Community Post: What Would You Tell Your Rookie Self?

Community Post: What Would You Tell Your Rookie Self? - Mastin Labs

How many times have you paused and said to yourself: "Gosh! If only I knew this when I first started!"

I can't tell you how many times I've said something like that to myself. I've said it concerning business, pricing, voice, lighting, and self-worth, just to name a few.

Living a creative life isn't always an easy walk. The path has some definite pluses, benefits, and frills, but it also comes with some hard-learned lessons that you can only obtain through time and experience.

If you could go back and give your green, rookie-self just one piece of advice, what would it be?

We asked our community that very thing, and we received an overwhelming response and a lot of advice!

Here's what we learned:


A high percentage of the answers to this question revealed something that we all know and largely ignore: We don’t value ourselves and our work as much as we should!

First, let’s all cut ourselves a little slack. Self-worth is a tough thing for most of us, and there’s no reason that we need to beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up.

  • Don’t get discouraged.
  • Stick with it.
  • Keep going!
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Don’t let fear dictate your life.

You'll see these encouraging words and so many more over and over again in the answers.

If Amanda Blodgett could speak to her rookie self, she would have said, “Stop being so timid, put yourself out there, and don't listen to a damn thing anyone tells you [that] you can or can't do. And take a business course, for goodness sake!”

Our self-worth impacts not only how we feel about ourselves, but it can also impact our pay and bank account. Community member, Vero Kherian, had this to say on the matter: “Charge what you're worth (which is more than what you're charging now). No one cares about your gear but you.”

Photo Credit: Vero Kherian | Preset: Portra 400


While this could easily fit in with how we value ourselves, I believe that the topic of comparison to others deserves its own space. Though a significant percentage of the responses concerned self-worth, a large number of that percent was about comparing ourselves to others and other’s work. While this may be something that we naturally do, it has never been more prominent and toxic than it is in today’s world of social media.

This idea has been preached and shouted from the mountaintops; LIKES AND FOLLOWS DO NOT DETERMINE YOUR VALUE!

Does that keep us from basing our value from likes and follows? Sure as heck doesn’t! We do it anyway. Even when we know we shouldn’t.

Here’s what some of our community had to say on the matter:

  • Jenny Drakenlind - “Have the guts to stay true to yourself. Don’t waste all those years looking at what others do. Do YOUR thing! Try and fail. Learn from it and try again.”
  • Nicole Becker - “It doesn’t matter what everyone is doing. It matters what YOU are doing!”
  • Shalese Ah-Fua - “Stop comparing your work to others! Focus on what you like about your own work.”

Bottom line: You do YOU, boo!

Photo Credit: Shalese Ah-Fua | Preset: Portra 160 +1 

It’s one thing to find inspiration. It’s quite another to look at someone else or their work and then speak poorly to or about yourself. I’ve done it. I still catch myself doing it sometimes, and it’s not okay.

Comparison vs. Inspiration

The difference comes down to the way you speak to and about yourself. When you react to someone else’s work, what are you saying in your head?

The difference in comparison and inspiration even feelsdifferent. Inspiration comes with energy and excitement! When inspiration strikes, my vision widens, I get super focused, and even if I don’t know all of the "how’s," I’m just ready to jump in and tackle the idea.

If it’s a comparison, I immediately feel lower than low. I take on a victim mentality and start using victim language: I can’t. Too much. Too far. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the equipment. I’ll never be as good. I’ve put in my time, so why am I not further along?

And on, and on, and on. It’s heavy. It builds up in my chest, weighs me down, and brings nothing more than discouragement. No, thank you! None of that!

Choose Inspiration. Pay attention to the language that you use with and about yourself, and make a point to correct it. Instead of saying, “I can’t.” ask, “How can I?”

Instead of, “I don’t have...” say, “here’s what I do have to work with.”

This is breaking a habit, so it’ll take a while. I’m still working on it myself.


We all know the age-old parable that we’ve heard enough times to make our ears bleed. “Practice makes perfect.”

It seems that we can’t hear it enough, though. Here is what all of these community members would have told themselves at the start:

  • Chris Meder - “You’ll make some images you like, and some you don’t. Both of those are okay. Just keep shooting.”
  • Tammy Johnson Girard - “Always shoot for yourself some, too. It isn’t always about getting that next client. You have to stay creative for your own good. Don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone.”
  • Nick Roberson - “Be patient and shoot, shoot, shoot. Then shoot some more.”
  • David Tsai - “Fail more often.”
  • Heather Biggs - “Be an individual. Create work that stands out in the crowd and doesn't just blend in with everyone else.”

“Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.” - Malcolm Gladwell

Photo Credit: Chris Meder | Preset: Portra 800


Gear, lenses, and software are all really rad, but they're all only as good as the hands that use them.

We have to learn the difference and balance between practice and the right tool for the job.

  • Tim Riddick - “Don’t chase gear. Chase your craft and the money will come.”
  • Gary Brink - “Create first. Buy gear later.”
  • Tricia Marie Bridges - “Don’t be cheap. Buy as many memory cards as needed, so you’re not formatting them before a product is delivered just because you need them for your next wedding/session. Also, buy back up drives.”
  • Kristin Paige - “Life is just easier if you learn how to set your white balance and exposure in camera. You’ll enjoy photography a lot more when you aren’t constantly struggling to fix stuff in post.”

The right gear can make a big difference, but it won’t be THE difference. If you’re looking to make a big purchase, you can always rent the gear first and give it a spin before you drop big coin.

  • Laura Card-an - “Education... education... education... in all areas. Then start a business.”
  • Jenny Drakenlind - “LEARN HOW TO RUN A BUSINESS, you younger-me twat! Don’t think it’s going to be fine along the road. Do your homework and don’t cheat!”
  • Tai Sophia Petrofsky - “Gear doesn't matter as much as good education, and application of that education!”
  • Kristen Solis - “Second shoot with a pro for a year first! Network from the start.”
  • Derick Miller - “Never stop being a rookie! When you stop learning, you stop growing as an artist. Embrace your mistakes. They are your greatest teachers.”

No matter what your method is, find a way of learning that suits you, and never ever stop! For some people, mentoring is excellent. Others excel in taking courses and classes, and still, others just like to jump in and figure it out. Approach everything you can as an opportunity to learn! Not only will you gain knowledge, but you’ll have a lot of fun doing it!


Photo Credit: Jenny Drakenlind | Preset: Fuji 400H

  • Caroline Willett - “Good light trumps location EVERY time!”
  • Angela M Resendez - “Get Mastin Labs presets sooner. Don't wait!”
  • Randi Jo Sylvester - “It’s okay to say no to clients who don’t fit well with you! It’s okay to say no to things that aren’t your style. It’s okay to say no.”
  • Gary Brink - “Expose normally. Be creative. Don’t compare yourself to others at different states on their journey. Buy all the presets. You’re going to love them. There is no shame in shooting with your crop sensor.”
  • And one of my personal favorites posted by Colby Moore:

submitted by funny guy and elaborate "selfie-ist" Colby Moore

If you’re not a member of the Mastin Lab Facebook Community, I would highly recommend joining. This question spawned a slew of great advice from photographers across the board and represents just how fun and open the ML community is.

Thank you all for being you!