Have you ever had one of those days when you were feeling relatively good about yourself? Your hair loved you. You nailed the makeup. Your clothes were falling in all the right places. Confidence was yours.

And then you picked up a fitness/sports/celebrity/style magazine. 

And suddenly your eyelashes are fat. You hate that vein on your pinky toe. Why did you ever think you looked good in coral? Your hair is so Monica circa Friends Season 4, you can’t hardly stand it. 

Comparison Hurts

Comparison is the thief of contentment. 

Some other famous person (the original author) said it was the thief of joy and that’s true too but it’s also the thief of contentment. And the thief of taking better photos. 

Comparison is the thief of taking increasingly better photos. 

Comparison led me to put my camera down for too long. 

I would browse the websites of photographers whose work and style I loved and constantly feel less-than. I had convinced myself I would never get to their level of achievement and consequently, I didn’t even want to try anymore. So I didn’t. I put my camera down and lost the original joy I had in photography. 

I had failed to remind myself that they weren’t where they were because they picked up a camera one day, took a single picture, and nailed everything else from that time on. They worked hard. They practiced constantly. They failed but kept at it. And I know that because many photographers have shared their journey of success and I’ve yet to read one in which it didn’t require a lot of hard work and perseverance and failure at some point(s).

It’s good to be inspired by other photographers. But photography is very personal and intensely subjective and we can’t make someone else’s style and experience our standard of arrival.

So what can we do to avoid this unhealthy kind of comparison? 

1) Identify your own style and preferences and don’t simply try to copy a more experienced photographer.

 This session is when I learned how much I love symmetrical composition and bright colors. They are now things I look for in every session. 

2) Start at your current skill level, and commit to getting better, more experienced, and more learned, through practice. Grow your skill one practice and session at a time.

This picture is the very first practice session I ever did.

This picture is from one of my booked sessions. Improvement!

3) Remember that improvement and growth are the goals, not perfection. 

 This picture is from when I was just starting in photography and I was experimenting with the Rule of Thirds.

This picture is from this week. Improvement! 

Don’t let comparison steal your joy or the process of taking increasingly better photos. Be inspired by others but don’t judge your weaknesses by their strengths. And keep at it. Keep practicing, keep growing, and keep improving.

Sara McNutt lives, writes, and photographs in Missoula, MT. You can find her on Facebook at Sara McNutt Photography.