From the moment you start taking pictures and sharing them with the world, you will begin to compare yourself to other photographers. You might feel that they are better at shooting food than you. Or that their images sell more than yours because they look like they belong on a magazine cover. But comparing yourself to other photographers is pointless because everyone has a unique perspective on the world around them and uses that unique perspective to tell their story.
It’s easy to feel like your work is never good enough. In this episode, we talk about why comparing yourself to other food photographers is pointless, and why that belief can keep you from growing as a photographer.
Your host, Mica, felt that way too. She went to college and worked hard at jobs she didn’t love, just to make ends meet. But in her free time, she loved photography, and she especially loved taking pictures of food. So what did she do? She quit her job as an admin and started a photography business—and it changed everything.
Mica: [00:00:00] Welcome. To the 11th episode of the Savory Shot.
I'm your host with the most, Mica. First things first. Did you listen to Olivia's interview? Y'all. She is by far the coolest person ever. You've got to check out her interview. You've got to. Please go back and check it if you haven't already listened to it. But I'm excited about today's episode. I want to start off with a question.
Has this ever happened to you? You're at your computer. Staring desperately at your empty inbox. Hoping. Practically begging all the gods that a lead will pop up. You're at the end of your rope and you can't figure out why no one will hire you. You're working so hard. But it's like, nothing is happening.
So after staring at your empty inbox. You grab your phone [00:01:00] and start scrolling through Instagram. And as you scroll. Through post after post, you notice a photographer who you worship. Just posted new work with the big client. Or they got published in an awesome magazine. Or they're showing these super cool behind the scene videos of their latest shoot with their team of stylists, assistants. And damn, they just look so boss.
And bam. That feeling. Really hits you hard in the chest. And suddenly it seems like every other food photographer seems to be doing better than you. You scroll again and bam, you see another photographer. Who's just mind blowingly good at what they do. And you think to yourself? Wow. I wish I could take photos like that.
Hmm. If this sounds familiar. Then this episode is for you.[00:02:00] But before we get into that. Let's start the show.
Mica: We've all been there, y'all. Including yo girl, Mica. I've been on that road more times than I can count. I've spent hours and hours scrolling through Instagram, Behance, Flicker, Tiktok, and compared myself [00:03:00] to other food photographers. I've wondered out loud. What are they doing that I'm not? Why can't I create work like this photographer? Or that photographer? Why can't I book clients like so and so?
It's a vicious, vicious merry-go-round. And I get it. As a food photographer, you want to be the best. Or at least among the best. You want your work to be seen and you want your work to be noticed by the people who make the hiring decisions. You want to feel like the work you're doing is adding value to the world. You want to feel like you're making an impact.
A difference. More than anything you want to make this creative career that you've carved out for yourself to thrive.
Y'all when I was in high school, I loved the song Fat Lip by Sum 41. The chorus. I don't want to waste my time, become another casualty of society. I'll never fall in [00:04:00] line, become another victim of conformity and back down. Y'all. Those lyrics. Still. 21 years later, those lyrics still have meaning to me.
So it's no surprise that seven years into this food photography journey, I still play that ugly comparison game. We all do it. It's hard not to, but as Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." There's a difference between admiring another photographer's work and appreciating it. Versus comparing their work to your work and then trashing your work.
You're stealing the joy of your photography. Your motherfucking art. You're robbing yourself of that joy. So today I'm going to talk about why comparing yourself to other food photographers is pointless.
When I was kid, I told my foster mom that [00:05:00] I didn't like being mixed. I told her, I wish I was just Black or just Mexican, like my friends at school, because it would be so much easier. And my foster mom told me, "You're not them. And they're not you. Being mixed is the best thing in the world, Mica. Double the holidays, double the traditions.
Double everything. In a world of black and white zebras, you get to be a purple and blue zebra. That's cool." Y'all that went over my little eight year head so fast.
But now I get it. I truly do. Today's world of social media makes it really easy to compare yourself to other food photographers. Like really, really easy. The only thing I can say to that?
You're not them. And they're not you. We don't see the world in the [00:06:00] same way or have the same experiences. And that's what makes photography full of brilliant opportunities. There are so many different ways of seeing the world and capturing it. It doesn't matter if your photos look like theirs, or if your photos are better than theirs, or if your photos are worse than theirs.
It doesn't matter, y'all. It doesn't matter because even though you're both food photographers, your brain sees things differently than their brains do. And because of that, there's no way for any two people to be exactly alike in their approach to food photography. Food photography will be boring as hell if everybody did everything the same.
You have this amazing opportunity to be yourself, in your work, in a way that no one else can be. You don't have to try to be like other food photographers. You have the chance to be yourself and make things uniquely yours. You're [00:07:00] living your dream. And making art that makes you happy. And in trickle effect, other people happy.
Put 10 photographers in the same room with the same plate of food on a table. And you will have 10 unique, different photographs. Bank. Don't believe me. Look up the hashtag chicken noodle soup on Instagram, and you'll see at least 400,000 different photographs of chicken noodle soup. Google pecan pie and you'll see thousands of different photographs of pecan pie.
So stop comparing yourself to other food photographers and start doing your thing. Because when it comes down to it, y'all no one can do what you do better than you. Bank.
I've learned and continue to relearn that your success doesn't depend on what others are doing. It depends on what you're doing. I'm a repeat that because I don't think you heard me the first [00:08:00] time.
Your success doesn't depend on what others are doing. It depends on what you're doing. When you look at other photographers and think, they have more followers. They have better equipment. They know how to market themselves, or, wow. I'm never going to be able to compete with these people. You only limit yourself because the fact is no matter what you do, there will always be someone out there who does it better.
And vice versa. There will always be someone out there who does it worse. Either way, it's none of yo business. It's none of your business. Imagine if you will. A life. Where you could do anything. I mean it. Anything. Where there was nothing to stop you from achieving your wildest dreams. No limits, no boundaries, no rules.
What would that life look like? What would it feel like? To live free of the shackles of compare and despair? To be [00:09:00] able to focus on you, yourself, and your business? Doesn't that sound amazing? Who wouldn't want more peace of mind? Who wouldn't want to live without that heavy pitiful feeling of I'll never measure up to so-and-so? Who wouldn't want more control over their own destiny and opportunities for personal growth and development?
Think about it. If you're comparing yourself to someone else's work, how can you ever be happy with your own? How can you ever feel like you've reached the peak of your potential? You'll always be looking over your shoulder at someone else's stuff and thinking, I wish I could do that or worse, I'll never be good.
Or successful or as pretty or a skinny or, or, or, or, or, or, or, and it just goes on, never ending. When we focus on someone else's success, we neglect our own. You have to stop comparing yourself to others and start focusing on your own shit. [00:10:00] Because again. Your success depends on what you are doing and how hard you are working. Not a one everyone else is doing.
And you can take that to the market. Hmm.
Several years ago, I took what felt like my first successful photograph. Y'all it was the first time I felt like a real food photographer.
Until I posted it on Instagram. And the photo got zero engagement. No likes. No comments. Niente. Shortly afterwards, a popular food photographer posted on Instagram and within minutes it nearly had 500 likes and gosh, it looked like a hundred comments. And I said to myself, Well, I'll never be a real photographer compared to her.
I then began to look at the photo I was once so proud of with a critical eye. What was the shiny mint coin was now a rusted ass penny.
[00:11:00] And from there everything went downhill. I began to compare my work to others work. Constantly and often found myself disappointed by my own efforts. It took me a really long time to realize that this wasn't helping me grow as an artist or a person. It was holding me back from being my best self.
And making the work that I really wanted to make. And when you're in that kind of headspace, y'all, it is easy to unfairly trash your own work. It's easy to miss the good in it when all you can see are the flaws. It's easy to look at someone else's work and feel like you've gotten nothing to offer clients.
You might think that, that person is so much better than me. What the hell can I do that is going to top this? If you want to grow as a photographer, comparing yourself to others, it's [00:12:00] just going to hold you back. You're going to be looking at their work and wishing yours looked like that instead of focusing on.
How far you've come and how much better you're getting every single day. And if you can't appreciate your own growth, then what the fuck is the point?
So often when we look at other people's work, it's simple to feel like we're not measuring up. I know this feeling. For years, whenever I saw someone else's work that was incredible, I'd say to myself, man, if only I could do that. It took years to learn that when you compare yourself to others, you stop focusing on your own growth and progress. You stop taking new risks and trying new things, because you're worried about whether or not it'll be enough to compare to so-and-so photographer. And when that happens, you lose sight.
[00:13:00] You lose sight of what makes you special. And while everyone has different skillsets, there are so.
So many things that make us unique. Like our style. Or voice, or even to start personal experience. That makes us who we are as food photographers. So instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on what makes you unique. Be the blue and purple zebra you are meant to be. Whenever I feel myself playing the comparison game. I do three things. One. I mute that photographers, post and stories.
I do. Y'all. I'm keeping it real. I do. I mute that photographers, post and stories for a few months. And not because I don't support them or wish them success, but because I can't give them the [00:14:00] support that they need and deserve until I can give myself the support I need and deserve.
Two. I take a break from social media altogether. And get in the studio for portfolio work. I'll go drive it around Austin, listened to music that makes me happy. Or I'll read old recipes from newspaper archives. And three, I give myself grace and kindness. I'm a repeat that. Grace. And kind ness. Because that's what I need at that moment.
I look back at my past work and I appreciate the growth I've made.
Whenever I compare myself to a specific photographer. I ask myself three questions. One. What can I learn from this photographer?
Two. How does this [00:15:00] photographer's work make me feel? Modern. Hip. Sophisticated. And three. What can I do to capture that feeling in my own work?
And a little bonus question. How can I use this new knowledge to improve how I see myself?
So. Let's review.
Comparing yourself to other food photographers is pointless. And bad. Because it can lead to a lot of negative emotions and self doubt. It kills your creativity and you put yourself on the express lane of discouragement and giving up on your dreams.
But if you can focus on your own strengths and talents. And the things that make you unique. Then you'll feel much more confident in your abilities. Because at the end of the day, the only person who can make or break you is you. So [00:16:00] focus on you.
Now take a deep breath. And count to 10.
And remember. You're not competing with other photographers. You're competing with yourself. So keep practicing. Keep learning. And most importantly, keep creating. Not for the world or the clients or the likes or the followers on social media. But for yourself.
On the next episode. I've got one heck of an interview for y'all. It's going to be special. So come back for that. Okay.
My name is Mica McCook. And this is the Savory Shot.
Till next time. Y'all.