Trying to make your mark in any creative space can be plagued with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, and music photography is no different. An expression that I’ve heard come up time and time again is “fake it till you make it,” and while I do think that can do wonders for your motivation and helping you operate in areas outside your comfort zone, I’d like to caution against practicing this in the wrong context. As always, I’d like to remind you that this is just one person’s opinion, and I’m sure there will be some who disagree.
It can be a good mental exercise to act as though you are already succeeding, or to manifest the things you’d like to be doing by speaking about them and presenting yourself as confident, even when you have your doubts. This isn’t the “faking it” that I think you should avoid. I think that it’s important to make sure that you are authentic and don’t misrepresent yourself. That means being honest about who you know, or what you’ve done. The community can appear to be large, but it’s way more interconnected than it seems at first glance. Misrepresenting yourself by name-dropping people you don’t actually know, or claiming work you haven’t done can very easily backfire. Don’t fake it in this way.
When I send emails introducing myself to new potential clients, I speak honestly about who I have worked for. When I hadn’t really worked for anyone yet, I was honest about that too. It can be tempting to say “I have worked for [band name]” when in fact, you’ve only photographed them—please don’t do this. Writing something like “here are some photos of [band name] that I’ve taken recently” shares your work without creating the possibility of being exposed for trying to pull a fast one. When you speak about work you’ve done, consider the question “would someone be able to debunk this?” If the answer is “yes,” then it may be in your best interest to rethink your approach.
I’m sure there will be people who can tell you stories of how they bent the truth a little to land a gig, or how they got away with something that I’ve mentioned above. I know that it happens, but I also know it can fail, and I personally feel like the risk isn’t worth the reward. Networking is so crucial in this industry (and a personal struggle for me), and I wouldn’t want to start with the impression that I’m dishonest and not to be trusted. That kind of behavior can keep you out of the very same rooms you’re trying to get into. I’d like to encourage you to be authentic, be honest, and focus your “fake it till you make it” energy on suppressing impostor syndrome and moving sincerely.