Professional Development: It Matters to Photographers Too

For many years we have heard about the importance of professional development in our careers. Much is made of the benefits of team building, extended training, personal growth programs and continual upgrading. Often we think only of these things from a viewpoint of the large office-based corporations, but professional development is also very important to the art-based businesses too, and that definitely includes photographers. No matter whether you are a full-time photo business owner or a part-time hobbyist-pro, increasing or expanding your skills is a must in the competitive photo market today. If you aren’t moving forward then you’re standing on the verge of going in reverse.
To be clear, professional development is not only about making different kinds of images or working with a new client base. Many times it is about aligning your own inner self with the goals of the business, or better said, aligning the business results you desire with your personality and ideals. Perhaps there is a change needed in the way promotions are done or presented, or the media that they are being delivered in. Even more often creating a stronger relationship with your clients and better understanding their needs is the priority. We can get tunnel-vision by focusing on one part of the business to the point where we don’t see the disconnect in another area. By participating in some form of learning project, we can most likely get realigned, and in so doing become reenergized, much the way taking a vacation can reinvigorate the body and spirit in our daily lives.
So what methods do I use for developing new ideas or skills, or to get that needed realignment? There are so many great ways for a photographer to find new direction, increase client confidence, provide a unique or enhanced experience or create new or fresh art. Online groups are very common and can provide insight into the market or current trends. Courses are available in many disciplines and experience levels, from some of today’s leading photographers. These can be taken online too, but are perhaps best experienced in a workshop environment where there are directed opportunities to learn new skills and interact with other photogs and of course the instructor/facilitator. One of my personal favourites though is reading books or blogs from others photographers within my areas of interest (and sometimes from totally unrelated disciplines). For me the printed word sinks in more easily, and if the ideas are supported by photos or illustrations even better. And let’s not forget the value of having a visit with a photographer friend or mentor…in a casual setting where ideas may flow without any agenda.
Whether you are in a large and busy company setting or working on a personal project, professional development is applicable to most business ventures. What is your most meaningful way to expand yourself professionally?

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