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A short story about top-performers.

Humans have an innate sense to both compete and collaborate, which is the foundation of some of the most impactful human achievements.

Self-improvement is a never-ending journey and a sign of a young mind and a free spirit, yet it requires discipline and perseverance. Sabrina started learning about photography long before she could buy a decent camera, and she has never stopped learning since then.


You can tell someone's passion by the way they talk about it. If you ever ask Sabrina any question about photography, you will soon understand what I mean. She is naturally curious about almost any aspect of the photography industry, from her beloved Canon cameras and lenses to the trends behind art and commercial applications, new techs, and now AI's constantly expanding possibilities and capabilities.


A pivotal moment in Sabrina's professional development was when she first learned about the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and their certification program (CPP). She obtained her CPP shortly after and has embraced the program to foster her continuous education and support the PPA on its mission to improve the lives and practices of all photographers across the country. 


Soon after, Sabrina was on her way to pursue her Master of Photography with the PPA, which at the time required rigorous competition at IPC, the International Photography Competition. This stringent format meant that participants would only have one single opportunity a year to present no more than four images, and only if any of those images merited in its category would they score points from those toward their masters.


It wasn't unusual for photographers to work for several years until they earned enough credits to obtain their Master's degree.


Sabrina obtained her Master's in as few as four participations at IPC. That was not an accident. In order to achieve the needed level of excellence, she had to fully embrace photographic competition as a process to improve her images and a path to self-development.


Along this path, Sabrina discovered and joined institutions such as the Texas Professional Photographers Association (TPPA) and the Professional Photographers Guild of Houston (PPGH). Both of these organizations provided unique opportunities to hone her skills, and the Houston guild print competition especially created a nurturing environment for trying her images every month. 


While all the above sounds like a lot, there is still more to it.


Many photographers who participate in these competitions create images specifically for competition, meaning they either work with models or take time apart only for this purpose. Sabrina, a busy business owner who makes a living from her craft, embraced a different idea and took material from her day-to-day work into the competition space.


This approach allowed her to learn and improve the type of commercial and portrait images she created every day for real clients, which resulted in growing recognition and client loyalty.


While telling the story today makes it sound like an easier and more obvious path, the reality was full of frustration and a good degree of fighting stigmas. Real estate images were not well understood in the competition space, and they were no one favorites as many photographers did not consider them good storytelling material.


It is hard enough to see your work criticized, sometimes with reason and sometimes without, as to have to lift an additional barrier by working outside the norm, and yet Sabrina once again persevered. It is hard for me not to brag about or feel proud of her achievements.


While many people would pursue competition and awards as a way of commercial distinction or recognition, much of Sabrina's intent was toward self-development and the continuous chase of the next frontier


Finding one's passion is a revealing moment; it does not happen overnight, but it creates a sense of purpose, opens a path to action, and provides an understanding of where one fits in the Universe. However, that same passion could be as much a blessing as a curse.


Every step on Sabrina's professional journey has seemed, at some point, a giant and too-distant objective—something she felt she could never reach. But then, after she gets there, she feels like it wasn't hard enough or that far away, and as soon as she lands, Sabrina rises up again and flies towards the horizon.


Over all these years, it has been a true privilege to see Sabrina in action, and I can only imagine where she will go next.

Author: Emilio Castro | Published: March 2024


"I've been forty years discovering that the queen of all colors is black."

Henri Mattise; 1869-1954.

French painter and visual artist.

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