It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Pete Collins!

Ok, so when you get asked to be a guest blogger for Scott, one of the first things to do is check out the competition and see what others have done. The top blog posts as far as comments and reshares have been from Peter Hurley⦠Seen here hamming it up in our studio:

Photos by Pete Collins

And Zack Arias':

Photo by Zack Arias

I wanted to be considered as insightful and popular as them. So I did some studying on what they did to get such a good response and it became quite obvious⦠It is all about the hair! If I am going to get the greatest response and win the top honor as the "coolest, hippest blogger on earth," I am going to have work the hair angle hard. So without further ado⦠I give you Peter Bob Ross Arias!

Take that hair club for men!

Now that I have established my hair cred⦠on with the blog!

The opening paragraph was done in jest and a bit over the top (sorry Bob Ross!), but I wanted to use that to illustrate a point. We are killing ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. We ask constantly ask ourselves⦠"Am I as good a photographer as _________?", or "Do I communicate like ______?" We find ourselves on the unending treadmill of trying to catch up with this artist or photographer, and feel like a failure because someone we know is doing it "better" than we are. Please stop doing this. If you don't read any further than this, I hope you will take this thought with you. "Comparison is the Thief of Joy."

Warning: If you proceed to read further I will attempt to talk about what hinders us from being creative and alive. I will talk about feelings and ramble on some about our hearts etc⦠because I truly believe that is where our work comes from. So if you aren't interested in any of this⦠no problem, just look at the pictures and perhaps take a look at the list at the bottom as it is a bit more no-nonsense⦠well, sort of. :D  Yes I do realize that some of you are hoping to hear amazing photographic stories or maybe juicy gossip that Scott is really Keyser Soze, but that is for another post⦠this one is a little more about what drives us.

Let me walk this out for you with an example in my own life. I was asked to write this blog, and I got excited and immediately I started to plan what I was going to do. Thoughts start to swim around of all the things that I can talk about or show. Then I get the brilliant idea of doing exactly what I did at the top of the post. Comparing how other folks did their posts. Suddenly, the excitement I had for sharing my heart and idea with you turns into fear of "not screwing up" and not being rejected. Now I start to feel pressure and the idea that I don't have what it takes starts to grow inside of me. The voice in my head/heart tells me that I am lacking and that I should just give up and do something safe and boring, or better yet, find an excuse and not do anything at all. The problem with listening to that voice is that my heart and creativity die a little each time I give into it.

So I try to ignore the lump in my throat⦠and no longer feel excited⦠scared yes, excited⦠not so much. What is safe and accepted? You folks like videos⦠so I should definitely do a video and it shall be really cool! I will create this masterpiece video that shows the behind the scenes here at Kelby Media Group, and highlights the creative process that goes on here and how I get to be part of this. Great idea, but then the doubt kicks in⦠I haven't done a lot of videos and editing on that big a scale, and it won't look as cool as Zack's⦠I mean he had a smoke machine and mannequins! Ok, so let's settle for something safer.

How about I do a neat time-lapse drawing that will amaze and astound all who see it! Yeah, that will be easier I have done those before. But, what should I do? What should my subject matter be? What is normally easy to decide becomes impossible when the pressure of comparison is added to the mix. I need inspiration: that mystical illumination that quiets the voices and brings new wonders to our minds! Desperate, I start to work on playing with words like Inspiration that all have the word ration in them⦠even though I am feeling anything but rational right now. It might be cool to draw these words over time and do some neat stuff with them.

But then I start to worry that this is dumb and suddenly I don't like the order of the words so decide that what I need to do is develop a new creative font. Why? So that I can dazzle you guys with my talent and to make up for my lack of hair. Granted this is already late in the evening, and the blog post hasn't had the first word written. But a cool font is all this needs to make this abomination turn into glory. Hours later I have created something⦠and boy is it something, I just don't know what it is and I am pretty sure it won't work for this. Help!

So now I have spent hours scrambling to find that just right combination of hip creatively breezy elements that will amaze you and have you resharing this blog for years to come. I have visions of folks talking about my blog as The Blog of 2013! Whispering in cubicles across the globe "Hey did you see Pete's blog?" Of course it would be in different languages according to local dialect, but you get the drift. How is that for pressure? This is no longer a blog⦠it is my life's destiny and the fate of the free world depends on my ability to produce something earth shattering. (Please tell me, you have been in a similar situation⦠Letting your feelings overshadow the importance of a task until it becomes all encompassing. Yes, you there in the back, I see that hand⦠thank you for sharing.)

So I step back and try to regroup with a Coke⦠or three and some chocolate. Yep, that calms the nerves right down, don't mind the seizures. But while I stare at the blank screen, my lack of coolness taunts me. I start to think about my situation and how many times I have been in this very same state of pressure when I am trying to be both creative and safe. How many times have I been so wrapped up in trying to be accepted that I lose the ability to fly. By flying I mean to go where the heart and mind take us without the constraints of worrying about what others will think, or limiting our art to what others will like.

I bet you are like me and the best art you produce is when you are doodling while on the phone or waiting for a friend at a coffee shop. Why? The pressure is off and the only reason you are doing it is for the pure joy of it. Life Example: My kids don't make a picture and then throw it in the trashcan or hide it⦠they want us to display it and stick it on the refrigerator because it is something they put their heart into and they see it as good. But, as they get older, comparison creeps in and starts to tell our children⦠"Your sister draws better trees than you," or "That dog looks stupid!" The result is that they stop drawing altogether or they draw "safe" pictures that are acceptable. But their hearts wants to draw wild things. And guess what⦠we are just kids in grown up bodies.

This reminds me of an idea I have for a kids book that deals with our needing to forget our past hurts and failures so that we can be free to live, love and fly. I call it Dilbert the Forgetful Elephant, because the way most of us deal with life is a lot like how an elephant deals with captivity⦠but more of that in a minute⦠I can't talk to you now; I have an idea for this blog! Yes! I laugh at my angst earlier⦠I am now inspired and I start sketching elephants that will amaze you: and to be honest they looked better in my caffeine soaked brain than they do on paper. I need to study how elephants look and how to draw them. But at least I am excited about the direction this is taking.

So I Google "drawing elephants" and God being the gag writer that He is⦠wouldn't you know it, the first three hits to appear are from my friend Aaron Blaise, animator and illustrator extraordinaire who has some wonderful lessons on drawing elephants.

If you haven't seen his work, make sure to check him out at

Crap! Just when I was starting to feel ok about what I was doing, now I am going to compare every sketch I do with his. My sketches start to lose all life and joy as I try to sketch like Aaron. I know what he has done is good, I don't know if what I can do is good, so I try to slip on the mask of another that I know is accepted, because that will mean I will be accepted too. Won't it? I have shared this drawing before, but it still is one of my favorites that I have made to remind me of our tendencies to hide ourselves behind masks that in turn imprisons us and keep us from be real and alive.

The problem is that creativity lives in the land of freedom. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and start living. The story of Dilbert is an offshoot of what is probably an urban legend that goes like this⦠"when elephants are very young, trainers use rope to tie them and, at that age, it's enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break the rope so they never try to break free." It is a great illustration of the mental bonds that we can place on ourselves in regards to who we are and what we can do which we place upon ourselves by comparing ourselves to others.

So I wanted to create a story about an elephant that is forgetful, and as a result forgets that the rope is stronger than him and flies away. (Now you will have make the mental jump with me as I use the idea of an elephant as a balloon to represent the natural pull to fly as rope/string dangles beneath him representing what use to hold him back).

If I can stop comparing myself with others, I will be truly free to be creative and the result will be a better me.  It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy⦠the less I worry about others the more of me shows through, and the unique beauty that only I have to offer is seen and cherished by the ones who get to see it, which encourages me to show more⦠etc⦠etc⦠The world does not need more masks and copycats, the world needs more folks that are truly alive and free to create.

Yeah, yeah Pete we have heard this before⦠be free and be real⦠yada yada yada. Well, to be honest, I don't mind repeating it because I need to hear it daily, if not hourly because I forget. I fall right back into the trap of comparing and I shut down and cling to the easy road of mediocrity. The world is filled with mediocrity; we need folks who are brave and reckless enough to be excellent.

Photographers don't' worry I haven't forgotten about you. Below is an excerpt from a blog post that I started a while back that I never finished because something shiny came along and distracted me, but I think will tie in with what I hope is the heart of my thoughts today, which is don't settle⦠don't make excuses⦠fight to go beyond mediocre. Strive for joy and life⦠learn to fly!

"Over the past while I have had the privilege of watching Scott, Matt, RC and others like Joe McNally and Joel Grimes give photo critiques. I have also been able to watch the comments that go on during those critiques and I have noticed a societal trend. Often there is a rush to excuse why something isn’t right, or to try to give the benefit of the doubt due to exigent circumstances. But, is our goal to be ok? Mediocre? If so, then here are some ways to keep attaining that safe yet heart killing standard.

Don’t worry about telling a story⦠who cares if it is boring.

Don’t worry about what is in the corners⦠distractions and lines add excitement.

Don’t change the angle of your shots… tripods should always be shot at comfortable heights that every other photographer uses.

Make the same shot as others⦠You're ok, so I'm ok.

Only shoot when it is convenient and then blame the bad lighting for why it is not better.

Limit your shooting to your surroundings and then ask for a break in judgment because the locations are boring. It takes to much work to go somewhere else to shoot.

Demand fairness and equality even if your images are not good and not special. Your heart was in the right place, even if your camera wasn't.

Mediocrity can be attained by everyone, and that may be why we are not happy with our work when we settle for it. You are created in a dynamic and special way, and when you listen to the voice of comparison and settle for safety and excuses, you cheat the world of the special vision and voice that you have to offer. I need you to fly so that you can remind me to fly. I am one elephant trying to help the next one loosen the ropes that keep us tied down.

The question at the end of the day, and the end of this long post is⦠are you going to stay tied down to that stake of comparing what others are doing, or are you going to forget about what tends to hold you back and fly?

You can see more from Pete at, and follow him on Twitter and Google+

  1. I love the photographers comment you made toward the end, “Your heart was in the right place, even if your camera wasn’t.” That’s great copy and pithy wisdom. Good stuff Pete.

    1. @0dd7b83a6fdf21ff6880754641f32f78:disqus Yes there is! And the reason is that you should never try to spell late at night. :D What stinks is that I give my wife such a hard time about her spelling (which she inherited form her Dad… Sorry Rick, but it’s true.) and now she has this in print which she will never let me live down. Thanks for giving her ammo in our war of love. :D

  2. You’ve got a great writing style Pete – easy to read and conversational, but you make a strong point. Reminds me of a Donald Miller book. As someone who once spent sleepless nights trying to hash out a post for Scott’s blog – I can certainly empathize.

  3. I follow Pete and the guys here. They are knowledgeable and usually offer great insight, experience and motivation. As a no nonsense kind of guy, I appreciate that. Today, I finally gave up and scrolled to the bottom to try to figure out just what point he was making. I felt like I was in his head, and believe me, I did not want to be there. As a Virgo, I cut to the chase: What was the point you wanted to make and why did it require so many words to say it. Maybe next time. See you on the Grid.

    1. Rusty, I, as a fellow Virgo am a fan of brevity. I simply, skimmed to the last paragraph to find the thesis of the article. Pete forgot that we do not operate in a vacuum. We need to look at the work of others not for imitation but for inspiration to follow our unique path. A writer quipped that we can never be truly original, but must be clever in presenting old ideas as if they were new.

      1. Thanks, Robert. I understood the message as well. Maybe he was just trying to say it in a funny way.

      2. @1bed7b9d21c0e3972df318d61a5dad05:disqus @c0d4e4e1378e6c1b7c9e54b7a0c01264:disqus Thesis: Comparison is the thief of Joy

        subplot: If I am worried about how well I measure up to others, then I am living a life that is not really my own. Yes, we should all learn from others, but I should not dictate my life and art based on trying to be a false copy of someone else.

      3. Pete, I agree with your reply. For me, and I am sure, other NAPP members, we look at others works as to subject matter, lighting, composition and processing to see if these techniques could help in any way with presenting our own ideas effectively. For example, the critiques on the GRID do exactly that in a constructive way by looking at works and comparing them to the universally established criteria of what makes for a good picture. This comparison should not take away any enthusiasm for our own pursuits. After all, we have to trust our good taste and sense of aesthetics in crafting our art.

  4. Pete, I rarely make comments to Scott’s Guest Bloggers, but yours really touched a cord with me and with situations I deal with everyday. This came at the right time for me.

    Whether you get one comment or a thousand, in my humble opinion, this is the BEST GUEST BLOG EVER!

  5. It’s funny, some of the comments reflect EXACTLY what you were talking about, yet it appears readers missed the point. I enjoyed this post! As a perfectionist in a world that rewards mediocrity, I am constantly struggling with what you describe. I don’t want to fail, nobody does, but not failing because I’m not taking risks isn’t who I want to be. Very nice post, Pete!

  6. Thanks Pete,

    In this age of thinking only the superlative is worthy of notice, you bring it back to us as individuals. Each individual is worthy of notice and at the end of the day happiness is what we all want. Finding our own inner happiness and ceasing the worry of how we compare to others is a better more freeing road to travel upon.

    Hey register that font!


    1. @eba30b19fb18a8792d156c609b39e974:disqus

      Actually the fact that I have plenty of folks around me that give me hugs gives me the strength to be transparent. I am striving to live out the motto that the truly brave admit when they are scared.

  7. Pete I just finished helping at a workshop on the weekend here in Canada where we try to get our participants to do just what you talk about, which is ignore those voices or judges that we continually hear, the Critic in your case and mine too. I had taken a number of photos this past weekend to record the event for everyone and after posting them I immediately felt that I needed to improve and was personally unhappy with the results. Not to say that I can’t improve but tell them my Critic to just stop for a minute and enjoy the results for what they were.

    One of our little sayings that rings true here, “Don’t believe everything that you think”

    Thanks for a truly different Guest Blog

  8. Hi Pete,

    I don’t normally comment on the blog, but I wanted to tell you how great this blog post is. I think whether you’re a photographer, designer, or just a regular person this blog is applicable. I especially loved the quote “Comparison is the thief of joy.” What a true statement, now more than ever in this digital age of social media. For what it’s worth, I loved your guest blog and thought that it was one of the best ones I’ve read on here in a long time. Keep up the good work!

  9. Kudos Pete, what an excellent blog. Your words “And guess what… we are just kids in grown up bodies.” hit the nail right on the head. My wife calls me her 5 year old, and she teaches first grade so she knows how they act. And yes, I do compare myself to others constantly. Your post has inspired me to get my best 20 or so pictures together for Photoshop World in Vegas this September. I did the critique thing a few years ago and came out thinking I really do suck. I know I’ve improved, but still think I suck even though others say I do okay. After all I did win the Shoot it first thing in 2011 and then acted like a 5 year old when the announcement was made.
    See ya soon (September)

  10. I enjoyed this. I’m an elephant tied to a desk from 8:30 to 4:30. Photography is one of the things that helps me fly when I leave the “zoo”, and I’ve been flying at different altitudes over the past 25 years. It’s a fine line between looking at the work of others and feeling either inferior or inspired.

    Personally, I look at other people’s work to gain both a better technical understanding of how they made the image as well as to gain inspiration to go and try something similar but yet unique. That’s what I like about sites like Scott’s and other photographers. They are willing to share some of their knowledge and experience with the rest of us. I think sharing helps diminish the tendency to compare. At least in a competitive way.

  11. Thank you for this. I have almost given up any hope of ever making a decent photograph because I see the incredible work on G+ and have lost the desire to post my inferior work. Comparison has taken my joy and trampled on it. This is advice I needed to hear.

    1. You have a unique perspective and voice… the challenge is figuring out what it is and how to share it with yourself and others. Fear and comparison shame us into giving up or just being mediocre, but our innate desire to fly can tempt us to keep trying until the rope finally breaks.

  12. Bottom line, you nailed it, Pete. And it’s applicable to anyone and everyone, not just photographers. Fortunately or unfortunately, comparison is how our little human brains operate–deal with it–but the point you make is the key: “…don’t settle for safety and excuses”. Or, as George Bernard Shaw famously said, “Some men see things as they are and ask why; others dream things that never were and ask why not.” Truly an excellent post, Pete!

  13. Hey Pete!

    I tried to comment a few days ago, but it’s not showing up.

    I just wanted to tell you that this is a wonderful post.
    Heartfelt and funny, I was genuinely moved.
    Brilliant work!


    Dave Cuerdon

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