Why Photographers Shouldn't Follow Photographers

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Ok so that title is a pretty big statement... especially cause I'm a photographer who is talking to other photographers. But hear me out! I have a point to make. 

This week, I shared on Instagram that I don't follow very many photographers. It got a massive response (more comments than most of my posts get) so clearly I touched on something. I felt like I had more to say on the topic, so that's why I'm focusing on that for this weeks newsletter. 

As photographers, we're drawn to photography. Obvious, right? I am, that's for sure. My love for photographs began because I discovered the work of other photographers and felt incredibly inspired! It's normal to want to look at other images. 

However, over the years, I've learnt that I really, really, really need to limit the amount of photographers that I follow. Here's why:

1. I'm easily influenced. 

A few years ago, I followed a lot of "Instagram photographers." That isn't a derogatory term, not at all. But I think you'll agree with me that there is a particular style of photo that does really well on Instagram. For good reason, its inspiring! Think travel photos, epic landscapes, romantic couples, beauty images involving a lot of flowers... I don't know, I guess I just notice themes.

Anyway, as time went on, I began to attempt to shoot images similar to what I was seeing online. I suppose that I was being exposed to so many of these "Instagram style" images, that my brain almost couldn't imagine anything other than that. 

I found myself pulling away from what I was truly wanting to create, and instead - almost unknowingly - creating images that "fit in" on Instagram. Not because I really wanted to be, but because it was all I was seeing all day, every day! So One afternoon I sat down and did a massive cull. I unfollowed the majority of the photographers that I'd been following... and something magical happened... my style became me again. 

2. Comparison can be damaging 

Another issue with following other photographers is that of comparison. Now, I've spoken at length on how to turn comparison into a positive (and I have a blog post coming up about that soon), but the reality is that not all comparison can always be helpful or healthy. Sometimes its just draining, exhausting and demotivating. 

I've definitely encountered times when I've followed the work of a photographer, loved it so much, seen them achieve something amazing, and rather than feel happy for them (which is how I always want to feel!), I feel jealous, unworthy, not good enough, etc.

We all feel like that at times. Its normal, and totally natural! But when it gets to be too much, that's when it's time to unfollow that person. Leave them behind. You can always go back to following them when you're feeling better! And trust me, they won't notice and they won't mind. 

3. I want to try and be inspired by things other than photography. 

Whilst I was at university, we had to create sketchbooks. These were where we planned our shoots, defined what we were doing and why. The main thing that was drilled into us at all times was that we should look for inspiration for our photoshoots OUTSIDE of photography. They wanted us to broaden our horizons a bit.

Of course, being a student, you don't want to do that. At least, I didn't. So I tended to ignore that advice and always get inspired by photographers. 

What I didn't understand was that they were right. If you're always getting inspired by photography, you'll never really create your own unique ideas. Your ideas will always be influenced by someone else. 

I've learnt that now, so rather than spend so much time looking at the work of other photographers for inspiration, I try to look to other things: the way light changes throughout the day, the colours in buildings, reading books, watching films (cinematography is close to photography, but I still consider it different), etc. 

4. Stay In Your Own Lane

There's this American phrase: "stay in your own lane" (at least I think it's American... correct me if I'm wrong), and it basically means that you should focus on you, and not worry about what people around you are doing. This is SO hard to do if you're constantly looking and seeing what other photographers are doing! 

When I stopped following the 1000s of photographers who I was following on a daily basis, I was able to think for myself. To stop comparing where I was to where they were. 

I'm happy to say that these days, I really don't bother with looking at "who shot for what magazine" or "so and so shot for this brand" because I'm extremely focused on getting where I want to be. It hit me that I'm much better off spending my time pursing my projects, working on my photography, working on my business, pitching my services, than I would be sitting on Instagram (or Pinterest, or Facebook, etc) feeling crappy about how far along someone else was in their career compared to me. 

It's worked... cause I'm doing way better now than I was two years ago!

How To Follow Photographers in a Healthy Way

I'm only going to touch on this briefly, but I felt I needed to include it! Of course, with all of the above, I make it sound like you should NEVER follow ANY photographers... ever! 

That isn't the case. 

Here are a few quick tips on how to follow photographers in a healthy way: 

  • Turn comparison into something useful. Analyse what you're feeling triggered by. How can you use that in your own work?

  • Unfollow people for a short while if you're feeling vulnerable, and go back to them later. It's ok to come and go. 

  • Follow photographers in a different niche to you. I still follow a lot of wedding, portrait, landscape, and travel photographers because I love their work! They inspire me, but in different ways. 

  • Limit yourself to how "deep you'll dig." It's easy to discover someone's work and get sucked in, saving every image, loving it all, and then feeling like you need to emulate them right now. If you discover someone's work you love, enjoy it in small doses. 

  • Follow other kinds of artists. Similar to following the work of photographers in different niches to you, look to other kinds of creatives. Painters, graphic designers, sculptures, etc... they're all capable of inspiring you just as much! 

If you need to unfollow me, please do.

This last point isn't really a point as such... but it is something that I felt I needed to say. If you ever feel triggered by the words I share, the information I'm giving, the work that I'm posting... please unfollow me! I will never hold that against you. The work that I'm doing will always be here, waiting for you. You can always come back to me at a later date. For all the reasons above, I know that sometimes, we can't follow one another, and that's ok.