Ways for us to grow in our craft are all around us. We just have to listen. Constructive criticism is the key to growth, it's learning how to receive it that you will fully develop in the ways you wish to. Rome wasn't built in a day and anything you have a passion for won't be spot on day 1 you start. It takes time, many mistakes, and possibly even frustration. Use each session as a building block, seek out honest criticism, only then will you truly start to grow. Hearing "this is awesome" truly only hinders that process unless it really is a technically sound photo. (exposure, composition etc) Style is completely yours to hone and create yourself (please don't mistake that for my 'technically sound' comment). I've found through tutelage that I've been able to find the photographer I want to be. I've been able to see my style, instead of wanting others styles.
I have had such the pleasure of having an amazing mentor over this past year. I am apart of a site where I share some of my photos seeking out honest critique. When I finally got it I was rather resistant and my ego was notably hurt . I had to sit back and truthfully comprehend what was being offered to me, a chance to truly grow. Here was a person who was giving me what I've been seeking for a while, someone with the knowledge of the craft who could point out my huge mistakes and help me grow. I can truthfully say he is one of the biggest influences in my photography career being what it is today. He gave me the dose of 'humility' and kick in the butt I needed. Without that I would have never sought to get better or focus my attention on the details I was lacking.
For any of my friends who are doing photography always seek out the individuals who will tell you, your photo is less then perfect. Those individuals will help you get to the level you want to be at. It's always great to hear "This is amazing." it doesn't always help us know where to go from that point. With each session you do, you should be growing. Each session should provide a new 'favorite' portfolio photo. If you can find a photographer with amazing knowledge and one who is willing to share it with you. Soak it all in! It's truly rare occasion when photographers share their 'secrets' of the business. So if someones offering it to you. Don't take it to heart, and don't' see it as them being 'mean' see it as them caring, them thinking you have what it takes to give you the time of day to help you grow. If you take what you do seriously you'll seek out whatever means is possible to help you grow. Blogs, books, forums, websites for sharing your work.
Another huge help over these past few months has been Jesselynn of www.jqweddings.com/home/ …. She has been such a phenomenal peer to go to. To talk 'shop' with. She is a person who is sweet, bubbly, but knows her stuff. She also knows who she is as a photographer. I gawk at her whimsical fine art photos, at the passion she captures with each photo, the vibrant yet soft feel. I just want to say Jesse thank you as well. To my mentor, you have been such a phenomenal help. I look forward to what the future brings and what new things I'm able to learn. Take every opportunity to grow as it comes at you. I share this with you all because I know I have a lot of friends who are starting out or who are looking to take that next step and make their photos into something that is truly awe inspiring.
Also for those of you who have a handle on photography. It can be such a fulfilling feeling to help others out. Being a mentor could help change someone with the 'gift' of photography. I always think of my mentor and what he's done for me, the tools he put in my hands and said "Now work". He will always be in my mind with every milestone and goal I reach.