Author: Tony Colangelo
Jake from Fort Lauderdale, FL writes:
“I’ve been shooting for about three years and I average about 15-25 houses a week depending on the time of year. Over the last couple of months though, I’ve lost four of my best and longest standing clients and even though I’ve gotten two of them back, I find that my confidence has taken a hit. Lately, it feels like I’m more focused on what might go wrong than actually getting the shot I want. It’s almost like I’m expecting the worst and my results are starting to show it. Can you suggest something?”
Well Jake, when working with someone in my coaching practice who’s having a “crisis of confidence” like you seem to be going through, my first goal is NOT to find ways to bolster their confidence; my goal is to increase their focus. That is, I try to get them to be more present in their work and focused on the mechanics of the task, executing each step, one after the other. In my opinion, confidence is not a thing to go after directly, it is simply a by-product of good execution over time.
There are many reasons why focusing on one task at a time is so important. For me though, the most important one is that increasing your focus on the task at hand stops your mind from wandering onto other thoughts. This is key, because when you’re in a slump, your mind will easily move to negative thinking (i.e., you’ll start to worry and ruminate); and when this happens, it’s so easy to mistake your worries for reality. Indeed, your problem isn’t that you’ve suddenly lost the ability to capture a good photograph. Your problem is that by devoting so much time and thought to what might go wrong, you’re taking mental energy away from doing the things you know you can do well.
So, how do you retain focus (and stay present) at a photoshoot? Let me make a couple of suggestions:
Breathe! I know this sounds like I’m getting all zen-like on you Jake but this is really important. Take a deep breath and then let it out very slowly (making sure that the time you give to letting it out is significantly longer than the time you take to breathe in). Remembering to breath is the most fundamental requirement of keeping calm. Remember, calmness begins the moment you take a deep breath and make the choice to focus on the task at hand rather than letting your mind focus on negativity.
Ask yourself questions. Given that it’s so important to keep your mind occupied on a task, I'd suggest asking yourself a few questions; and if you're really bold, ask them to yourself, out loud! This is something that I've always done in my photography (and in my previous careers too!) I find that forcing myself to come up with answers to questions that I ask myself during a shoot allows me to stay "in the moment" and focused on what's important in a given room/space. And yes, they tend to be the same questions (i.e., on composition, camera angle, lighting, etc.) but that's not important... The point is to occupy your mind so as to not to allow negative thinking to take hold.
Any other ideas to help Jake out of his slump?