'This is not what I wanted!' is one of the loudest screams we can hear in our heads (right next to that inner critic voice). Often, when we venture out with our cameras or during a photoshoot, we end up taking numerous photos. We return home feeling happy and fulfilled, only until we upload the photos to our computer and view them on a big screen. That's when our bubble bursts and we notice all the little (or big) things we wish were different - the focus isn't quite right, we should've used a different lens, there's unwanted movement, or we forgot to adjust the settings, resulting in noise. Quickly, this leads to dissatisfaction and frustration.

All of this doesn't happen because you had the wrong lens or it was too windy outside, or people moved at the wrong time. It happens because your expectations didn't align with reality. What you envisioned for your photo isn't what you ended up with.

Interestingly, as you grow as a photographer, it becomes more challenging to capture photos you're satisfied with. The more you improve, the more you realise how much there is to learn. Your expectations rise, especially if you're influenced by social media examples, and your confidence may drop, leading to more significant disappointments. Many people become demotivated and set aside their cameras for a while. However, the key to progress is re-evaluating and managing your expectations along the way.

Creative bubbles by Damon Marshall

Managing expectations is a concept well-documented by researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger, known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Understanding the Dunning-Kruger Effect sheds light on why these dynamics occur in photography. This psychological phenomenon explains how individuals perceive their abilities based on their experience. It involves two stages of the journey in any field.

Stage I: Novice overconfidence

When people are starting out in photography, they often know so little about the complexity of photography that when they grasp the basics, they tend to believe they know it all. This overconfidence is not driven by ego - it stems from their inability to accurately evaluate their skills level.

Novice photographers lack the knowledge and experience needed to make a proper assessment of their skills. As a result, they eagerly share their work on social media, camera club meetings, and photo walks. This phase of overconfidence can be crucial for their growth, as it fuels their enthusiasm to explore and learn.

Stage II: Experienced underestimation

On the other end of the spectrum, experienced and skilled photographers are more likely to underestimate their skills.

This is because they've invested time and effort into mastering their craft, and what once seemed difficult to them has become second nature.

Experienced photographers mistakenly assume that what's easy for them should be easy for everyone else. This leads to self-doubt and a tendency to compare their work unfavorably to others, which can hinder their creative process. Recognising and overcoming this underestimation is a key step in continuing to grow as a photographer.

Ostrich by Lorraine Neill

For instance, you might have seen countless long exposure shots on Instagram, watched hours of YouTube videos, and decided to try it yourself. At the beach, your shots look great in the preview, but when you return home and view your photos on a large screen, you may notice some motion blur, imperfect lighting, a less-than-crisp foreground, and even a blur that's not quite as blurry as expected. That inner voice starts to creep in, saying, 'You should have known better!'.

What can you do?

First, put things in perspective. You already know more about long exposure than many others out there. Your shot might not meet your expectations, but it could inspire others who are on their own learning journey.

Second, reevaluate your photo. Is it truly terrible, or could a different crop or some Lightroom editing make it shine? Ask for opinions from friends, family, and fellow photographers - their perspectives can be valuable.

Hazy days by Pamela Johnstone

Next time you think your photos aren't 'good enough', consider whether they're genuinely poor shots or just not what you expected. If it's the latter, these photos still have value and can inspire others. Think about donating them to places like Wikipedia or a local school. Wikipedia and other educational platforms often rely on donated images to enhance their articles. Schools are always in need of high-quality visuals for presentations, educational materials, and projects. Your photographs could contribute to a better understanding of various topics and be seen by a wider audience. It's better than deleting them. Why not give them a chance to shine?

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