Highly non-pro photography in Italy, 2014. ©Jens Lennartsson/The Zen Photographer

Most famous photographers suck just as much as you do!

Why you should stop worrying about other people being better that you

(This post was originally sent out to the subscribers of my personal email list)

A few years ago I was sitting in a café in my hometown, flipping through one of the newspapers. My eyes stopped at one photo, I remember thinking “this is a pretty crappy shot”. I mean, it wasn’t terrible but really nothing special. Today, I can’t remember the motif. But I happened to read the photo credit and I definitely remember who took it.

The picture was shot by one of their staff photographers, and I knew his name very well. Paul Hansen. Paul Hansen has — among other awards — been appointed “Photographer of the Year” six times. Six times! He’s done loads of large journalistic photo essays that’s been praised and he is seen as one of our time’s greatest photographers.

But this shot was crap. There was nothing interesting about it. At all. How could one of the country’s best photographers be able to produce something so tame?

I made a very important realization that day. Even the most talented photographers in the world will have to wade through their fair share of shitty photos to come up with the really good one. Not every click will end up on the cover of the New Yorker.

You DEFINITELY need one of these self portraits if you want to call yourself “photographer”! ©Jens Lennartsson/The Zen Photographer

I understand why many of you — as well as myself — look through the Pictures of the Year, or the Best 100 photos from the Last Century and think to yourself “Oh, why am I even trying?”

We just see the very, very best work from those photographers. On their websites, Instagram accounts, articles. The pictures that win the awards or the photo reportages that are being shared the most right now. Even if these photographers have a more developed sense of storytelling and are more familiar with how to compose and build a picture than you and I, we are still just seeing the good stuff.

Not every project they do turns out to be a price-winner, or on the cover of a fancy magazine, or in a book, or all over the world wide web.

But they continue to shoot, to come up with new ideas, to try them out.

Some of the pictures will never leave their hard drive.

Some ends up in the local newspaper in a small Scandinavian country.

Don’t look too much in the direction of other photographers. They are not you, you have other passions than them, other stories to tell. Continue to shoot. Continue to tell your stories. Never stop.

And remember, most of Steve McCurry’s exposures are probably crap too.


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