One of the best ways to improve yourself is by observing the habits of those you find to be inspirational and talented. In doing so, we hope to learn what it is they have done that helped them achieve success. Of course, there's no set route to the top of the photography game, but if you were to do a case study on the habits of some our favorite photographers chances are you'd find some very similar habits among them.
1. On being a photographer. If there's one thing accomplished photographers have in common it's their inability to leave work mode. Even when facing the world without a camera affixed to their hand, true photographers are always studying the light around them, composing would-be photographs in their mind, and taking mental notes for future projects.
2. The College Try. This one is as simple as understanding that if you want to be the best, you must be willing to give your best at all times. You will often hear a talented photographer say, ‘As soon as I snapped the image, I knew it was the one.' This is because they had a plan, knew in their minds exactly what they wanted to accomplish inside the photograph, gave 125% to it, and didn't settle on anything less.
3. Erasing laziness. As we all know, not all habits are good habits. Coming up with excuses on why we shouldn't go out shooting is easy for most of us mortals. But skilled photographers didn't become that way by letting laziness and procrastination get the best of them. They went out and photographed every chance they had, even when they didn't feel like it. Especially when they didn't feel like it.
“It’s always happening, and you wait for it to happen, and sometimes you just have to force it to happen. The hardest part is the forcing, of course. You don’t want to have to do that. But, we take a working class approach to it – it’s a responsibility, something you get up every day feeling some obligation for, to yourself, to the people you love, to keep doing, even if the inspiration isn't quite there.” – Jesse Elliot, writer/musician, on the creative process.
4. Give Back What Is Taken. As a beginner and even in their prime, the best photographers are always trying to learn from others, just like we are doing here. At some point along their journey, they found themselves confident enough to start giving back to the photography community all that they have taken from it. They know art is not just about getting inspired, it is about sharing that inspiration and creativity to build the community.
5. Surrounding Yourself. You've heard the old saying about birds of a feather flocking together, right? It applies here, too. Ever notice how great photographers always keep friends around that are also great photographers? By surrounding themselves with first-rate talent, they have a built-in support system, collaborators, source of inspiration, and an unwavering sense of drive to keep doing.
6. Critical Thinking. Being able accept and grow from feedback, whether criticism or complimentary, is an essential ingredient to add to the mix. It's important to look critically at your work to find ways to improve your skills and it's equally important to be able recognize your strengths, something which great photographers do with every shot.
7. Specialize. Each gifted photographer is known for doing a specific type of work whether it be landscapes, street photography, or otherwise. They found their niche and are committed to it. That's not to say you can't or even shouldn't diversify your skillets by learning new things, but one genre will resonate with you in way like none of the others. Focus on your passion first and it will be more of an evident improvement in your work than just about anything else.
Try adopting as many as these habits into your routine to see how they can help you reach your goals. You may be surprised at how effective it can be just to put yourself into the mindset of moving forward and taking control of your artistic growth.