How to Develop the Portrait Photographer’s Mindset


There comes a time in any person's life when they feel they've learned enough. Whether someone is a doctor, a football player, or a person with many interests, they've encountered this common obstacle. As a photographer, it's very easy to get stuck in a bubble of safety and comfort. You might have discovered a specific method of taking photos and now neglect to acquire new ways of working. Perhaps you feel you've reached a stable point in your career which doesn't require experimentation with other genres. What if your way of thinking was challenged? Portrait photographers, specifically, have to develop a healthy mindset which will help them find their style, attract new clients, and become more observant thinkers. Without it, they'll find little room to improve.

While it's fulfilling to acknowledge your achievements and be proud of your hard work, it's very important to go beyond that. Setting new goals, analyzing the works of other artists, and developing a growth mindset are all decisions that will get you far in the world of creativity. As you develop the growth mindset, artistic nightmares and doubts will transform into defeatable objects. Eventually, you'll find yourself thriving in unimaginable ways.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

But what is a growth mindset and how does one develop it? First, let's familiarize ourselves with the opposite of this positive mindset: a fixed mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that they were born with a specific amount of talent and intellect. Thinking that only talent will get them to their destination (the destination often being success), they focus intensely on their fixed traits and seek to prove themselves to others continuously. Bearers of fixed mindsets value the idea of inborn talent over effort. Oftentimes, this mindset leaves very little room for personal, emotional, and creative growth. A photographer with a fixed mindset will be less drawn to learning new things and experimenting with new genres. This lack of progress might leave them in an uncreative loop.

In contrast, a growth mindset revolves around the belief that with effort, anything can be achieved. People with growth mindsets focus on improving the talent and intellect they already have in order to reach new heights. A photographer with this type of mindset will be open to making creative mistakes, immersing themselves in brand new lessons, and discovering fresh ways to improve their portfolio. Though people with growth mindsets also experience phases of self-doubt and fear, they seek opportunities to grow in spite of those things.

Developing a growth mindset is possible regardless of your current mindset, age, or circumstances. There's an infinite amount of potential in this way of thinking; working on your personal growth as a photographer will enhance other parts of your life. The more you seek to learn, the more open-minded you'll be in other areas of life. For example, setting art-related goals for yourself will make you ambitious; this, in turn, will encourage you to be equally motivated when it comes to your other hobbies, your job, or your education. There's a great amount of ways to develop this mindset, many of which you'll learn right now.

Don't fear failure

Running away from imperfections seems to be a natural instinct. If you find yourself doing this often, don't be ashamed. Almost everyone, including your favourite artists, do this occasionally. However, acknowledging both your strengths and your weaknesses will benefit you more than simply running away all the time. Focusing solely on one of these will make you feel either too confident or too self-conscious. If you encounter a problem (for example, running out of creative ideas for a portrait shoot), don't beat yourself up. Instead, ask yourself how you can get past the issue and learn something useful simultaneously. Your favourite photographers also went through a phase when they had to learn, fail, and learn again. Don't forget that.

Feed your curiosity by learning

Asking questions will further develop your growth mindset. The more you ask and discover, the more you'll learn. Accumulating knowledge will transform you into an incredibly skilled photographer. If you come across an eye-catching conceptual portrait, analyze it and ask questions. Why does it stand out to you? Is there a way you could make your portraits just as sharp, vibrant, dreamy, or something entirely different? If you're not sure how a certain effect has been achieved, ask the creator or research it. If you can't find the answer, watch online tutorials, attend workshops or read some books. These will provide you with answers to many of your questions. Most importantly, don't give up if you don't find your answer right away. The process of finding a solution will improve your patience and enhance your will to learn.

Acknowledge the importance of goals and hard work

A growth mindset involves understanding the value of strengthening one's skills. Regardless of your level of experience, there's always room for more knowledge and more strength. To strengthen anything, practice is required. But how is a photographer supposed to practice, and for how long? Students studying for exams use a handy little method called SMART. This can be used by portrait photographers, too:

Specific: What do you want to achieve as a portrait photographer? Do you want to earn a specific amount of money by the end of this month? If so, how can you achieve that? How much should you charge? Who should you connect with?
Measurable: How will you feel when you reach your goal? Make sure you have a strong purpose in mind as you think about this.
Attainable: Is your goal realistic? Will you be able to fit this new dream into your schedule and not overwhelm yourself? While these questions are very important, don't let them limit you. Your dreams can be as large as you desire, but don't forget to break them into small, achievable chunks.
Relevant: Why exactly do you want to reach this goal? Is this something that you truly want? This is a mind-opening question which will compel you to question why exactly you're chasing a specific dream. Do you just want to please someone or do you truly want to improve?
Timely: Create deadlines for yourself. These will keep you accountable and will serve as mini achievements. Reward yourself whenever you get closer to your goal.

Whatever you do, don't let the rules limit you. Treat S.M.A.R.T. as a helpful outline that will help you think more about your purpose and what exactly it is that you want to achieve.

Mastering a new skill takes a lot of time. Becoming a better portrait photographer requires a lot of effort. While these facts might intimidate you, know that the destination is only a part of the joy of being a portrait photographer. At the same time, allow yourself to be humbled by the sheer amount of work that's put into a skill. With a growth mindset, you'll become successful. At the same time, don't forget to experience the beauty of the journey itself as you attempt to reach your goals. Remain curious, open to failure, enthusiastic, and humble, and you'll develop a brilliant portrait photographer's mindset.

Good luck!

About Author

Taissia is a professional photographer and educator.

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