Posted In Inspiration

3 Mindset Shifts That Will Help You Become A Better Photographer

Kyle McDougall | August 11, 2016

When it comes to photography, I really do believe that we’re all our own worst critics. We tend to make things more complicated than they should be and not take action often enough. Because of this, it can be easy to get stuck and lose direction, leaving us questioning the choices we make and restricting our ability to create meaningful work.

I’m a big believer in the importance of feeding the mind the good stuff on a daily basis with the goal of living a better life and making forward progress. So with that being said, I wanted to share with you three mindset shifts that I’ve found have had a large impact on me and helped me grow as an artist.


Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel inside us which needs to be ignited with sparks. Johann Gottfried Von Herder


1. You’re Already Better Than You Think!

It seems that a lot of us suffer from what I like to call “imposter syndrome” — a phenomenon that motivates us to treat ourselves as if we’ve only just started and somehow lack any useful experience, skills, or advice. It’s a shame because this often causes people to ignore the immense value that they can offer others.

Celebrate Your Accomplishments

A lot of this is due to the fact that wins are often short lived and people tend to dwell on their failures for a lot longer than they celebrate their accomplishments. It can be easy power through your career with the belief that you’ll eventually reach a place of mastery all while ignoring the goals that you achieve along the way. And by goals, I don’t mean “photographer of the year awards” or $3000 print sales. I’m talking about any sort of progress whatsoever. Things as simple as learning a new technique, or getting a compliment from ONE person.

You need to celebrate wins—no matter the size—as they’re what truly provide the satisfaction along the way. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t pumping out front page 500PX images daily, or have a million Facebook followers; throughout your journey, those things really don’t matter.

Take the time to look back on your career. Be mindful of where you started and the point you’re at now. Recognize how you’ve grown as an artist and embrace the traits that make your work unique.

Action Step:

Be mindful of your accomplishments, big or small, and make sure that you’re always moving forward. Push yourself to publish that new blog post or hike to the new area you’ve had on your list for a long time. Any type of progress is a step in the right direction and should be celebrated.

Extra Reading: 21 Proven Ways To Overcome The Imposter Syndrome




2. It’s All About Individuality. There Are No Rules!

A couple of months ago a post appeared on my Facebook timeline from a fellow photographer who had compiled a very specific set of rules. He had created an announcement that apparently all beginners NEEDED to read. In this post, he listed a number of rules to follow for processing images such as how greens shouldn’t be neon and skies shouldn’t be overly dark.

The post was both comical and incredibly frustrating.

First off, who cares what other people choose to do with their images. If there was, in fact, a set of rules that we all needed to abide by, the end results would be a gigantic collection of photographs that all looked identical.

Be Unique!

The amazing thing about the art of photography is that you’re free to do whatever you want with your images, and each one is a representation of a moment that YOU experienced, not someone else!

You need to make your own choices on how your images look based on how you interpreted the moment, what feelings you want your audience to experience, and the story or message that you want to create. If that comes in the form of a dramatic sky or boost in saturation then so be it! Not everyone will agree with your decisions nor should they. In the end, it’s those personal decisions that lead to the creation of a unique portfolio that shares your vision with the world. And really, that’s all that matters.

Action Step:

Pick three of your favourite photographers and closely examine their style. You’ll notice that there are certain traits that make each of them unique. How does their work make you feel? When you’re creating your own work, take in constructive criticism, but don’t accept every opinion you’re given.


By waiting for the late evening light I was able to create a strong contrast in colours.


3. Enjoy The Journey

The important thing to remember is that during the journey there is never a finish line. No matter how many people call themselves “master” photographers, that simply isn’t true, as there’s always a new approach waiting around the corner and an opportunity to grow. Your style and interests will change throughout your career, and it’s important to embrace whichever direction your interests pull you in.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose grasp of what’s actually important in life. I look at photography as an activity that’s motivated me to take risks, make new friends, visit amazing places, experience unique moments, create meaningful work, and ultimately gain a better appreciation for the simple things in life. Unfortunately, like with all creative endeavours, there’s always going to be jealousy and competition. Why people choose to get into heated debates and arguments or criticize others for their photographic decisions is beyond me.

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.Sir Cecil Beaton


The Best Way To Grow Is Through Practice

Things definitely won’t and don’t need to be incredibly positive every step of the way. It’s important to make mistakes and receive feedback about your work that is honest; even if it stings. Just make sure not to get sucked into the wrong group of people when looking for acceptance or critique.

I’ve seen people on numerous occasions get into arguments online about differences in opinions when it comes to personal choices. And not just small debates. I’m talking multiple paragraph responses trying to push their point across. I always look at those situations as gigantic wastes of time and energy that could have been spent actually creating.

The sooner you realize that being a photographer doesn’t have to be about competing or abiding by the “rules”, the quicker you can enjoy the journey and all of the moments that unfold along the way. The best part is that it’s completely up to you which route you decide to take.

Action Step:

It’s important to set goals and push yourself, but don’t forget to stop and enjoy the moments that happen along the way. When you’re out shooting, try to live in the moment. Avoid negative people at all costs. If someone starts a rant, change the subject as quick as possible.




  1. You’re Already Better Than You Think
  2. There Are No Rules
  3. Enjoy The Journey

I’d love to hear your feedback below about what has had the biggest influence on you when it comes to your mindset and your art.


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  • Bryan Hansel August 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Your “imposter syndrome” sounds just like the cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. D-K described the bias as inexperienced people often overestimate their skills and experienced people often underestimate their skills.

    An issue that I think plays into this effect, at least to the experienced photographer who underestimates his or her skills is when a photographer compares someone’s outer successes to the photographer’s own inner success. That comparison can cause someone to feel less talented than they are.

    • Kyle McDougall August 16, 2016 at 9:31 am

      I would definitely agree with that Bryan. Social media can make it very easy for people to do just that. The problem is that you’re never seeing the whole story when you look at other people’s lives, typically only the positive parts. Without knowing the challenges, hard work, and failures that other people have gone through, it can be easy to feel less talented.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Andy MacDougall September 16, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Great article! Photography is an expression of creativity. It is an art form and the only person art is really produced for (IMO) is the artist themselves. But photography and the capability to manipulate images has meant that everyone now sees it as a medium for self expression (a good thing) but it has become common to get self righteous and believe that your way is the only way (obviously a bad thing) – this article is a great reminder to let it all wash over you and stay true to what YOU yourself want to express. It’s easy to get sucked into competitions and fads when actually taking pleasure in the process of photography is actually what matters.

    • Kyle McDougall September 16, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Thanks Andy! I agree completely! Taking pleasure in the process is absolutely what matters most. That should never be overshadowed.


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