Editor’s note: Irwin Lagman usually works with PhotographyTricks behind the scenes, taking care of our SEO research and a good percentage of the myriad little details that need to be completed before the publication of each article. He patiently deals with the incessant demands that come at him from a nit-picky editor half a world away (ahem) to help keep this site running smoothly. I always appreciate his great attitude, and I was excited to read his first article contribution here. 

I was impressed with Irwin’s articulateness and honesty. I felt nostalgic reading about his experiences working on on his first foray in a creative project; this brought back memories of when I first started “getting serious” about photography. But, more than that; his experience applies to every stage of creative endeavor. This fear is not just a phase that beginners go through; it is the gateway to almost every new project of any value.

It would seem comforting to tell beginners that they can push through that fear and reach a level where being creative is pure pleasure, and great work just flows, as though from a tap, whenever we call upon our creative energies. But the truth is: that fear NEVER goes away. If it does, then you’re just not pushing yourself, and you end up in a creative rut. Being a novice just means experiencing that fear for perhaps the first time; starting on a path where, far from making that fear go away, you learn to recognize it as a normal part of your life as a creative. The worst times are when that fear leaves you paralyzed. The best times are when you use that fear as fuel to feed your energy, and to recognize the wave of fear as a signpost that tells you that you’re on the right track, because if you weren’t on to something personal or important, you wouldn’t be afraid. 

Therefore, I’m grateful to our Irwin for articulating this; for being able to admit that fear was holding him back, and for describing how he managed to deal with fear and work through his first personal project. Irwin might be a beginner, but the process he describes applies to creators across genres, and up and down all levels of expertise.    –Heather N


I wanted to be a filmmaker. I had these scenes in my head that I kept on repeating over and over. I knew how to compose the frames, where the actors would stand, the camera angle, and when the camera would switch focus depending on who was speaking.

But life happened. I didn’t make it to the film school I applied to, so I ended up taking communications. It was the next best thing, because we had film classes. I was exposed to theater and writing, which helped enhanced my creativity.

I planned on pursuing my first dream after college, but got sidetracked. Mostly because I was scared that it was too late for me and that I no longer had what it takes.

Why am I telling you all this?

It’s because it’s the same fear that kept me from pursuing photography.

Photography and filmmaking are, of course, very much alike. If you know how to frame a scene then you’ll find it easy to compose a shot. When I directed in my head, I was also composing shots. I was arranging subjects in my head and shooting with an imaginary camera.

I’ve been secretly dying to photograph for years now. I have friends who are gifted shutterbugs, and they didn’t have any formal training. There were times when I attempted to shoot using a borrowed DSLR, but for some reason, I couldn’t do it.

I freeze when I hold a camera. I try to act cool and pretend I know what I’m doing. The problem is, I point the camera and just press the button, without pausing to see if the composition is okay. Then I quickly hand the camera back.


Because I’m terrified. I’m scared because:

  • I don’t have formal training
  • I don’t take criticism that well
  • I don’t have the technical know-how to produce decent shots
  • Others may not like what I shoot

how to overcome fear - man sitting on a cliff

My biggest fear was realizing that I don’t have the eye for good shots. And for someone like me, that’s huge. So instead of subjecting myself to embarrassment, I chose to suppress it.

Problem is, passion has a way of persisting. I’d banished it to the depths of my mind, but it’s managed to creep up on me again. It doesn’t help that I’m friends with talented people (like this amazing photographer) and that I work for a photography site. Not that I’m complaining, but it makes ignoring the itch that much harder.

When I think about it, it’s kind of a blessing because I was left with no other choice but to face my fears. So, with butterflies in my stomach and a very loud thumping heart, I jumped off the cliff.

One day in April, I went on a trip. My first trip in a really long time. It wasn’t just a time for relaxation but also a chance to embrace the photographer in me.

Here are some shots and the thinking that went into them:

how to overcome fear - sandy beach

I’ve learned a lot from optimizing photography articles. One thing I’ve learned about is the compositional technique of leading lines. I wasn’t aware of it, but apparently, I’ve grown to love them.

how to overcome fear - beach

I’d be the first to admit that there’s still much for me to learn in composing shots but I love contrasting colors.

how to overcome fear - rocky beach

I like putting something on the foreground because it makes the shot more interesting. I’m just not 100% sure if it crowds the frame. But I like the result of this image.

how to overcome fear - texture in the sand

I was walking along the beach when I noticed that the patterns and texture on the sand and water were great subjects.

how to overcome fear - waves on the rocky beach

I would’ve loved to capture the waves in all their glory. But I’m only using my iPhone. But it did look a little alive, right?

how to overcome fear- blue boat

This is one of my favorite shots because it’s simple. My photographer friend was explaining the rule of thirds to me while we were on the island and I felt I was able to capture it in this one. I liked how the man on the boat gave a little life to the shot and how the water and the sand were clearly distinguished.

It felt great to finally be able to snap photos of something other than food I’m eating or selfies (which I rarely do). For a few hours, despite not having a “real” camera, I was able to put together a pretty decent batch of photos—at least that’s what I think.

But whether or not they are good, it doesn’t matter. What’s more important for me is I was able to overcome my fear of photography. I realized that there was really no reason to be scared.

I discovered that photography isn’t about getting the right angle, composition, or exposure; it’s about capturing a moment that tells a story. It’s also about rediscovering yourself.

I’ve wanted to make movies for a long time. I failed to realize that movies are photographs—moving photographs. Subconsciously, I’ve wanted to shoot photographs all this time. It’s a realization I never would’ve made had I continued to succumb to fear.

Ironically, my fears have pushed me to point and click. It helped that I was at a place where there were fewer than 20 people, and it was easy to push aside my insecurities and just focus on what I’ve always wanted to do: bring to life the imagery inside my head.

Here’s what I learned: fear is normal. Aspiring shutterbugs will need to deal with this. It helps to have resources and mentors to guide you through this phase. I was lucky to have a friend who taught me what I need to know and showed me how it’s done.

This is just the start. I know I’ll be shooting pictures more frequently now.

About The Author

Irwin is a passionate freelance writer and budding photographer. He's recently discovered a love for the outdoors and is thinking of climbing more summits and swimming in deeper, bluer waters. He's also the web administrator and takes care of optimizing the posts for PhotographyTricks.com.

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