Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

What does it take to be “good” in photography? We explore that and more in this edition of Latitude Photography Podcast, Episode 73 for April 5, 2020

Links Mentioned in today’s show:

Palouse Shoot-n-Print Photography and Printing Workshop

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Alabama Stay at home order:


I’m very excited about today’s show. The main topic is what to do when you feel like an imposter in photography. But I do have some updates and announcements to talk about before we get to that. So let’s get these first.

  1. Regular guests
    A few months ago now I put out a casting call for some folks to join me on the show from time to time. I’ve been using the term “regular guest” and I had way more submissions than I expected and of those it was very difficult to select the final names. I had just a few goals for these folks and also I want to be clear here too with you all, this is something I’m looking to try out for a year. I’m thrilled to have these folks willing to come on but as this is rather new for me on this show I just don’t know how it will go.
    So in the end I decided to go with eight of the submissions. It’s probably more than I should have accepted but each person brings something unique to the show that I was hoping for and I think it’ll be good.
    The others that didn’t get chosen also had very good qualities and it was difficult to draw the line somewhere as it were. But alas, here we are. So let’s see how this goes.
    First up is Mary Malinconico, she’s a teacher as well and comes to us from across the country. She’s been on the show before and I look forward to having her on more regularly.
    Second is Matt Bishop. He’s an Aussie but he lives in Italy. In fact he’s the first one up with the next episode where we’ll talk about Patagonia again and what to do during this time as we prepare for “normal” once again.
    Then there’s Ariel Estulin, he’s been on once before and we talked about Nepal. He also does graphic design and the next episode he’s on we plan to talk about websites for photographers.
    Then we have Brie Stockwell from Texas. She’s a self-described “noobie” and I’m looking forward to her perspective on the show.
    Then there’s Drake Dyck from Vancouver Island, BC. I might have chosen him just so I can live a bit vicariously through him, but seriously, he’s going to offer a great perspective I’m sure.
    Then there’s Lori Rowland and Kirk Keyes, both from the Pacific NW like I am, but they are from different regions and they have slightly different interests in photography so I’m looking forward to that. And finally, we have Tom Wagner, he’s in the Air-force and comes to us from the great state of OK.
  2. What I’ve been up to these last two or so weeks
    1. Everything hit the proverbial fan about three weeks ago. On March 12 my son’s band trip to Hawaii was cancelled, the university I teach at announced that campus was closed on Friday starting at 2:00 p.m. and all sorts of crazy broke loose around the world after that.
    2. I tried to get a trip scheduled for me and the boy to Hawaii and we were scheduled to leave on the 19th, a week later, though final plans were put into place on the 16th, that previous Monday.
    3. I then cancelled our trip on the 18th due to Hawaii closing all state parks and wilderness areas. If we could have left just two days earlier we’d have gone anyway and I’m sure we’d have had a great time.
    4. In that timeframe I also spent about 5 days working crazy on the house in attempts to get it sold. It’s nearly done, but…
    5. Now we’re on a virtual lockdown like most other locations and it’s difficult to make arrangements to show the house let alone sell it right now so we’re in limbo.
    6. I’m now working from home as well as the university is all online. I prepped my three classes, one of which was already planned to be fully online anyway, but the other two were not. 
    7. It’s been a whirlwind of a time and things are finally getting back to a schedule, still not a “normal” schedule but a routine none-the-less, and that’s good.
    8. Thoughts on when we’ll return to classroom teaching.
  3. Workshop items.
    I’m still planning on my Palouse Shoot-n-Print workshop that is scheduled for June 15 and 16. As of the time of this recording things are still a go. I have the hotel reserved, the facility reserved where we’ll host the meeting and since our group will be less than 10 people we’ll successfully fly under the radar.
    The building is capable of hosting 40+ people so I fully expect the “social distancing” requirements to be in force at that time and we should be able to accommodate that no problem. I’ll have two printers there and that will help with this idea.
    I also have three already signed up so I’ve met the minimum. As we get closer I’m monitoring the latest that Whitman County, the State of WA and other entities are saying about things like this. I’ve been in contact with both folks that will be flying in for the event and they are still fully on board with it. But as we are well aware our plans can be up-ended in a heartbeat with the latest stuff that’s been happening. If we are forced to pull the plug or postpone it I’ll keep you all updated.
    If you’re interested in this workshop I am offering a more lenient cancellation policy. However, I am also taking payments up to the day before the event so if you make it a last-minute decision that’s fine too.
    And finally, if we postpone it I’ll be in contact with those that have bought plane tickets first to see when they can arrange it for since airlines are offering to change tickets without any penalties or fees.
  4. Lessons online. If you’ve not done so yet, please consider joining the Latitude Photography Podcast facebook group. There’s over 800 members there and I’m putting my Principles of Photography lessons there in the fb group. These are the same lessons my university students get. You just have to ask to join, then answer a question, that is name the host, that’s me, and tell me about how long you’ve been a photographer. That’s it! These lessons will be repackaged and made public and free later this spring or early summer. But I decided I couldn’t wait to get something out there now so there you have it. They are for beginners. But I’ve already had some fairly experienced photographers write and say how they are enjoying them so I’m sure many more may enjoy it too.
  5. Survey. I’m doing a survey for my Latitude Photography School. The link is at the top of the show notes. It closes May 15, 2020. If you give me your email address, only for this survey give-away, you’ll be entered to win a ThinkTank Photo Photocross 15 backpack.

Main Topic.

Time for the main topic of discussion, that is, what to do if you feel like an imposter in your photography. This is a serious issue if you let it fester and get the best of you.

I received a note from a listener in his mid-twenties. I have a lot of experience in dealing with young people like this so I basically decided to treat him like one of my college students. His name is Alex and he wrote an email and I’d like to read it here. Oh, I’ve also made this a full blog post on my website. The links are in the show notes at up at the top. Pretty much all the detail is here but you can read it over there too since I go into a little more detail as far as the writing is concerned. Anyway, with his permission to share, here’s his initial email:

I have recently jumped feet first into this lovely pursuit we call photography. I have taken pictures for most of my life at some capacity, but within the last month or so, I have decided to try and make it something more meaningful. 

I live in AL (approx. 30 miles north of Talladega National Forest) and struggle to find things that captivate my mind for photography. I enjoy being outdoors and have recently jumped into hiking every weekend in the local national forest/state park. Considering where I live, the grand scenics are hard to come by unless it’s at sunrise or sunset and even those are somewhat limited. Small scenes are where it seems to be the best, but I struggle to see small scenes and how to photograph them. 

I am also limited on gear and income that allow me to acquire more gear. I am using a Nikon D750 with a Nikon f/1.8 50mm and Tamron 70-300mm. I have no filters at this time.

I also struggle with feeling like an imposter in a hobby to which I don’t belong. I don’t feel as though my technical skill is up to par as well as my creative skill. I feel as though I can see a good picture when looking at them, but I don’t feel as though I’m capable of taking great pictures. I struggle with this because it makes me be down on myself and feel as though it is almost a lost cause. What I do know is that every time I’m behind the camera, looking through the viewfinder, I’m at peace. When I’m looking through the camera, all I think about is what’s on the other side. I’ve never really had this happen. I’ve never had a hobby or passion that consumed my entire brain when doing it. There is no other thought except for the photo I’m trying to take. 

Thank you for your time. I know it is worth a lot and I greatly appreciate it.

First off, I’m glad he wrote. He really needs some guidance and encouragement. But I’m curious, how many of you identified with even one thing he wrote there? I’m pretty sure all of you did. At least with one thing anyway. And that’s why I wanted to talk about this on today’s show.

So this is the outline of my response:

  1. I noted that he “recently” jumped into hiking every weekend and that photography is a recent thing for him too.
    I asked what precipitated this. Afterall, I’m curious to know if he’s serious about this hobby or not. If he’s just been in it for a few weeks or months and he’s questioning this position as a photographer and wondering if it’s even for him (that’s what it sounds like to me) then is it really helpful for me to get involved?
  2. I assured him that at this time he probably “should” feel like an imposter. After all, he’s so new to it all.
  3. Then I talked about his disappointment with not being able to capture the grand scenics. This tells me he’s comparing himself to others too much. Especially since he essentially “blamed” it on where he lives. In subsequent messages he described other places he’s lived and that’s all fine and good. He pines for some of those other locales, but you’ve gotta learn to flourish where you’re at and with what you’re capable of getting too. He also mentioned some photography interests that were for his work and a few other things from childhood, but only in the last few months has he really found nature photography and hiking to be such a joy and he’s having trouble bringing the two together effectively and he’s having trouble getting what he wants out of the experience.
    How many of us know disappointment?
  4. I then took a stab at what might be bothering him and said, “You get frustrated when your photographic interpretation of that world is not realized. It’s not what you saw and felt at the time of being there. This is where you’re experiencing a disconnect with your experience and your appreciation of the experience and how to convey that through the camera. As a beginner I’d be very surprised if you had it nailed from the get go. I see people all the time that think they’re really a “good” photographer when in reality, they totally aren’t. They’re good according to their beliefs, but when they leave their little bubble of reality and have someone else look at their images they’re not really that good. You recognize that you’re not living up to your goals and hopes and dreams and that’s good! That’s wonderful. So how do we get you through to making some progress with your image making?”
  5. I then started hitting home with a few things I wanted him to shift his thinking about all this so I pointed out that he’s creating or making images. Not taking photographs. It’s semantics, but words are important after all. I’m not one that wants to rely on saying “that’s what I meant.” I want someone to say what they mean. I want them to be articulate with their goals and purpose in life and photography. Getting to the point is important and getting it right is also very important.
  6. I ended up giving him a series of assignments. They are:
    1. Go on three hikes without your camera. Just leave it home!
      I stated some reasons for it such as verifying that you truly find this enjoyable and that he understands that a camera will actually add to the experience. I had at least two other reasons for this part of the assignment but I’ll leave that a mystery for now.
    2. Buy a tripod if he didn’t have one. Turns out that he does have one.
    3. I sent him a link of 10 lesser known waterfalls in Alabama. I then challenged him to pick any of them and go there with the camera. But he can only take his 50mm lens. Not the zoom. BUT, he must get to the waterfall and not shoot for 30 minutes. He can sit there, walk around, doesn’t matter. But he can’t shoot right away.
    4. I then sent him a article that talks briefly about negative ions that are prevalent in nature, especially waterfalls, and explained the benefit of not shooting for 30 minutes. I need his frame of mind to be transformed by the place before he gets shooting.
    5. I then stated that if he’ll follow my advice and repeat this over and over to different location he’ll start to see a shift in his image making. And I reiterated that he must follow the process. The creative process is important. In subsequent messages I learned more about him and how he likes to get right to it. But the creative process requires patience. Maybe that’s why doctors are so good at photography… 🙂
    6. I then encouraged him to seek out resources and maybe even consider attending the Create Photography Retreat. After a few subsequent messages I learned more about his history and about him as a person and then recommended that he find a photo buddy or two that he can go shoot with. If you’re in the his region you can reach out to me and I’ll put you in touch with I’m if he’s OK with that.
    7. I then reminded him that it will take dedication and commitment. I don’t expect him to not feel like an imposter right away, but with time and practice he’ll have the confidence and the experience to not feel so awkward when shooting and making photographs.

Tip of the Week.

Just get out there and shoot something. Stay safe, don’t break any laws or quarantine policies, but do get out and shoot.


  1. I put a post in the facebook group for voting where you want me to go once this pandemic stuff is all over. I’m running a very high temp with all this cabin fever and I need an outlet fast, but maybe the dreaming aspect can help a bit. So please get on in there today and place your vote. The options are:
    1. Black Sea (take ferries between Istanbul, Odessa and Georgia)
    2. Rural Western China
    3. Japan
    4. India
    5. Outer Hebrides
    6. Serbia, Montenegro and Albania