How To Develop A Growth Mindset In Photography

How To Develop A Growth Mindset In Photography



Editor's note: This month only – enroll in my new course Finding your Creative Voice for just $19! Click here to learn more. Thanks for reading, Andrew.


In her book Mindset Dr. Carol Dweck explores the idea that people have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset in areas like intelligence, creativity and talent at various skills (for example, photography).

A person with a fixed mindset believes that they have a finite amount of talent or intelligence and that there isn’t anything they can do to change that. They think that no matter how much they try to learn or improve themselves all they’re doing is trying to make the most of what they have got.

But a person with a growth mindset believes that they can develop their intelligence, creativity and talent. They understand that becoming better involves hard work and more learning, but that it’s possible to achieve excellence in these and other areas.

When it comes to photography, which mindset do you have?

If you look at the work of professional photographers and think ‘I could never achieve that’ then I have some news. You’re wrong. 

You’re not limited by your perception of how much talent or creativity you have. Nor are you limited by what other people might say about you or think about you.

If you can learn, and put the hard work in, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Fifteen years ago I didn’t know how to write an article or a book. But I learned, and now I make a living as a writer. I didn’t know how to write, edit, design, publish and market a photography ebook. But I learned, and my books have helped tens of thousands of photographers.

Before that, there was a time when I didn’t know how to use Photoshop (I first tried it in 1997) or Lightroom (I started with Lightroom 3 in 2010). I also remember buying my first digital SLR in 2006 and having to ask a friend what a Raw file was. It’s fair to say I’ve made progress since then.

Developing a growth mindset

How do you move from the fixed mindset to the growth mindset? Here is a list of attributes that help, based on my observations of people who are successful at what they do (you may be able to think of  others):

  • They have curiosity. Successful people are driven by curiosity. What happens if I do that? How does this work? How did that person do that? Curiosity drives us to find the answers to things we don’t know.
  • They aren’t afraid of failure. Sometimes people are afraid to do or try something in case it goes wrong. Why? Learning is a continual process of trying, failing, tweaking and trying again until you are successful. If you try and fail, all that really happened is that you found a way that didn’t worked.
  • They work hard. This takes discipline. You have to work smart and manage your time well. People with the growth mindset understand that there are very few successful get-rich quick schemes. Success is the result of years of learning and hard work.
  • They love what they do. It’s hard to put in the effort required to become good at something if you are not motivated and don’t enjoy what you do.
  • They like to learn. A growth mindset requires a desire to learn new skills and the discipline to find the time to study. Another way to look at it is if you’re not learning, you’re falling behind those who are. I’ve currently got several writing and photography courses at Domestika to work my way through. Even pro photographers talk about learning new photography skills and doing personal projects to expand their creativity. Learning is part of the creative process, so embrace it.
  • They have a positive attitude. It’s hard to learn and to grow if you have a negative outlook on life.
  • They take action. Seth Godin talks a lot about shipping. That’s his term for getting something finished. The growth mindset requires that you don’t just think about something – you take action and make it happen.
  • They don’t pay much attention to the news. The 24 hour news cycle is toxic and harmful to your creativity and mental well-being. They also don’t read comments on website articles or pay attention to negative people on social media. In other words, they seek out positive inputs, not harmful ones.
  • They set goals. A goal has a measurable outcome and a specific target date. For example, ‘I want to have a photo published in a photography magazine by the end of 2033’ is a specific, measurable goal.
  • They network. They get to know people who can help them achieve their goals or learn more.

Make a plan

We’re approaching the end of the year, which is a natural time to make new plans and start thinking about what you’d like to achieve in 2023.

My article How to Be a Better Photographer This Year has lots of good ideas to help get you started. My new course, Finding Your Creative Voice (open for enrollment in December only) will help you explore voice and style more deeply.

In the meantime, you can explore some of the ideas in this article further by following the links below.

Further reading

Finding Your Creative Voice course

Creative photography ebooks

About Andrew S. Gibson

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer, publisher, traveler, workshop leader and photographer based in the UK. He started writing about photography while traveling in Bolivia, and has been published in many prestigious photography magazines including EOS magazine, where he worked as a Writer and Technical Editor for two years. He is inspired by meeting new people, seeing new places and having new experiences. Check out his photography ebooks here.

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