Of all the photo challenges I’ve seen grace the Toy Photographers blog, none have given me as much trouble as the one for March: Fear. Here’s the challenge prompt given by AliceinCleveland over at our Google+ community:

For this month’s challenge, I’m asking if you will photograph your fears about your own toy photography with me. That’s it. Think about your fears about your art, and photograph them…

I mistakingly thought that this challenge would be easy; that I knew myself enough to instinctively understand what I feared most. But once I began to think specifically about my creative and photographic fears, I had a much harder time coming up with an answer.

To tackle the problem, I broke it down. First, I examined what I was afraid of, both on a surface level, and on a more personal and existential level. The surface level fears were the easiest. I’m afraid of taking bad photos, of no one liking them, and I’m afraid of not making enough of a mark with my art.

Those all feel like pretty natural fears to me, and are things I saw a lot of in the discussions on G+ this month. I think all artists grapple with self-doubt and fears of inadequacy.

Stage Fright

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

-Steven Pressfield

Once I got those fears out of the way, and realized that my peers struggled with them too, I decided to look inwardly and find out what really scared me personally about my art. There were a few, but my wife (who is my constant muse and sounding board) told me the thing she’d noticed most whenever I’d talk about my self-doubt:

I’m afraid of my lack of technical knowledge

Looking at it now, in big bold letters on this blog post, it feels like a silly fear. But it’s very real, and is actually something I struggle with every single time I take a photo.


Technical Jargon

I always hesitate to call myself a photographer, because of how little I actually know about the technical side of things. I only ever took one photography class for one semester in high school, a little over a decade ago. Apart from some basic knowledge of how to turn a camera on and mess with the settings until I get the photo I’m hoping for, my photography jargon is extremely limited. When someone speaks about f-stops or the focal length of a particular lens, they might as well be speaking in a foreign language!

The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was the base fear for all the others on my list. Because of my limited technical knowledge, I worry that I won’t take good photographs. That people won’t like them. That I’ll be branded a “fraud” or not a “real” photographer. Luckily for me, this is a fear that can be overcome, and one that can even be conquered in time (and with a lot of practice behind the camera).

Since beginning this challenge this month, I’ve been reminded of this quote every time I turn my camera on:

Do one thing every day that scares you.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

I love that. It helps remind me that overcoming fears is a process. It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight.

I may not know everything about photography, but I know more than I used to! And as I continue, I’ll keep learning and growing. I’m proud of the knowledge I’ve gained in the three years since I became a toy photographer. The joy of getting a good photo far outweighs any doubts I have in myself or my technical prowess.

So, whatever your fears are, either as an artist or simply as a human being, I hope that you can find ways to encourage yourself to conquer them.


What are your biggest fears as an artist? Are you doing anything to overcome them? Sound off in the comments, and don’t forget to join the Toy Photographers community on Google+

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