How to Deal with FOMO in Photography

Puoi cambiare lingua dal menù in alto.

What is FOMO?

First of all, let's start from the basics: what is FOMO? Literally, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out”. I've heard this term for the first time a couple of years ago; I felt it endless times, but I just wasn't aware that the feeling had a name.
We, as landscape photographers, are quite susceptible to this kind of fear. Have you ever been out there, shooting in the field, in front of a great moment of light and felt overwhelmed? If the answer to this question is “yes”, then you probably started jumping from one composition to the next one, without feeling satisfied of your images and loosing the best light in the meantime.
I got stuck with FOMO so many times, I can't give you a number. It's in our nature, as we get more and more euphorical with the light getting better, to aim for the best possible composition. And ehi, don't get me wrong, that's good. You should never settle down with a boring photo just because you are afraid of loosing the best light, but neither you can't (you shouldn't, at least) put yourself in doubt everytime that you are 5 minutes away from a great sunset, a great storm, or whatever you were hoping for.

How to Deal with FOMO

Let's say that you had in mind two different shots in two different places – A and B. Right before the light starts going kaboom, you are standing in A, but B is quite close; outta nowhere tough, you start thinking that maybe B is better, that if X happens and Y appears, you may get a better shot. So you abandon the composition you studied for the last couple of hours for absolutely no reason and move to B. Now the light is exploding, all kinds of colors are in the sky. You moved to B, but only at that point you realize that composing there is not that easy, that you are not really convinced that's the right shot to take and start to think that you are wasting the best light; what you are going to do next? You probably start to think about a possible C option, or maybe returning to A. Either way, you probably lost some precious moments in the meantime and you are not satisfied with your own photos. This is, in a very basic example which I'm sure at least some of you will easily picture themselves into, FOMO.
Let me tell you this right away: there is no magic formula on how to deal with this fear. If I had the perfect solution, I wouldn't be standing here telling you that I'm the first in line when it comes to falling into FOMO. Now, having said that, we are not completely powerless neither: there's something we can do in order to fight this irrational fear, and that something is called “consciousness”. Yes, we can be conscious of what we are doing, we can take the situation under control and, after a careful study of all the variables, take a final decision and stand by it. Easier to be said than done, right? I know! But that's how you can improve your photography skills and consequently take better pictures. God only knows how many times I quit on a nice composition to move to a different one, only to find out that it wasn't what I expected.

Now the next question you ask yourself should be: okay, but how can I reach that level of consciousness for myself? The answer is quite straightforward: by studying!
As I quickly mentioned earlier, the more knowledge we have, the more we'll be able to take a thoughtful decision. In landscape photography, that means that you'll have to learn all the variables that comes into play when you are out shooting: location, weather conditions, tides (if you are by the sea) or snow (if you are in the mountains), etc, etc. There are a bazillion different stuff that you should learn and they might vary depending on where you are and what you like to shoot. You'd think that landscape photography is already a quite specific niche, but truth is that there are a lot of “sub-genres” and rules are not the same for all of them. For example, if you live by the sea and generally shoot seascapes, you might want to learn how to deal with long exposures, how to intercept and capture the best moment when a storm is passing by (maybe even by shooting lightning); on the other hand, if autumn is approaching, you might want to find out which one is the best moment for shooting the foliage and give less attention to the weather; once more, if you plan to go on a hike in the mountains during summer to shoot wildflowers, you'll need to learn what is focus stacking and how to deal with it, together with a specific study of the weather in order not to find yourself into a dangerous thunderstorm. The list goes on and on as there are many different situations and many different environments to shoot in, but I think you got the point. You have to learn everything you can about the place you are about to shoot and understand which one is the best time of the day/year to be there. Once you are out there in the field, make sure to arrive early so that you can scout the place and find the best possible composition; at this point, if you really did your homework, you should have taken a conscious decision, based on a careful assessment of the situation.

Let's take as an example the one I made at the beginning of the paragraph: if our imaginary photographer had studied all the variables of that specific situation, he would have known that moving from A to B could have been a mistake, and even better that C was not even an option. How could he know that? Because he studied the weather, the location, and all the other factors in the game so that he knew that X and Y weren't going to happen. That's what I call consciousness, that's what I call knowledge.
Before going to the conclusion, there's one thing to clarify. Many people might confuse consciousness with arrogance; the two things may be similar from a superficial point of view, but completely different when you go past that. Along the road, you'll meet both conscious and arrogant photographers; the first one will always be able to put themselves in doubt, question themselves and be open to new ideas, while the latter will be more thick headed, stubborn and close minded. Taking a conscious decision shouldn't mean that you are objectively right and that you found the best possible photo of that place (wouldn't it be too easy then?); you just believe to have found the best composition based on your personal tastes, so it will be quite subjective and debatable. What you might think is an outstanding shot could result as a dull photo for someone else. After all, photography by definition is subjective, right?
So, please don't fall into the arrogant category, even when you think you are nailing the shot and nobody couldn't get a better result; be always open to question yourself, to learn something new, to listen to others and possibly even help. You never know who's in front of you, and he might know more than you do.


As I told you in the previous paragraph, there's no magic wand, no final solution to “conquer” FOMO. It is something irrational (like many other types of fear), something that no matter how hard you try, you'll still be subject to it. And from a certain point of view it's okay, it's fine to ask yourself if you are in the right place at the right time; on the other hand though, it might ruin your plans and block you from taking the shot you wanted and long planned for. Planning, scouting and studying are the three magic words to achieve the best possible knowledge of the location as well of the other variables (technique, weather, etc.) and so fight the so-called “fear of missing out” in your mind.
FOMO was a subject that I wanted to write about for a long time now, but I never really got the chance; during the holidays though, I put myself at work and tried to describe and offer a plausible solution to this “problem” that affect many of us landscape photographers, myself included. I really hope you'll manage to take something out from it!

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