© Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis: To be confident. I’ve been shooting long enough to see current trends in our industry come and go. Although aware of these changing tides; I’ve always tried to continue to refine (and further define) my unique point of view. I’ve seen other photographers try to bend their aesthetic to fit in the mold of the current flavor of the week. For me, part of staying confident (and true to your vision) is standing your ground and doing what feels true to yourself.
Jamie Diamond: Don’t be afraid to take risks or to get it wrong sometimes, your successes and your failures are equally valuable.
Ricky Rhodes: I’m learning more and more to just stay true to yourself. This might sound like common sense, but I think being a good person goes a long way in this industry. Photography is based around relationships, it’s all about who you know and who knows you. People want to work with people they enjoy being around.
Thomas Alleman: As I consider not only my own career, but the successful careers of my friends and colleagues in this field, I find that the greatest resource one has is his or her own character, and the biggest lesson one learns is that that character is the only constant advantage you can wield.
Joan Lobis Brown: Are you persistent? Are you driven? Do you read novels? Are you a gearhead? Are you empathic? Are you generous? Can you take a punch?
How are you communication skills? Can you write a compelling paragraph about your work for a grant application or a gallery submission? Can you explain yourself to people on the street? Can you persuade someone to let you photograph them, if they’re initially wary?
Can you get on an off a plane with competence, and find a location in a strange town and wrestle a shoot into shape? Can you transmit pictures on deadline? Can you deal with asshole editors? Are you a hothead? Are you a wimp? When the job goes bad, will you blame your assistant? Will you stay up all night for two straight days to finish a project?
Can you weather the hard times that beset all creative entrepreneurs? Do you have backbone? Are you flexible? Can you make short-term sacrifices for long-term goals? Can you diversify? Can you teach? Can you take assignments? What’s your feeling about money and material possessions? At what point will you begin choosing convenience over excellence, and comfort over accomplishment?
These are character issues. They’re about your skill-set as a grown-up person. The greatest lesson I ever learned was that these are where your power and advantage and success will come from, over time.