Dunning-Kruger Effect: Why you're not as good a photographer as you think you are

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Have you ever noticed that as you learn more about the world of photography, you tend to realize just how little you actually know? This phenomenon is what's referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

London-based photographer Jamie Windsor recently took to his YouTube channel to explain what it is, how it affects you and your work and even shares five things you can do to overcome thinking you know more than you actually do.

A chart from the video showing how perceived ability compares with actual ability according to the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

As explained in the video, the name of the phenomenon came from two social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger. During a study, the two recognized that the less competent someone was at a given task, the better they thought they were. Put more simply, if you think you're a great photographer, there's a good chance you're not nearly as amazing as you think you are.

Almost everyone falls victim to the Dunning Kruger effect at some point in their career. But the more self-aware you can become, the less likely you are to fall into the trap of being a bad photographer who thinks they're good. To help combat this downward spiral, Windsor shares a few tips, which we've paraphrased and elaborated on below:

  1. Beware of feeling comfortable - If you start feeling comfortable in your abilities, try something new and expand your horizons. Don't get complacent.
  2. Learn to let go of old work - Always try to one-up yourself and make your next shot your best shot. If you still think that shot from four years ago is your best, you probably haven't improved much.
  3. Ask for feedback and constructive critique - It's not always easy to hear, but an outside perspective can help you get a broader and more realistic view of your skills and ability.
  4. Always keep learning - "You have never learnt everything." Never think you've finished learning something—everything is a rabbit hole of knowledge.
  5. Feeling bad about your old work is a sign of progress - Thinking your old work isn't great means you've learned where you've fallen short and know how to improve your work.

In the end, Windsor emphasizes that no matter what you think of your work or how far you've come, it's ultimately about enjoying the ride. His parting piece of advice is to 'learn why you're doing things, not just how to do them'.

To find more videos, head over to Windsor's YouTube channel and subscribe.

via Reddit

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Staff member
I prefer this version, LOL. I think it's more accurate than you might believe, at least for some people.

(Us old farts started with FILM, and our damn phones didn't even have buttons, let alone a camera)


Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
Last summer I started cleaning out the hard drives where I have stored my old photos. I set 90% as a target for the number of photos to delete. Looking at my old photos was quite a learning experience in several ways. It showed me how far I have come, and it showed me how far I have to go.


Staff member
Yep, nothing like going back in time. Some stuff is still good, sometimes you find some gems, but far more often than I’d like I find myself going “I thought that was good?”

Keep in mind, that’s not a bad thing. Without some self confidence you’d give up in disgust! So just because you didn’t start off as a pro it doesn’t mean you’re not a good photographer. It just means you’re getting better.


Staff member
  1. Learn to let go of old work - Always try to one-up yourself and make your next shot your best shot. If you still think that shot from four years ago is your best, you probably haven't improved much.
I always try to improve, but I'm not as good at deleting less than stellar work as I should be.

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