"You know, you do need mentors, but in the end, you really just need to believe in yourself." -Diana Ross
When you pick up your camera and it transforms the way you see your world, when you are able to see angles differently and smiling eyes draw you in, and you see something unique that no one else has before stopped to admire, that is a sign of a photographer. You have been given a gift. It takes courage to develop a passion, it takes time, practice, risks, and goals. I can’t say one is more important than the other, but I want to express how valuable all of these tips are in achieving your dream of being a photographer.
1. Set goals.
This is something that I do often. I use the pretty little yellow post-it notes and I write my goals all over them. I have ones that are for daily goals, and others are goals that I have set for myself describing where I want to be with my business. There is no such thing as a small or big goal to me. I believe that once you set your intention you have already began working towards it. The reason that I don’t believe that one goal is bigger than another is because it is all leading towards the same thing, developing you. Whether your goal is to learn the settings on a new camera or to open your own studio, these are amazing steps you are taking with the intention of being a photographer, and it is all relative. Also, it is so important to be grateful for your accomplishments. Every time I can cross off a goal on my little post-it note because I achieved it, I celebrate. Every time you set a goal, take a moment and imagine that you have already reached it. Imagining your goal is the quickest way of bringing it into your reality. Set goals, write them down, look at them often and imagine you are already celebrating your achievements.
2. Be open to a receiving a mentor.
I have different mentors for different things. You have to decide what you need a mentor for and absolutely be open to one working with you. There is a good chance that you may not even know what you need to be mentored in. Photography is sort of like a mosaic containing many different stories and aspects, yet they are all one thing. Along with your goals, decide what you would like to know more about, and accept help when it is offered. I cherish my mentors. They are supportive and have an endless supply of brainstorming power that they share with me whenever we meet. I meet with them often and I open myself to learning. This is your craft, your passion, let others contribute to it and value their time. They want you to succeed as much as you do. They will give you feedback and ideas that you may really need to hear. Let them help you get to where you want to be.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Your skill level will not grow if you are not submersing yourself in your work. You may work a full-time job, have kids, and other responsibilities. I get totally it. Make a decision to bring your camera with you for a day at least once a week. On a daily basis I take note of hundreds of things that I want to take a photo of, and I usually do it. If I am not with a client shooting I make time to practice in other ways. Maybe you are used to shooting with natural light and you want to learn studio lighting. There is a good possibility that you forget how beautiful the snow can be in Minnesota. Learn to shoot something new and jeesh, bring your camera with you!
4. Take Risks.
At every photo shoot I have done, I take a risk. I go to locations where people are not supposed shoot, I move things that I probably should not, and my clients laugh at me a lot while security guards ask me to move to a new location. I take risks. I am not in any way saying that it is okay to break rules or to disrespect space and locations, but I push limits a little bit to get my shot. I am mindful of who I am shooting with and safety is a priority. Being creative is important, and so is achieving a vision that I have for a photograph. Taking risks also means shooting at new locations and being vulnerable with your camera. Great shots often come with great risk. Be playful, have fun, and challenge yourself.
5. Look for trends in your work.
There are most likely things that you are drawn to photographing more than others. On another level, there is a style that you have that is all your own. Maybe you have identified it, but maybe not. For myself, I love to create portraits and relate it to nature and architecture. I tend to shoot by water too. My style is unique and I don’t tend to fall into current photography styles and use trendy presets. I am learning and developing my own style and I am mastering it. Whether you are into nature, landscapes, birds, portraits, events, you actually do have a style and people get to know it very quickly. Look through your photos, pay attention to what catches your eye. Develop those ideas that you have for your work remember to be unique. Your vision is all your own, be exclusive and rare, it will get you a long way and fulfill you in a way that achieving someone else’s vision will not.
6. Print and display your work.
Yes, I am guilty of not doing this as often as I should. There is something about printing your work that gives it life and I have started to do this more often. My wife and I have a favorite tree that we pass on the way to our home. I stopped to photograph it one night and I got it printed as a metal print and gave it to my wife as a gift. She loves trees and they are very symbolic to her. We spend thousands and thousands of hours shooting and editing and posting on social media, but we often forget the last step of printing, which can bring a new level of confidence to our work. I have also found that it is valuable to print my work so I can see how my photos look off of a computer. I can see little things that I may want to change such as a color, a blemish or tones I may want to play with. It is a disservice to yourself and your work to not print it. Have fun with all of the different options that printing offers and enjoy your work!
7. Believe in yourself.
No matter what has happened in your life, regardless of where you are at in your life this very moment, you have to believe in yourself if you want to be a photographer. For many, it is a very unconventional field to be in. At times you may feel like it is a bit of a hustle, and there can be a lot of unknowns. The one thing that can keep you on the right track is believing in yourself and your work. When you believe in yourself you will attract the right people and opportunities to you. The first few years of photography for most is such a growing time especially skill wise. You will see yourself learning very rapidly and an abundance of opportunities will come your way when you believe wholeheartedly in your passion. Dreams become a reality when you remove doubt from your mind and vocabulary. Tell yourself daily that you got this. Remind yourself that you are worthy of great clients, you are a skilled photographer and that will carry you throughout your career. It can take a lot out of someone to have a passion where you are constantly growing and managing a lot on your own, but that’s part of being a photographer and it is part of the fun. Believe in yourself, you have to be your biggest fan.
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