How do you become independent, to think and see for yourself? Here’s some of the things that I do:
Ask: why am I creating?
This is an important first step. The “why” you are creating will determine everything else that you do. If your desire is to “win and gain likes,” then you will go one way. If your desire is to express something that’s inside of you, then you’ll go another.
This step requires that you be completely honest with yourself, something that’s not easy to do.
Define success for yourself:
For some, the classic definition of success will be their goal: fame, fortune, gallery representation and a book.
But for me, success is freedom: the freedom to create what I love, without the desire to follow the crowds/experts/rules, and without worrying if others will like my work.
What is your definition of success? Write it down and read it often.
Art is not a competition, I shouldn’t be trying to be better than someone else, but working to express something that’s inside of me. Competition in art, brings out qualities that are incompatible with personal expression.
Competing also reinforces the mistaken belief that a winning image is a great image, and that one that doesn’t win, isn’t good.
“Comparison is the thief of joy“ said Theodore Roosevelt.
I used to spend hours looking at other’s images, comparing their work to my own…and feeling bad. Why hadn’t I created that image, or thought of that idea?
Comparing serves no useful purpose, and is harmful because it puts the focus on what “they” are doing instead of what “you“ are doing.
And as my mother used to say to me: you stop worrying what others are doing, and just worry about Cole. Good advice mom.
Consider Photographic Celibacy:
Consider taking a break from looking at other people’s images, and focus on your Vision. I’ve been doing it for over 15 years now, and still find the practice incredibly useful. I recognize that most people are skeptical about the idea, but how about a 3 or 6 month trial?
You might be surprised at what you learn.
Skip the critiques:
Stop asking others for input on your work, because “their opinion” is based on their likes, dislikes and Vision. Following other‘s advice is the exact opposite of seeing for yourself.
Instead learn to critique your own work by asking yourself these questions:
- What do I think of my image?
- Did it turn out the way I envisioned?
- If not, how so?
- What do I love about this image?
- How can I enhance those things that I love?
- What don’t I like about this image?
- How can I deemphasize or eliminate those things?
- Do I love what I’ve created?
Learning to self-critique is a much better way to see, than by following another’s advice or following rules. Asking other’s opinion is the easier path, but not the better one.
Believe in Your Creative Abilities:
This was a tough one for me, because I didn’t believe that I had any creative ability. And as I have talked with other photographers, I‘ve discovered that I was not unique in my self-doubts. I think many of us were drawn to photography because we thought it was the perfect medium for we non-creative types.
But I’ve learned this important truth: we all have the ability to be creative, everyone single one of us. For some, that creativity lies close to the surface, and for the rest of us, we need to work a little harder to find it. But it’s there, I promise!
Find your Vision:
This is the most important step, because your Vision is simply how you see once you’ve pushed all of the other voices out of your head. Vision is the key to being successful, if your goal is to create images that you love.
And once you’ve found your Vision, you will gain a confidence that allows you to ignore what others are doing, not care what other’s think of your work, shake off criticism and love the work that you create.