Why bad photographers think they’re good and good photographers are rarely satisfied


posted Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 6:00 AM EDT


Have you ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? If not, it's a cognitive bias wherein people with lower ability in a particular area would rate themselves as being much more able than they are in reality. For example, a novice photographer is more likely to rate themselves as an expert than someone who actually is an expert photographer. As you acquire more skill, you begin to realize your own shortcomings and perceive yourself as being less skilled despite becoming better. Essentially, the idea is that someone who is very new to something won't be in a position to accurately assess their own abilities.

This idea is the basis for a new video from Jamie Windsor titled "Why bad photographers think they're good." The actual video, seen below, is not as inflammatory as the title and the video is not designed to tell everyone that they're a bad photographer. Rather, the video explains why some people may inaccurately assess their own abilities and offer tips for avoiding the Dunning-Kruger effect and better be able to evaluate your work and improve as a photographer. After all, you are never done growing as a photographer and the more accurately you can assess your own work, the better able you will be to find weak areas and become better.

It's important to understand your ability particularly if you are taking on work for clients or trying to become a professional photographer. It's important to know what your skills are so that you can charge a fair price for both sides, figure out which jobs are well-suited to your current skillset and figure out where you want to improve the most. As Windsor points out, it's important to realize that nearly everyone will fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect to some degree or another and it is in no way a reflection of your intelligence or your skills in any area to have accidentally overestimated your skills. If you do overestimate your skills as a beginner, there's a very good chance you'll underestimate your abilities as you improve.

What are some signs that you might be overestimating your photographic skills? Windsor says that when you start to feel comfortable, that should be taken as a warning sign that you aren't growing as much as you could be. Challenge yourself, try new things, try to find areas of weakness and go after them. What's the worst thing that can happen? You take a bad photo? Been there, done that, tens of thousands of times over. It's not so bad. Trying new things make lead to failure, but it may also lead to success and no matter what, it'll lead to new knowledge and experience.

To learn other ways to avoid overestimating your skills and stunting your growth as a photographer, watch Windsor's video above.

(Via Jamie Windsor)