Procrastination, perfectionism and photography

In Build A Photography Business Show, Real estate photography - business management by Build A Photography Business

Do you procrastinate on things? ​​Are you a perfectionist? ​​Do you ever have doubts about your ability as a photographer?

There's a lot of stuff online for real estate photographers about shooting and editing, but I'd like to dig into some of the underlying mindset issues that hold a lot of photographers back and I'll share some things you can do that can make a real difference.

If procrastination and the desire to do everything perfectly is something that's limiting your success as an architectural photographer or a real estate photographer then I think you'll find this incredibly helpful.

Here's what I covered in this episode (you can jump to the different sections in the video timeline):
0:00 - Intro
1:13 - How this impacts on your business
4:22 - Imposter syndrome
5:30 - How to beat imposter syndrome
9:30 - What if you take too many photos?
11:32 - Everyone makes mistakes
13:12 - Summary

Video transcript:
Procrastination, perfectionism and photography

Do you procrastinate on things? Are you a perfectionist? Do you ever have doubts about your ability as a photographer, worried that one day someone is going to expose you as a fraud who’s actually not that good at what you do?

You see, those feelings that you have, believe it or not, are experienced by a lot of photographers and if you ever feel that way, if you ever feel like being a photographer is beyond you and you don’t really belong here, it can impact on your business in a few different ways:

You don't charge enough

First of all, when you think you’re ‘not really good enough’ you feel like you shouldn’t charge a high fee for a photo shoot. That damages your finances because you’re not earning enough to thrive, and your brand is depleted as well because you position yourself as the cheap photographer.

You don't try new things

Next up, maybe you procrastinate on doing certain things because you think you’re not good enough and you’re afraid others will find out your secret about how bad you are. So there might be this great list of things that you want to do and which would be great for your business, but you keep putting them off and putting them off because you’re afraid of failing, and where you’re at right now is better than failure so you stay where you are.

You don't chase new clients

As another example, when you’re a perfectionist maybe you don’t pursue more clients because you feel like you still need to get a little bit better first. So you’re in a constant cycle of learn more skills, learn more skills, get better at what you do … but you never get off the training wheels because you think you need to be perfect like all the other photographers out there. But here’s the secret – we’re not perfect, not by a long way.

You take too many photos

Speaking of photography, maybe you overshoot when you’re on location, getting lots of angles and lots of exposures because you don’t trust yourself to get it right, so you spend too long doing photo shoots. But then when you’re editing your images you see that you actually did pretty well, but you credit your overshooting with helping you get it right so you fuel the cycle and the need to take more photos than you need, and next time you’re shooting you once again take too many photos.

Now when you combine this problem of overshooting with your unwillingness to charge higher fees, that can be a real problem and your business can really struggle.

You reject positive feedback

Finally, maybe you reject the great feedback you get from your clients because you think you know better and either they were ‘just being polite’ or you just got lucky with that particular photo shoot. Maybe you keep saying it’s luck rather than acknowledge your skill and brilliance as a photographer.

Does any of that sound like you?

Look, it’s a problem for so many photographers, and this thing has a name – it’s called imposter syndrome.

Most of us underestimate our ability at least some of the time, and it’s because we feel like imposters. And as you can see, it can have a huge negative impact on your business – it can really hold you back in a whole range of ways.

So, how do you overcome it? How do you beat this procrastination and perfectionism and instead humbly acknowledge your ability as a photographer and business owner?

Here's how you beat it ...

Well first of all, imposter syndrome and perfectionism are mindset things – they start up here, right, so the solution is going to start up there as well, but then it’s going to transfer into things you do. So we get the thinking right, then we get the doing right.

One of the best things to do is to acknowledge that these feelings are something other amazing and successful people experience as well.

I think it’s estimated that 70% of people in business experience imposter syndrome, and it might even be more than that. And we’re not just talking about small business owners, but we’re talking about executives and CEOs and people like Maya Angelou and Tom Hanks and Neil Armstrong and Howard Schultz - they’ve all spoken about their imposter syndrome and how unqualified they feel.

So the next time those doubts arise, just say to yourself:

‘I know what this is, and I know that successful photographers and others have these feelings too.’

Even acknowledging that can be super helpful for a lot of photographers.

Another thing you can do to get past your perfectionism, and this works when you’re procrastinating as well, and that is to firstly tell yourself that it’s normal to not be perfect. It’s normal – none of us can do it. And because you’re just like everyone else and you can’t do things perfectly all the time, that gives you room to start on whatever it is you need to do.

I mean, if it doesn’t have to be perfect then just get started on it. Focus on simply giving it a try, and that’s going to help take care of your procrastination as well because you’re getting started on something.

Now another thing you might want to do is keep a record of the nice feedback you get from your clients. So whenever you get an email or some verbal feedback, add it to a document so you keep it all in one place, and then you can read all of that positive feedback whenever you feel like an imposter or whenever you’re about to head off to do a really difficult photo shoot.

Now at the moment you might dismiss this feedback as people being misinformed, or maybe you say you just got lucky on each of those photo shoots, but honestly – can all of those clients of yours really be so blind? I think it’s much more likely that, you know what, you’re really good at this. OK? You are really good at this.

Now something else you can do when you have those doubts is to tell yourself that just because you feel inadequate or underqualified that doesn’t mean you are. What you need to do is to identify the moments when you doubt yourself, and reframe things in your head. So maybe you say, ‘I might feel underqualified but what I feel does not define who I am. I can do this’.

Maybe that sounds cheesy, but imposter syndrome is one mindset so you need to replace it with another mindset – that’s all it is. To use an old camera analogy, it’s just like replacing one roll of film with another roll of film.

So imagine that the roll of ISO100 film is the imposter syndrome mindset, so we want to take that out and put in some ISO400, and that’s like the reframed mindset that says you’re competent and you deliver awesome images. Switch one out, and put another one in. Does that make sense?

Now I’m not saying that’s easy to do, and it might take some time for you to get used to that, but it’s really what we’re going for in terms of getting rid of that way of thinking that says that you’re underqualified, because it’s just not true.

Photographers and imposter syndrome

Alright, so what we’ve been talking about so far is pretty general, but for photographers the way this often plays out is that maybe you doubt your abilities so you overshoot a home, and you take way too many exposures and you’re shooting every angle you can find. So maybe what you’re trying to do is to overcompensate for feeling like a fraud, and you’re not sure that you really deserve to be paid to shoot a home.

If that’s something you do then do some of the things we just spoke about – so acknowledge first of all that other photographers, successful ones, also feel like an imposter at times. Secondly, keep a record of positive feedback, and thirdly, replace the imposter mindset with another mindset that is gracious towards yourself and that humbly says that you can do this.

Gain some confidence as a photographer

Now that’s the mindset side, but I’d also deal with the photography side and I’d suggest that maybe you do some practise shoots where you very intentionally take fewer images and try and get comfortable with that. Maybe you can visit your neighbours or family members, but go somewhere away from your clients and practise and practise and practise. Now it might take you a few photo shoots to get the numbers down, and that’s ok.

I’d also suggest after each of those practise photo shoots you get some feedback from other photographers or from your coach or someone whose opinion you respect, but when you do that listen to what they’re saying and if they say that you’ve done a great job, believe them. Take their feedback seriously, and hopefully that will give you the confidence to push back against that false idea that says you need to take a zillion photos in a home.

Here’s another option – acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. I make mistakes – other real estate photographers in your area make mistakes - the best architectural photographers in the world make mistakes.

So when things go wrong, and they will, don’t let them define you but see them as learning experiences that will help you grow as a photographer. You’re going to learn from those situations and it’s going to help you get better, so focus on the learning above everything else and that'll help you be more comfortable when you do make a mistake.

Finally, it might help to acknowledge that as a real estate or architectural photographer, there are no formal qualifications so don’t ever feel like you’re underqualified. There’s no special course or certificate that the rest of us have got and you don’t. We’re pretty much all in the same boat here. If you can shoot well, and if you can run a business, and the bar is not very high when it comes to being a business owner so don’t set unrealistic expectations, but if you can do those things then you’re qualified! That’s all you need to do, and it’s not beyond you at all.

Don't let it stick around

But let me say this – if you allow imposter syndrome to hang around then you will struggle because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You have this fear that you can't do this, so you hold back from doing the things you need to do to grow your business, and that causes your business to struggle.

But if you can use some of the ideas we’ve just spoken about then hopefully you can kick away that perfectionism and stop procrastinating, you can start doing the things you need to do, you can shoot efficiently without taking a thousand exposures and you can charge appropriately for the awesome work you do.

So let me be clear - you are good enough to do this, humbly recognise that, take steps to release yourself from that imposter syndrome, and start working on the things you do without feeling like it has to be perfect.

If you do all of those things, you might still feel like an imposter at times – you may not totally get rid of it, very few of us do. But what you will do is reduce its impact on you so instead of being a weight around you that stops you from moving it’s more of a piece of chewing gum on your shoe that gets annoying some times, but it’s not going to stop you anymore.

7 tips you can try to overcome imposter syndrome as a photographer

So let's quickly go over the ways you can overcome this:

Number one was to acknowledge that over 70% of the population go through this, even very successful people like billionaires and others. Putting a name to this thing and knowing that almost everyone gets it can be a big help.

Number two is to tell yourself that it's normal to not be perfect.

Number three is to keep a record of the great feedback you get from your clients.

Number four is to tell yourself that just because you FEEL underqualified that doesn't mean you are.

Number five, if you take too many photos then do some practise sessions where you intentionally take fewer images and then get some feedback from people you respect.

Number six is to acknowledge that we all make mistakes, even experienced photographers like myself and those who are far better than me.

Finally, there are no qualifications needed to be a photographer so don't feel underqualified.

So that's seven things you can do, and if you have any questions leave a comment below, or feel free to send me a message or an email at any time.