How Doubt Kills Creativity

I’m going to start with a controversial statement: a little bit of self-doubt can be a good thing. This, from a self-employed businesswoman? Shocking, I know. But bear with me. Shakespeare said a modest level of doubt was “the beacon of the wise”, and I have to admit I can see where he was coming from. You see, a healthy amount of doubt keeps us in check; it stops confidence from boiling over into arrogance and encourages us to keeping looking around us and listening to the advice of those we respect and trust.

And in the wedding photography world, all you have to do is look at respected photographers’ testimonials to see how highly couples rate humility and a willingness to collaborate in their suppliers. “You really listened to us” is a comment I’m lucky to hear again and again from my newlyweds, and I find that a pinch of self-doubt is integral to that. Nobody knows it all, and that attitude is what keeps me open to learning and fresh ideas.

But what about when doubt spirals out of control? I’m talking about the kind of doubt that shakes your very foundations and results in major decision-making paralysis. As a wedding photographer, it might take grip on the day itself – to hang the dress in front of the window and deal with poor lighting? To display it on the wardrobe door; or is that too cliched? – or as you sit down to edit – should I go with this vow shot, or this one? (or this one, or this one…or, hang on, this one?) To crop the grandfather out or keep him in? Whenever or however it strikes, it’s pretty devastating, resulting in an crippling crisis of confidence.

I get it – everything about running your own business and everything about wedding photography can feel pretty scary at first. You’re putting yourself out there. You’re offering yourself and your work up to be judged by others. The fundamental nature of a wedding – oh, you know, no big deal, just the most important day of a two people’s lives! – makes everything feel more high-stakes. It’s natural to feel a little unnerved – the problem being that fear breeds doubt and doubt breeds more fear. Welcome to the vicious cycle of self-doubt, where the murderous double act of doubt and fear conspire to kill your creativity.

How to end it? Well, frankly, you have to remember that you’re the creative expert. If you’ve done your time and paid your photography dues (take a look at my post on that very topic here), you’ve well and truly earned your place in this wonderful weddingland world. Try to remember that you’re constantly wearing two hats as a photographer – the business manager and the creative – and you need to focus on what you do best; presumably, the photography. Terrible with figures or terrified by social media? Get some outside help – certainly don’t allow that doubt and uncertainty to creep into the creative side of things and undermine you. Your creativity is your most precious commodity as a photographer and, as such, you need to protect it.

And just in case no one has told you this recently, you were so brave to start up a business in the first place – remember that and stay brave!


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