The professional photography journey is certainly a rewarding one, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. My own personal journey has been one of hills and valleys, creative breakthroughs and even feeling like I'm in a rut from time to time.
Even the most successful photographers have had low points in their careers, and it's important to recognize and even share these experiences. It's also important to understand that even in times of frustration, there are things we can do to -- as Walt Disney said -- "keep moving forward".
1. Take Pride in the Journey
The single most important habit you can develop, as a photographer, is to enjoy the journey. Be prepared for occasional potholes and boulder scrambling, hold the view from your peaks close to your heart, and take pride in your work. If you truly love your job, professional photography is a never-ending process. Treasure the process itself as much as any accomplishment.
2. Have a Camera on Your Person, Always
Whether it's your trusty iPhone, a little travel camera, or your workhorse, have a camera handy at all times. Challenge yourself to take at least one photo every single day. Remember to shoot in all settings: artificial light, natural light, shade, clouds, high noon, snow, and every weather and lighting situation in between. Every photographer you look up to started at the beginning.
"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." - Stephen King
3. Be Comfortable in Your Skin
Successful photographers embrace their personal style and don't attempt to ride the constantly changing tides of trends. Developing and growing your style may incorporate aspects of new styles or trends but you'll get to a point where you know your style. Being happy with your method of shooting and editing will make your work more genuine and appear more natural. Find what works for you and work with clients who love what you do.
4. Indulge in Personal Projects
If you're a professional photographer, I can't stress the importance of this habit enough. What you turn something artistic and fun into your career, it can quickly start to feel like ... well ... work. Make sure you are capturing imagery for yourself and it'll be easier to trudge through 19 fall family sessions all your clients want delivered before mid-November, so they can order holiday cards. Whether you participate in a daily "365" project, a monthly shooting theme, find something that's just for you.
5. Never Stop Learning
Always keep learning. Keep up with education and find education you look forward to. Sign up for a workshop, pick up a great new photography book, or attend a conference or a summit. If you work better with someone keeping tabs on you, seek out a community of other photographers and check in, find a mentor, and even work together.
6. Print Your Pictures
This is so important, especially as many photographers move toward digital collections. Whether personal or professional, get your work in your hands and on the walls/coffee table/shelves! Decide on a realistic interval at which you can print your work, then stick to it.
7. Have Fun
Purchase or rent a non-traditional lens, experiment with a new actions collection -- or come up with your own new actions, work in lighting situations you aren't accustomed to ... Have you completed a "Day in the Life" series? Participate in a challenge or find an Instagram account that posts daily/weekly/monthly hashtags you can contribute to!