Shoot What You’re Afraid Of

Downtown LA, 2016
Downtown LA, 2016

When I’m out shooting in the streets, I’m not sure what will make a good photograph. However, I know what I am afraid of.

I am afraid of confrontation, of being rejected, and missing the “decisive moment.”

I think the best photos to shoot are the photos we’re afraid to shoot.

How do we grow?

Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone is one of the best ways to grow.

When it comes to physical exercise– we need to increase our repetitions, resistance, or the weight to grow our muscles. If we continue to lift 1lb dumb-bells for the rest of our lives, we will never grow stronger.

The same goes with photography. If we stay inside our comfort zones and only photograph what we are comfortable photographing, we will never grow. We will never improve our photography. We will become risk-averse, and never take chances to take more epic photos.

Avoid regret

Downtown LA, 2016
Downtown LA, 2016

I’ve missed hundreds and thousands of photographs because I was afraid to photograph them.

Nowadays the only thing I’m trying to focus on is to avoid regret in my photography. And generally fear is what holds me back.

The worst is when I see a person or a scene I want to photograph, and I chicken out. Once I go home and go to bed, I massively regret not taking that photograph (or at least asking).

What I will do is when I am afraid to photograph a person, I will ask for permission. If I get rejected, I feel good, because at least I tried to ask. I feel greater regret when I don’t even ask for permission.

Make fear your friend

Photograph scenes or people that make you feel afraid. Channel your fear in a positive way. Your fear is simply telling you that a certain scene or a person might be interesting. But you are afraid to hit the shutter because of the negative possible side-effects.

But know that even when you get negative confrontations in street photography— this will allow you to grow. Every time I piss off someone when it comes to street photography, my skin grows thicker. The same goes with negative criticism on social media— it used to hurt me a lot more in the past, and now I can read a scathing review with far less of an emotional response.

What else do you fear?

How else can you take this concept of shooting what you are afraid of?

Perhaps travel to places you are afraid of. Places that you’ve always wanted to travel to, but you heard that it was “unsafe” to travel to.

When it comes to personal relationships— fear is what is holding you back from asking that person on a date.

Fear is holding you back from trying to start that new business, apply for that new job, or ask for that raise.

Fear is what holds you back from sharing photos on the internet— because you are afraid that nobody will like your photos.

Face fear head-on

SF, 2016
SF, 2016

It is cliche to say we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But it is true. The fear of negative consequences are often worse than the negative consequences themselves.

In street photography, the fear of getting rejected is one of the worst fears we have. That is why in a lot of my street photography workshops, I ask my students to try to intentionally get rejected when asking strangers for street portraits. This way, we no longer fear the rejection— we crave the rejection.

So in your photography, don’t be afraid of fear— crave it. If you don’t feel fear in a daily or weekly basis— you’re either not pushing yourself hard enough, or you’re not putting yourself out there enough.

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone

So friend as an experiment, try to photograph what you’re afraid of for a week, or a month, or possibly a year. See how much your confidence will grow— both creatively and your ability to approach and interact with strangers.

When you no longer have fear— what can hold you back? Nothing.

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