I remember the first time I picked up a DLSR camera. I clicked the shutter, glanced at the LCD screen, and instantly knew this was something that just felt right to me. The ability to freeze a second of my brand new baby’s life was a dream come true. And I knew that I needed more of it—that I had to learn everything there was to know about this camera in my hand. It became a goal of mine. A dream that I didn’t even know I had until that first image graced the screen.
My dreaming didn’t stop there. After researching, practicing (lots of it), and discovering this passion, I developed new dreams. Ones that involved photographing children other than my own, getting my business license and charging for my work, and eventually narrowing my area of expertise to specialize in newborns through high school seniors. As these dreams were realized, new ones began to grow, such as opening my own studio and hitting my target for my sessions and my finances.
All of these individual dreams compiled into one bigger goal—to turn my passion for photography into a business. Your dream might be different. It might involve learning to photograph your child’s soccer game without him blurring across the field, it might be getting an image of yours published in your favorite magazine, or it might be perfecting the art of birth photography. Whatever it is, there are several things necessary to help you realize these dreams. We all have goals, and we all need a few essential things to happen in order to achieve them.
Have people in your life that support you no matter what.
When I first started in photography I was awful. I didn’t know it at the time, but I truly was. If I had asked a professional photographer if I might have some real, future possibility of doing this for a living, they would have flat out said “no.” Luckily, I didn’t just dive right into business (although I probably should have spent more time in the portfolio building portion in hindsight).
But I had cheerleaders surrounding me that encouraged me to master my craft. Close friends and family members spurred me on, telling me that they had confidence and faith in me that if I was determined to learn photography, I could do it. They gave me that push I needed when I looked at other photographer’s blogs I
admired and felt inadequate. They gave me the ability to see the potential they saw in me. They encouraged me to do whatever it would take to make my goals a reality. I’m so grateful for their unconditional support, because without them, my dreaming probably would have died.
Have people in your life that tell it to you straight.
I know what you’re thinking, this sort of goes against what I just said about having a strong support system. But it doesn’t. In fact, one can’t really exist without the other. For as wonderful as it is to have those constant cheerleaders, you need to have people who will tell you the harsh truth, but will do so with your best interest in mind.
When I started writing a novel a while back, I read an article that said something along the lines of, “Your critique needs to come from those not connected to you. Of course your mom and your best friend love your book and gave you five stars. Something would be wrong if they didn’t.” This is true for photography, too. When I started out taking photographs of other’s children, I was always blown away how moms would gush over the images. Looking back, I cringe at some of those first portraits. I knew nothing about exposure, composition or vision. But did the moms care? No, they thought their child looked fantastic, green color-cast and all. And they should have thought that, it was their child in the picture. Just like with the book, something would be wrong if they had said, “Joey looks horrible! I absolutely hate him in these.”
So it’s vital to have someone on the outside, someone not as deeply invested emotionally in your dream as you and your close friends and family, who will offer you truth and critique regarding your work. Someone who can see your potential, and show you how to get there. Just as much as you need those cheering you on along the way, you also need those that are committed to helping you learn the techniques to get you there. It’s more than motivation, it’s education, so you need to have multiple people in your life that can provide each of these elements for you.
A dream is a wish your heart makes.
Yes, ultimately our dreams grow out of our passions, but they need to grow out of our brains, too. To a certain extent, you’ve got to be realistic in your dreaming. Sure, I’d love to become the next American Idol, but the truth is, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. No matter how many hours I spend singing in the shower, I’ll never be able to produce a song that others would willingly want to listen to. Yes, I might be able to sing my kids softly to bed each night, I might even be able to sing in the church choir, but my name will never be at the top of the charts.
Dreams, in order to be achieved, need to be attainable. Set goals that you can meet along your journey toward your bigger goals. Be realistic. Know your limits, but don’t feel bound by them. Don’t be afraid to dream big, but don’t forget to start small. Make those milestones part of your dream instead of tasks that need to be checked off of a list. When I came up with my goal to open my own photography studio, I made the entire process part of the dream. Every month that I successfully hit my target number for sessions, I celebrated it. Each time I brought in my desired income, I considered it a victory. Don’t get overwhelmed by the seemingly far-off goal, but commemorate each step that brings you closer to it.
Don’t give up.
I know this should go without saying, but it’s so easy to throw in the towel when things don’t go as planned or when the journey takes longer than expected. But a dream is just that, a goal. And by definition, a goal is “the end toward which effort is directed.” It takes a lot of effort to make your dreams come true. Things rarely happen overnight. And while the long hours of practice and learning might grow tiresome, it’s an integral part of the process, so be encouraged in knowing that anyone who’s achieved their dreams has followed a similar path of persistence.
So go ahead, line up your cheerleaders and your truth-tellers and start setting some goals. It might be scary—it will definitely be intimidating—but once you meet that first milestone in your pursuit, you won’t dream of turning back.
Megan Squires, California
CM Mentor | Workshop Instructor
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Although Megan started dabbling in photography when she purchased her first DSLR in 2005 it wasn’t until 3 years later that her journey took a deeper meaning and has defined who she is as a photographer. In her own words, “I lost my dad to kidney cancer. My dad and I had a great relationship–I feel so blessed to have had such a strong male figure in my life–he truly treated me like his princess. My dad had always been very interested in photography and many times throughout my youth he’d try to teach me a few pointers, but at the time I was more interested in being a teenager than a photographer. After he passed I realized how much those images that I had of him meant to me. My kiddos were so small and would never remember their Papa and I knew that the stories I told of him and photos I shared would help them create their own idea of the man that he was. It was like a lightbulb went off at that time and I knew I wanted to do this for other families.” In Folsom, California, where she lives with her husband and two children, Megan uses her Nikon D700 and an assortment of lenses to photograph in her bright, clean, and classic style. On her days off she loves to sip a can of diet Coke after a morning of sleeping in. Follow that with a little antiquing and you’ve got quite the day for Megan. She is also the instructor for CMU’s Lighting 201: Natural Light with Atmosphere workshop.