If you knew for certain that you would succeed, what move would you make in 2022?
Would you finally pitch yourself to that crush client? Would you pivot to include a new genre in your portfolio? Would you charge what you know you’re worth but you’ve been too scared to ask for?
I have a Post-It Note in my office: “If you can’t beat the fear, do it scared.” Doing things outside your comfort zone means you’re pushing yourself and growing; that’s a space you continually want to put yourself in as an artist. These days, I often find myself taking shots at things that intimidate me.
This year, for example, I landed a contract to photograph UFC champion Amanda Nunes for marketing images leading up to her UFC 269 fight. The parameters for this shoot, however, were particularly challenging. I was expected to deliver 20 images with only one hour to shoot. Furthermore, the shot list was extensive: portrait-type shots for the fight posters, action shots, and branded clothing shots for the sponsor. Then, of course, I had my wish list. I wanted to show what it would look like to be Amanda's opponent, knocked down on the mat, and about to receive her kill shot, her fist coming full force at the lens. I also wanted to capture her coming out of the corner of the ring, emerging through the smoke. But when I calculated the time I had, taking transitions and set changes into account, I realized I would have to create one top-tier deliverable shot every two minutes. Whoa. And this was not a contract I wanted to drop the ball on. I felt massively nervous. “Well," I told myself, "I guess I’m going to do it scared.” Even though I may not have needed to, I spent about four hours the day before testing different lighting, playing with my smoke machine, and making sure I worked out any kinks. Then, I simply walked in, and I shot it scared. When the client received the images, they emailed: “We had high expectations, and you exceeded them all,” even paying me more than our contracted amount to show their satisfaction with the work. I did it scared, and 2022 might be the year for you to start tackling some of those goals that make you have to say: “Well, I guess I'll just do it scared then.”
To that end, here are a few beat-the-fear tips.
1. Mentally, run through the worst possible scenario and ask yourself if you could manage it. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen? Is it that someone says no? Can you manage that situation? Or is it that you shoot something and the client doesn’t like it? Then, what would you do in that scenario? Walk yourself through the worst thing that could happen and decide how you would tackle it. This will help curb the fear.
2. Remind yourself what skills and experiences you have that make you qualified for the challenge. You may find that you already have the skills and knowledge to tackle your challenge — you just need to remind yourself of them. Sometimes, your qualification is that you’ll work on it until you nail it. One time, a client wanted a certain type of lighting and shadow on his images. It was extremely specific, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to achieve it. YouTube was no help, so I just spent about three hours moving lights, changing modifiers, adding lights, removing lights, using bounce cards, shooting bare bulbs until boom, I got it!
Sometimes, your qualification is your dedication to achieving what you need to.
3. Prepare for the challenge. It’s great to have a pep talk and psych yourself up for your 2022 challenge, but don’t skip the important component of putting in the work to be successful. If you want to launch a new branch of your photography, grab your camera and practice. Pick up products and shoot them, take some portraits of your friends, assist an established photographer so you can learn as you hold their lighting, sign up for a workshop, take a class from the Fstoppers library and practice the techniques you learn. Make sure that as you’re taking bigger challenges, you’re blocking time in your schedule to acquire the skills to succeed at them.
The last few years have been bumpy for many people. We’ve had some big curveballs. We’ve had to pivot. Some of us have had to just plain survive. A new year is around the corner. Doesn’t it feel like the year to pull up your sleeves and go bold? Why not do a few things scared in 2022 and see how far you can go?