Last summer, I spent a couple months cleaning up my online portfolio, taking time to polish my photos until they had a consistent look and feel. I even had a couple of CMpros quickly review my portfolio to point out anything I had missed. By October, I felt I was ready to apply for CMpro. After two weeks of what seemed like forever, I spotted an email from the CMpro Application. Before I read it, I braced myself for rejection. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, and proceeded to read, “Thank you for applying to CMpro. We love your work and feel that you would be a great addition to CMpro.”
I basked in the wonderful feeling that I had made it – I was finally a CMpro and being able to say that just made me feel extra amazing. I had set a goal and achieved it! That feeling lasted for a couple months before I started feeling empty. I knew at that moment, this was only the start to achieving my photography goals; my journey was not done. I don’t think the road ever ends for a photographer. There’s always more to learn, more to shoot, and endless opportunities to grab onto.
“Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” – Alex Noble
It’s a lot of work and effort, a journey of sorts, when you set out to achieve a big goal or a dream. You put your whole self into it, every free moment goes toward your goal. And finally, you achieve it! Success! You feel amazing and you’re proud of yourself. But once the initial excitement wears off, you are left with an emptiness. You have a void where you once spent all that time working toward your goal. It’s at this point that you start to wonder, “What next? Where do I go from here?” Because achieving that goal cannot be the end all be all goal for your life. There’s got to be more. And there is, because there’s no end to how much you can grow, learn and do! This is true for anything we do, but I’m talking about how this applies to photography.
It’s common to feel this way because, as Greg Anderson put it, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
Whether you are just starting out on your photography journey or you’ve been shooting for awhile, I’m sure you’ll at least find some of the ideas below to benefit you:
If you just want some personal growth challenges, try these ideas:
- Post to your photo blog regularly.
- Start a weekly or daily shooting goal, such as a P52 or 365. You can often find other photographers that are doing the same thing, and join in on a blog circle.
- Choose a new skill to master (shooting in backlight, OCF, low light, etc.).
If you’re ready to add in some challenges, try the following:
- Submit your photos for challenges or contests.
- Submit your photos to blogs that feature photographers.
- Submit your photos to juried exhibitions.
- Have your photos put on display.
- Take a workshop.
- Get mentored.
- Have your portfolio reviewed.
If you’re really wanting to push yourself, aim high with these ideas:
- Apply for CMpro.
- Become a Certified Professional Photographer.
As you can see, each of the ideas above push you to put forth your very best, so even if you don’t end up getting your CPP certification you’ll still come out with a better portfolio and a better photographer.
It’s great to always have some sort of goal to strive for as this will keep you from becoming stagnant and bored. It will push you to always continue to learn and grow in your craft. And, perhaps the biggest goal of all is to not be afraid of failure or rejection, especially when submitting your work to blogs, contests, exhibitions, etc. You must be okay with the idea that not everyone will feel your work is suitable for their platform but that doesn’t make you any less of a photographer.
“I think that you have to believe in your destiny; that you will succeed, you will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours – so enjoy the view.” – Michael York
Just keep striving to learn and grow and do your best. Then, a year from now, look back at your journey and see how far you’ve come.