In photography, there is such a thing as putting the cart before the horse. And by that, I mean that it’s easy to go out and take photographs with no particular goal in mind. But goals are incredibly important.
And there are so many of them that you can pursue! Some photographers take photographs to enter into competitions. Others dream of seeing their work gracing gallery walls. Those interested in photojournalism are creating stories in the hopes of seeing them published, and still, others want to publish in art magazines, lifestyle publications, and elsewhere. Books, art fairs, calendar publication, online print sales—the possibilities are endless. Everyone is going to pursue something different, and many of us will likely pursue a few of these different avenues.
It’s incredibly important to figure out what your photography goals are—and to stop and reassess those goals on occasion. And that’s what I mean by putting the cart before the horse. Goals are what will guide your photography. Without them, you’ll be creating aimlessly, without any sort of direction.
To see what I mean, look at the example of the photojournalist. If this is your path, then you’ll likely spend a lot of your photography time chasing stories and putting together groups of images that tell the tale in its entirety. Portrait artists will find people and photograph them. Fine art photographers will study the work of other fine artists, and they’ll set off on a journey to create their own impressions and abstractions. A person who wants to win awards will be out chasing that photograph that is truly groundbreaking.
This is what makes your goals so important. They’re your guidepost—and we all need one because this is the best way for us to develop our skills. You’ve likely heard the phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none.” That’s what happens without clearly defined goals. It becomes easier to drift from one thing to another without pausing to really polish a particular technique or to really study a certain genre.
Goals help you to pursue mastery. They require to perfect whatever subset of techniques you’ll use to achieve those goals. And doubtless, once you’ve made those dreams a reality, you’ll come up with an entirely new set of photography goals to chase. Accomplishing and achieving—it can be addictive! So if you haven’t sat down to think about what your photography goals are? Now is a good time to do so. Find the aspects of photography that you most want to pursue, and set off on a journey to make those things happen. Don’t worry about the number of goals or the difficulty. Some will only have one goal while others may have several, and some prefer small goals along the way while others may spend years chasing a bigger goal. There is no right or wrong answer to this since it is up to each individual to decide for themselves. But whatever you decide, you will find that the objectives you set for yourself will help you to focus—and thus, to grow in photography.