else fails, ask genuine and warm questions, and stay interested and curious. This approach will automatically show you care, which lets your clients relax a bit. Which in turn, helps boost your own confidence!

4. Remember your purpose.

When you think about why you got started on this photography journey, it’s probably not because you really like cameras or just love to take pictures. (That might be a small part of it, but it’s not the entire core reason!) 

Think about the meaning and purpose behind what you do. When you can stay connected to that deeper “why,” it allows you to get out of your own way and perform at a level that honors your purpose. That connection helps you feel more confident about what you do, because you know it’s tied to something deeper than just a random job or thing to do for fun. It’s a part of your legacy, and that is something powerful!

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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