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Second Guessing

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We were about to start shooting a wedding at a cathedral. It was one of our amazing 2012 couple’s wedding day and everything was going so SO well! Getting ready, first look, portraits, everything had been perfect! We arrive at the beautiful cathedral where the ceremony would be taking place and I notice that there are BRIGHT spotlights on the altar. So bright that you can feel the heat from them when you’re standing under them!! Me being nosy and not wanting to bother anyone, I started looking for the dimmer switch. Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found and so I passed the priest in the hallway and mentioned my concern.

Maybe he was just having a bad day….or maybe this wasn’t his job and he was just annoyed that I was bothering him with such an unimportant question. Whatever the case, when I mentioned that the spotlights were too harsh, his response was “They aren’t spotlights and I have NEVER had another photographer complain.”

My immediate thought was 1. That was rude and 2. Maybe I’m wrong…. maybe that light is just fine and I don’t know what I’m talking about. If I was the first photographer to ever complain, maybe I was the one with the issue! ….. I thought about this during the ceremony as I exposed for just the bride and groom and the rest of the room was pitch black. Did it work, yes. Was it ideal? No. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned if I really knew what good lighting was! ….. And then I snapped out of it! Of course I know what good lighting is! I’ve been photographing weddings for well over 5 years now and I have over 200 under my belt!! I think I know what I’m talking about.

I realize that so often I doubt my knowledge and talent because of simple, uneducated comments from others. When a bride is getting ready and her aunt is turning EVERY lamp on in the room that has window light, it happens again. I’m questioned and I have to choose to remember that I know what I’m doing and they don’t. I also have to remember to handle those situations with grace because if I showed my frustration, that would tarnish how people view my business and personality.

Recently I had to ask a family member to keep the lamps turned off and they said to me “I have never seen a photographer that didn’t want LIGHT.” It was frustrating, but I had to realize that they had NO idea what they were talking about. I was so tempted to say “Well, you see, the Tungsten light and the natural light will cause the auto white balance of the camera to be off and I could fix it in post processing because I’m shooting RAW files and could adjust the split-toning but it would be better if I could calibrate my white balance for one type of light and since the window light is directional and creates highlights and shadows, that is the best light to use, I’ll just crank my ISO up to 1600 and drop my aperture a bit…… get it?”  :)

The truth is, I doubt myself just like everyone else…. and then I see what I’m capable of producing and I’m reminded that I’m a professional. I know what I’m doing…. I know that gazebos aren’t the most photogenic things on the planet, even though the majority of the world thinks they are.  I know that lighting is ALWAYS more important than location.  I know what makes a beautiful portrait and I have been creating them over and over again for the past 5+ years. Am I perfect? Umm, NO. Of course not. Do I have more to learn? Yes! I will never know EVERYTHING about photography…… But I know enough that I should never let comments from those who don’t understand photography affect me. I’ve learned that my gut feeling and initial opinion about lighting is normally accurate and my clients receive better images if I go with what I know!

So many photographers lack confidence and ambition simply because of one or two comments that really threw off their confidence. It’s happened to me before and so I understand that those harsh words can really make you doubt your abilities and your talent…. but that can’t define you. If you let simple, uneducated comments steal your confidence and joy in your work, you will NEVER make it in this industry…. or any industry for that matter! So pull up your boot straps, trust your judgement and your opinions and take control this weekend at your shoots and weddings!!!! Stop second guessing yourself and have a Happy Friday everyone! 

xoxo, Katelyn
25 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Jenn reply

    So…. I’m on the edge of my seat, how does the wedding in the Cathedral end up? What did you do about the spotlights?! Thank you so much for your posts. This was fabulous. It’s so true. I doubt my abilities all the time too. Human nature. Maybe it helps keep us grounded. :)

  2. Amber Lane reply

    I LOVE THIS!!!! I have got to say I chuckled a bit when you were explaining the lighting in a room ;) The dumbfounded looks you would get if you said this. Hehe! Rock on Katelyn! You are awesome :)

  3. Jenn reply

    So. .. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat! What happened with the wedding at the cathedral?! Thank you so much for your posts. Especially your encouraging posts. It’s so true, perhaps our doubts keep us grounded? I think in this career, that’s something we don’t want. Thank you for being so fabulous, Katelyn.

  4. Carrie logan reply

    Oh love you for this.

  5. Melissa Farmer reply

    This is a great post – & I knew I’d never seen that image before, can’t wait for the post on that!

  6. Dallas reply

    Ah, this post is such a breath of fresh air, Katelyn! At my last wedding, I had the extended family members repeatedly ask me “we’re doing family photos in HERE?” about the room I’d chosen (which had already been enthusiastically approved by my bride and groom) and then proceed to complain and voice their doubt in my decision throughout the entire time we did portraits! IF that’s not enough to make you second-guess yourself, I don’t know what is! So often in confidence-breaking moments we feel all alone as photographers, and I really appreciate your honesty in blogging about this issue. It’s nice to feel part of a community of people who are trying their best to not let second guessing get the best of them :)

  7. Jill Powers reply

    Such a great reminder! Thanks Katelyn!! xo

  8. Caitlin reply

    You’re awesome. This is perfect!

  9. Kat reply

    I REALLY needed to hear this today… Thank you!!! And, I’m loving that header image :)

  10. Emily reply

    Thank you Katelyn! I needed that boost of confidence, and appreciate your up lifting words!

  11. Rebekah Hoyt reply

    Thank you so much for this. I am incredibly sensitive and any time a family member or guest makes a comment to me at a wedding, I feel really insecure and exposed. It seems to be a trend that church people say, “I’ve NEVER had a photographer complain about X, Y or Z” because I’ve heard that so many times. It can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging to be critiqued while you are doing your job, but this was such a great reminder that we are the professionals in the room for a reason. We are hired for our eye, our expertise, and our understanding of light and everything that surrounds that. I really appreciated this post today! Thank you :)

  12. Amanda reply

    EXCELLENT Katelyn! And I love your comment about gazebos!!! Haha! So TRUE!

  13. Kristina W. reply

    Go Katelyn! Here’s to hoping you’ll stick up for yourself! :D

  14. Shaina Koren reply

    Thank you for this post! It is hard for us as cinematographers as well, especially when the traditional videographers everyone is used to just “document” the day for what it is and don’t try to adjust to make the shots more artistic. We all need to remind ourselves that our brides and grooms hired us for a reason and to brush off these assumptions politely. Thank you for this post today! Cannot wait to see to post that goes along with that beautiful header image!!

  15. Vanessa Chupp reply

    So so great to read. You always think you can handle stuff like that until it happens – and then it’s time for a deep breath, a professional , caring face and to save any tears of hurt or frustration for the car ride home! Haha thankful for Kyle, and friends in the industry like you to remind that we don’t need to second guess ourselves like that! :)xox

  16. Rebekah Carter reply

    I’m a nurse so I’m used to patients & families sometimes questioning me in ways that are really quite rude. It can be quite shocking sometimes but like you i have to take a step back & remember that I’m a professional & I have to handle it in a graceful way & not take it personally.

  17. Diane reply

    Hehe I wish you did say the lighting comment! But I can see where it may be a little sassy ;) I love this post, great reminder to trust your own skill and knowledge!

  18. Chels reply

    thank-you so much for this! awesome post-i needed it. it is so helpful when you share stuff like this!

  19. Chels reply

    and…the groom’s tie in the header image is awesome. =) can’t wait to see more. when the groom has a plaid tie…you know the wedding will have character. =)

  20. Rachael reply

    Don’t leave us hanging!!! We NEED to know how that ceremony ended up going! But you are so right. I hope I don’t say this wrong… Because we’re creatives and we’re sensitive to the environment around us, we’re also sensitive to others and what they think. Sure, there are some of us who will say “I don’t care what other say/think” but who are we kidding? It does affect us and then we start to doubt ourselves. Thank you so much for reminding us that it’s OK to feel that way at first, as long as we remember why we are the professional photographer and they are not.

    I can’t wait to see more from the sneak peek wedding!!!

  21. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    So true! I’m new to the whole wedding industry, yet I’ve already come across the tungsten light vs. window light question!!

  22. Jennifer Krieg reply

    Thank you Thank you! Great advice and a great read! Thank you for your unwavering consistent help!!! XO

  23. Nikki reply

    Love this post! It’s so true. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  24. Tiffany reply

    after a moB call this morning upset about all these “useless photos” and “when I was a bride” stories, I truly felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Thank you for being an encouragement to me today. : )

  25. Melissa Kate reply

    My first response reading this was – why would someone question THE Katelyn James??! You are one of the absolute best!! It’s nice to know that even you have to deal with these comments from time to time and serves as a reminder that the occasional rude, uneducated comment will be made no matter if you’ve shot 2 weddings or 200 weddings. A great reminder to keep your chin up!

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