How can I get over being nervous about my first paid photography job?


Q. I’m starting to get actual jobs which I hope to get paid for, but I’m so nervous that I might mess up! How can I get over this? When I take photos as a favour they usually turn out fine, but I am really nervous about doing paid jobs. After 5 years of photography evening classes I’m about to start full time HND photography. – Sonia Packer, Aberdeen UK

A. Hi Sonia. Thanks for your email – and your very interesting question! Isn’t it funny how we feel like this once the pressure is on?

The way I would look at this is to say that you have been doing a great job so far, so what has changed? It’s probably the fact that you now feel really responsible.

However, you have always been responsible, but you haven’t worried about it because you’ve done it as a favour, so you probably feel that if they don’t work out for some reason, you can always have another go, etc.

I often feel apprehensive before a wedding or a seminar – you know you only have this one chance, so it can make you feel nervous. But as soon as I get started, all that fear goes – and I just get on with it. You need to imagine how someone like Judi Dench feels when she goes on stage – I’m sure she is always nervous – even though she has years of experience. She has to feel nervous in order to give her best.

What I am saying is that it’s fine to feel like this – you wouldn’t be the creative person you are, if you didn’t. If you just felt blasé about it, your pictures might be blasé.

You know you can do it, you’ve been doing it fine for ages – there is no real difference here – you’re the expert, you can take the pictures – the people you are photographing are actually much more nervous than you. They often feel they are going to let you down because they are not good enough, or they are worried their kids won’t behave in the shoot, etc. – so take solace in that – and just enjoy yourself!

Also, the fact that you have done 5 years of evening classes tells me that you perhaps lack confidence and are trying to tick every box before you venture out there… just do it! And enjoy it!

What’s the worst thing that can happen? You think they might not like the pictures? I am sure that if your friends so far have liked them, then other people will too.

It also helps if you don’t compare your shoots to other shoots you’ve done before – always see each shoot as individual.

I always turn up thinking, ok – this is what I’ve got today – this weather, this location, these kids – now what can I do with it all? I never think, if only it was sunny, or they lived in a castle, or the kids behaved – otherwise that will just drop your confidence totally – look at what’s in front of you – and create the best pictures you can from the things you have been given that day.

I hope this helps!

Annabel x


How lovely to get such a prompt and honest reply from you. Your advice is spot on and I agree with everything you suggest. I may not actually need to pursue a qualification, but I love gathering information and my confidence has grown a bit since I was accepted after presenting my portfolio at interview. I re-read one of your books last week (it all makes more sense now) and used your tips to take photos of my sons. I love them, so thank you for that – Sonia

Check out Sonia’s pictures below – great job!


Images: Sonia Packer