A wiser person than myself once said that if someone does not know to which port they are sailing, no wind is favorable. I heard that advice early in my photographic journey and it has stuck with me throughout the years. Learning about photography is important. Developing your skills as photo maker is even more important.
However, one of the most important things that you can do in order to grow as an artist (and business person) is to recognize the importance of finding a direction, setting photography goals for yourself. Without a direction or goals, all the passion, skill, and creativity you possess will not be enough to help you reach your full potential as a photographer.
Finding your direction
That is the hard part. Figuring out which direction to focus your energy on can be frustrating and at times extremely confusing. There really are no shortcuts. The key is to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Shoot a lot. You won’t know what kind of photography you truly love until you let yourself go and become lost in your own work.
Don’t limit yourself to only one type of photo when you’re just starting out in the art; meaning don’t exclusively do street work or only shoot portraits. Make photographs of anything: people, landscapes, architecture, food, toasters – anything. You might find that your true passion strangely discovers you when you least expect it. The important thing is to keep shooting and keep yourself open to new opportunities.
Bear in mind, however, that directions can and often do change. Even though you may be firmly set on the path you want to pursue with your photography remember that you are not confined to it exclusively. As you grow as a photographer so will your tastes and your inclinations may evolve. Again, keep your creative mind free and be willing to try something completely different if the muse strikes you to do so. You make the photograph…the photograph does not make you.
Applying your direction
For a moment let’s imagine that you have found your direction. You’re elated and you can’t describe how great it feels to have that overwhelming urge to create photographs. Now what? Do you just go out into the world and hope for the best? Of course not. Instead, take all of that excitement and artistic energy and channel it into something tangible.
In short, you must set clear goals for yourself as a photographer. Setting goals for your photography will help you immeasurably. There are so many things to consider when first starting out. At times it becomes shockingly easy to lose your focus which will lead to frustration. Developing goals will keep you grounded in your work and heading in the direction you have chosen. Not only will having clearly defined goals keep you focused but will also keep you motivated and make you more determined to accomplish what you have set out to do.
Learn to set goals which are realistic
No one that I know of ever had their first photograph published on the cover of National Geographic Magazine. If that’s your goal that’s great. But understand that while setting goals is essential to success, they must also be realistic goals.
Find goals for your work which are challenging but attainable. Examples of realistic goals could be learning a new technique or getting your work in a local gallery. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment because you set the bar unimaginably high. Success is a ladder that must be climbed one step at a time.
Gaining confidence is somewhat of a paradox because you need confidence in order to find it – think about that for a moment. Boosting your confidence level is perhaps the most important reward that will come out of setting goals for your photography.
Taken as whole, going from a beginner to a professional photo maker is a daunting task to say the least. There is just so much that can go wrong on the journey from point A to point B. Instead of attempting to cover the distance in a single leap, lay out achievable goals that will eventually take you where you want to go. Along the way, with each goal met and overcome, you will naturally build confidence. The next goal will be met and then the next and the next, and so on.
As you become more confident in your work and your abilities each new goal you set will be more and more ambitious. One day you will look back to see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve accomplished just by focusing on each step one at a time.
You found the courage to follow your dreams and take up the mantle of “photographer”. It’s not always going to be an easy road, but by simply finding your direction and setting photography goals you will be able to achieve things you never thought were possible.
Learn to understand what it is that truly gives you a spark when you photograph, then develop a game plan by setting small goals to help you along your way. Those goals will be your signposts. With each goal you achieve you will build skill, confidence, experience, and knowledge. As you learn and grow you will undoubtedly change as an artist. Be mindful but don’t fight the natural current and healthy evolution of your own creativity.
Whether the goals you set are designed to facilitate a transition from hobbyist to pro photographer, or to just reach the next stage in your photographic journey, the important thing to remember is to never stop moving. Always strive to learn something new, set new goals, and reach new heights.
What are your photography goals? Please share in the comments below.