When you need to find out how to do something new, do you tend to look straight for the shortcut?

Just give me the blueprint – and I can do it, too!

While there are things that can be taught — and some corners that can be cut by learning from those who have gone before you — there are certain skills or traits that will take you much father then a blueprint ever can.

I’ve been involved with stock photography for the past 10 years. And, while it’s been amazing and I’ve earned a nice amount of money from it, I’ve found myself having to re-visit three critical principles:

1. Sense of wonder: As a photographer, you need to always be curious to know more, to learn, and to grow. Photography is not something you can learn in a day, a week or a year. It’s something that is ever-growing, changing, and developing within each one of us.

When you maintain a sense of wonder, your photography can grow deeper and better over time. When I look back at some of my old photos, even many I shot just a few years ago (that I thought represented my good work back then), I can tell I have changed, grown, and become a better photographer over time (at least to my eye).

2. Flexibility to transform: You may start out whole-heartedly running in one direction, but things change… Maybe it’s the local market you’re shooting in or the management of a newspaper you shoot for… or maybe it’s you. Any number of things, whether subtle or massive, can change your course.

As a photographer, you may need to change tactics, to re-create and transform who you are as a photographer, who you shoot for or what market you serve. When that happens, you really only have two options: change course or hang up your camera.

The great thing about photography is that there are so many possibilities for where and how your photos can be used. So rather then hanging up the camera, just take a new road and see what amazing adventures await you.

3. Persistence: As photographers, we must take that sense of wonder, the desire to learn and grow, and our willingness to be flexible and transform, and wrap them up in a bow of persistence. If you fail at this one thing, I pretty much guarantee you that photography will never be much more then a fun distraction or fleeting hobby for you.

Photography takes practice and not just when you’re getting started but as you progress, too. You should be constantly shooting and challenging yourself to shoot in new and different ways, maybe with new equipment or in a different environment.

For example, if you’re always shooting with natural light, try setting up some flashes or studio lights to play with, and work with it till you get the results you want or are surprised by. Pushing the edges of your experience allows you to grow and expand your knowledge and skill base.

Persistence is what will keep you going to get in the game (or keep you in the game). Many photographers were turned down by stock agencies multiple times before they got in the door. If they hadn’t persisted, then the answer would have never been yes, and their photos would still be collecting dust on a hard-drive somewhere.

Photographers are not born — they are made. And persistence or perseverance is a crucial factor for any good photographer.

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