Posted at 12:12h
in Tips & Tutorials
I remember when my first camera and the included kit lens landed in my hands and I took some ‘really artistic’ up close shots of my daughter’s face and that was it:
I was a photographer.
I truly believe there isn’t much you have to do to be a photographer, other than have a camera and take photos, but there is a distinct line between being a photographer and a good photographer.
(Now, we could replace ‘good‘ with successful, talented, great, inspired, etc, but let’s just keep it simple for simple’s sake.)
I am largely self-taught and I made many, many, many mistakes. If you were to ask me, ‘Adrienne, What are some things you wish you would have known when you were beginning this odd and marvelous adventure?’
I would say:
*‘No’ should be your favourite word. Everyone and their mother will come to you asking/begging/demanding photos because ‘Dang, you’ve got a nice camera!’, but here’s the kicker: They aren’t going to pay you. They won’t even offer. They assume because you are new you shouldn’t charge or since you guys are cousins, thrice removed, they should get the ‘friends and family discount‘. Let’s clear things up. In no way am I telling you to start asking for monetary payment as soon as you attach the camera strap. You do actually need to/have to learn how to use the contraption first. But, once you are past the ‘practice’ part and you have a clear grasp on how to make photos you are proud of/have a style down pat, there comes a time where you have to tell those
pesky neighbors, no. And mean it. (Also, during your ‘trial period’, it is still okay to say NO to people asking for photos. Don’t bog yourself down. Don’t get burnt out.)
Just say no. You’ll thank yourself later.
*Take Workshops. I’m about to repeat myself, I’m mostly self-taught, except for the one workshop/mentor session I did with the incredibly talented Sara Renee (and you should definitely click her name). I credit Sara Renee (SO MUCH) for deciding to become a photographer. All through college and the early days of my marriage, I’d stalk her Myspace, way too often, and say to myself, I want to do this. I want to take photos. So, I imagine my husband got extremely tired of hearing it (every day) so he bought me a camera and booked a mentor session with my idol. (It was/still is a full blown Gob Bluth & Tony Wonder worshipping situation.) So, I toted my baby with me and learned a whole lot. Now, since you’ve gone and drooled over Sara Renee’s work, you are probably realizing that our work is not similar. At all. Here’s the thing, I didn’t start out wanting to do crazy faerie tale shoots. I just wanted to take photos of my daughter and Sara Renee was/is my favourite photographer. Learning from someone who’s work you admire is probably the BEST way to get to where you want to be fast. It’s like a cheat sheet. They can tell/show you exactly how they do things and there’s your answers in black and white.
Find a mentor and take their workshops/intern with them.
*Equipment DOES matter. Here’s the truth: I’ve seen beautiful images from iPhones and Leicas. You don’t have to have the biggest/newest/most expensive equipment to create great images. BUT, having the right equipment is important. What is right for you may not be right for someone else, so don’t base your needs on someone else’s, focus on what YOU need. If you want your image to look like images that were taken with a 200mm lens, you will not get the same shot with an 18-55mm lens. Invest in your equipment, but don’t buy pieces just because some blog on the internet told you to.
Invest in equipment that aids you in getting the ‘look’ YOU want.
*Find your own way. Not every technique is going to work for every photographer. Just because the majority of the photography world uses a certain action set/preset, doesn’t mean you have to join. In my opinion, there’s no wrong or right way to do things as an artist, but there are good and bad (sometimes really terrible) end results. Find out what works for you and run with it. Don’t fret about what any other photographer is doing.
*Don’t share everything. Let me tell you something that may or may not hurt your feelings. Not every single photo you create will be amazing. You will have failures. Let me tell you something else: You are only as good as your worst photo. Do you see where I’m going with this? Do not put every single photo online. Despite the fact that you worked on it for over 20 hours, putting aside the fact that the model looks beautiful, and you spent a lot of time and money on the entire shoot, you shouldn’t post a photo unless it’s as good or better than your best photo. Be picky. This is what I ask myself during and after retouching: Would I hang this on my wall?
Would you hang your latest photo on your wall?
*Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself or your work, no one else will. If you put your images online with captions that are hesitant or negative, you are telling your audience how to feel/think about your images. (Examples: “I’m not sure if I like the editing on this one, but oh well. Here it is.” “This isn’t my favourite, but just wanted to post today.” etc) If you cannot stand by your work, you cannot expect anyone else to. You can’t tell everyone how much you dislike your work and then wonder why no one will book you. (Don’t misunderstand. I’m not telling you to be a cocky chicken. Stay humble, but believe in yourself.) If you can’t say anything nice, just post the credits, or if you really don’t like your image, refer to the tip up above. (I’ll give you a hint. Don’t post it.)
You have to believe in yourself or no one else will.
While there are many other things that someone probably should have told me and I could now tell you, these are the things I wish I would have known and implemented sooner.
So, as one of my favourite teachers said,
It’s time to take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy!