The hardest part of being a halfway decent photographer is not getting that one shot, it is getting the next great shot. During the time I was in school learning photography, I met several people who took a great shot – usually on vacation and this one shot was the catalyst for them going to school to learn the craft.
Resting on your laurels of one great shot is like a band touring over and over with a beloved album. Eventually people will get tired of seeing that photo and will want to see something new from you. This is where most fell down, they had the perfect timing or the perfect light that one time, and they are defeated by the fact that they believe they cannot ever make a better picture than “that one” shot. It is totally fine to have a favorite phot, and it is absolutely fine to have that shot as the first thing people see when they look at your portfolio, but that should not keep you from striving to get the next great shot.
My favorite shot is a photo I took at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz ca. I love the shot, and it is still on the front of my portfolio website. Since I now live in Colorado, I don’t have as many opportunities to shoot the beach as I did when I lived a couple blocks from it. That doesn’t mean I have given up on photography or my landscape work, on the contrary I have traded in my beach for the mountains, and since then I have continued to shoot in the mountains every chance I get with the intention of getting a shot as good as some of the beach shots I have taken. I will get one, I just need to be in the right place at the right time, which is the crux of good landscape photography.
If you find yourself in a similar situation – intimidated by your own work, try something different. Experiment with another modality of photography, try portraiture, or product photography or macro work. Maybe this will give you the inspiration to make work while avoiding that “I can’t do better” feeling. I am a huge advocate for a weekly photography regiment, some prefer the 365 shot a day challenges, but I think often those end up with a ton of filler images or worse, the photographer gets tired of the daily grind of trying to get a good image. If you consider a weekly photography challenge, then you can plan the whole week and do something more special. A week is enough time to plan a big portrait shoot or get supplies together for a cool food photography shoot. With this type of project, you end up with at least 52 cool shots that you put a reasonable amount of work into rather than 365 mediocre shots.
Get out there and take some pictures!