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How to overcome the fear of your first paid photo shoot?

After dedicating significant time to refining your photography skills and building a portfolio, the next step is transitioning into paid work. This progression is particularly suited for those serious about building a professional career in photography with a steady stream of clients. However, there’s no set formula or timeline for this transition; it’s up to each photographer to determine when they’re ready and how they want to approach it. 

how to overcome fear

A smooth transition depends on a few key things:

  1. A solid understanding of photographic equipment and how to utilize lighting effectively.
  2. Proficiency in composing shots and creating compelling visual narratives.
  3. Mastery of posing techniques, especially crucial for genres like wedding, family, and portrait photography.
  4. Being emotionally and psychologically ready to interact with clients professionally and handle their needs with care.
  5. A willingness to take ownership of the outcomes of your photography business, accepting both the successes and challenges that come with it.
overcome fear of first paid photoshoot

How did I overcome the fear of my first paid photo shoot?

From my own experience, I can confidently say that the technical aspects of photography didn’t give me any trouble during my first paid shoot. However, for some reason, I felt excitement and, honestly, a bit of fear! At the time, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was causing these emotions. Looking back, I realize it was the thrill of having a real couple as my first clients. The fact that they were paying customers added a new layer of intensity to the experience.

The idea of a “paid photo shoot” became a big deal for me in a short period. The word “paid” cast a shadow over the entire process, stirring up unnecessary emotional turmoil. It’s funny how such a small word could have such a big impact, but it added extra pressure to the photoshoot.

wedding photographer personal experience
Backstage moment of one of my wedding photosessions in the Riviera Maya.

I wanted to make a great impression, capture perfect photos for my clients, and ensure a comfortable environment during the shoot. The day before the session, I rehearsed and went over all the poses I planned to use. But when we met in the park and started a photoshoot, I realized I’d forgotten almost all of them! Why did this happen, and what should I do next? I decided to roll with it, experiment, and improvise. I reminded myself not to get too upset and to take control of my emotions and experiences.

Luckily, my clients, a young couple, were incredibly welcoming, friendly, and easygoing. They were open to different ideas and poses, which helped us smoothly navigate through the two-hour photoshoot. In the end, they were thrilled with the results. 

inspiration for success
inspiration to overcome fear

From my experience, I’ve learned that feeling excessively anxious during your first paid photography gig is simply fear, which often presents as an internal monologue filled with doubts like “What if…!” or “I can’t…!” It’s like an ongoing internal monologue of worries. But you can’t hide from fear; you must confront and overcome the fear head-on. You need to reassure yourself confidently: “I can do this! I will succeed, and I’ll capture beautiful photographs!”

During the photoshoot, it’s important to remind yourself of your capabilities and to praise yourself afterward for a job well done. Remember, your accumulated knowledge is always there, but fear and excitement can sometimes cloud your access to it. So, the key is to stay positive and understand that your clients genuinely trust in your abilities. They’ve chosen you for a reason, believing you’ll deliver excellent photos. Believe in yourself, too—you’re capable of achieving anything!

Stay inspired,

Elena Sullivan 

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