There are three main types of people who help you grow professionally, and you need to surround yourself with these people.
1. People who support you emotionally. This includes friends, family, and colleagues who want to see you succeed and help talk you up when you are feeling low. These people are key to helping morale when things are working out perfectly in your business and life pursuits.
2. People who support you professionally. This includes your assistants, your creative team (hair/makeup/etc), your agent, and others that have a vested professional interest in your business growth.
3. People who challenge you to be better. This includes your 'competition' (other photographers) and also mentors who urge you to push your creative boundaries. These people make you feel dissatisfied with the status quo, and thus push you to bigger/better things.
Take a look at this list, and figure out which type of people you are missing in your life... and try to fill this void.
When speaking on the Women in Contemporary Photography Panel at WPPI, one of the themes I noticed is how important it is to delegate your business tasks and also to surround yourself with people who support your career.
I'm not just talking about having positive friends and family who support you (I talked about that in a previous post)-- but surrounding yourself with a strong business or creative team that takes you to the next level.
I loved that one of the other panelists said feel free to hire house cleaners to take care of your domestic chores. I'm not sure I personally go that far (yet) but I get exactly what she is saying. As a small business owner, my business is my life-- it is my best friend, my worst enemy, my child, my love. It devours every single second of my life. If I can find ways to free up more time for my business or even personal growth, the better. For this reason I am trying more and more to outsource things... especially things I don't enjoy (like accounting!).
Yet looking beyond the obvious, you need to surround yourself with a strong business and creative team. In fashion photography this is particularly important... have a hair stylist and makeup artist who sees your vision. Having a wardrobe stylist who helps you pull together a cohesive concept. Having an assistant who knows what you need before you even say it!
I also try to surround myself with other photographers and creatives I respect. I am trying to make a point of doing this during the year... especially collaborating with the amazing photographer Brooke Shaden in the future (workshops, maybe even a project together!).
I had this dream last week. Its silly, but it inspired this blog post. I had the dream that am my current age (25) I was asked to be on a middle school girls basketball team. All the girls were short, uncoordinated, young and many overweight (still shedding baby fat). I was a starter on the team-- the BEST on the team actually... but I was unhappy and bored. Whats the point of being a star and getting praised only because the people around me are mediocre!? This completely applies to photography.
I don't mean this at all as an insult to my fellow college classmates, but when I was in college I fell complacent because I was one of the best in the class. I consistently produced some of the best photography work, consistently won the school photography awards, and consistently got praise from my professors. While this sounds like a good thing, it wasn't. It made me complacent... I felt good about where I was and didn't push myself hard enough. Then all of a sudden when I graduated I was out in the 'real world' and my competition wasn't my classmates... it was every photographer in my market, or even in the world! I had been too content and hadn't pushed myself.
If you are a professional photographer in a small market where you are 'the best'... its easy to feel complacent and not push yourself to improve as well.
So really the takeaway from this post is to take a look at the people you surround yourself with personally and professionally. Always surround yourself with people who support you. Surround yourself with people who challenge you. Push yourself to never stop learning and perfecting your craft. If you stop learning and stop pushing yourself, you are falling behind.
Image shown: I selected this image because the roots of the tree are its supports, it foundation. The people you surround yourself with are part of your own support. This image was taken in Balboa Park, San Diego... and this shot is a mix of location and studio on location lighting.