You’ve worked hard and dreamed for ages, and you’ve finally done it: you’re a fully-fledged equestrian portrait photographer. So that’s that, right? All set, and you’ll be happy to be where you are now forever.
Except, well…that’s not actually how it tends to work. By nature, we all seek out the next challenge, and as a self-starting creative type, you’re more likely than anyone to want that. So how can you continue to develop and grow, both personally and professionally, without totally rebooting your business and starting from scratch?
The key is to constantly revisit your goals on both a micro- and a macro-level. A micro-level goal is something small but significant – it might be to master shooting with a small prime lens, or to create the perfect black-and-white edit. A macro goal is something much bigger, with longer-term effects: you might want to branch out into editorial photography, or start doing weddings, or become a travel blogger.
Your personal life will be studded with big and small goals, too. Maybe in the long term you want to buy a fixer-upper in the Cotswolds; perhaps in the short-term you want to learn to speak French. In either case, all your goals are important, because they light a fire in you that’s so essential to who you are. Working towards completing them will offer shifts in your perspective that allow you to constantly morph your reality towards something new and wholly satisfying.
Feeling stuck? It happens to us all, and it’s usually best fixed by seeking out inspiration. Read a book, watch a film, take a weekend trip somewhere new, or simply explore your city with fresh eyes. Sign up for a class to learn something you’ve never tried. Download a podcast about a subject you know nothing about.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is one crucial way to continue your development, but working within it is really important, too. How can you take your business, or your work, to the next level? Can you try a new style of photography, or sign up for a programme that allows you to travel and learn, or find a mentor? How about becoming a mentor? It can be as simple as trying out an online tutorial for a new editing trick.
None of this necessarily means that you’ll abandon the new career you’ve worked so hard to develop. Quite the opposite, in fact: all your experiences will shape who you are as a photographer. Maybe you’ll finally decide to read War and Peace (it’s okay to skim the war bits, they’re kind of dry), but that doesn’t mean you need to become an expert on Russian military strategy – you could just be inspired to shoot a winter scene inspired by hussars and noble ladies.
Taking a course in editorial fashion photography doesn’t mean you need to work for Vogue and become the next Annie Liebovitz – but how interesting would it be to combine what you learn with your equestrian pursuits? There aren’t many horsey photographers shooting in that high-end studio style; maybe that’s your niche. Or perhaps you’ll pick up a creative hobby, like painting or embroidery, and discover a well of ideas for mixed-media pieces.
The moral? Never stop exploring, and never stop finding new ways to feed your hungry soul. It could just lead to your best work yet.