The Key to Success:
As I shared in my last entry, I'm not a perfect photographer (will any of us ever be?). I know there is so much more out there for me to learn about Photography. And have just in the last year or so started going pro. Any insights or knowledge I have about photography is based on things that I have learned from personal experience and what has worked for me along the way.
I really can not stress this enough: practice, practice, practice! I've always believed that with being a successful photographer, or even taking good photos, 10% of it is equipment and 90% is talent/skill. Saying a camera takes nice pictures is like saying a guitar plays nice melodies. Sure, the more expensive camera model can give you additional shooting options and more megapixels, but its who's behind that camera that really makes the photos come to life. Give someone with a passion for photography and a gift for making the ordinary, extraordinary a disposable camera and then put a $3000 camera in the hands of someone who lacks passion for photography and 'a good eye' and I can pretty much guarantee that the photographer with the disposable camera will more than likely take better photos. My point being? So you may not have the latest, greatest and most high-tech camera out there. So what! Don't underestimate yourself! Just because you don't have one of those fancy-schmancy expensive cameras does not mean you can't take great photos. You may be somewhat limited in equipment, but its also those limitations that can spark your creativity.
Picking up your camera on a regular basis (my suggestion: every day!) and taking photos is the first key to becoming a great photographer. Learning the basics is of course important too. Open up the owner's manual that came with your camera and read it. And then, read it again! Its filled with a wealth of information. Unfortunately, many people tend to overlook it and toss it aside. Then they're scrambling to figure out how to use a feature they've never used before and, in the meantime, they've just missed the shot of a lifetime. Next, start experimenting with different settings on your camera. Remember, if you don't like the shots, they can always be deleted. You can get some good shots if you shoot on Auto-mode. However, you can get great shots if you get an understanding for the why's and how's of your camera and start shooting in aperture or shutter priority mode.... and then move on to shooting manually. You'll be surprised just how much you can learn by experimenting. Then, try joining a group such as I Heart Faces and post some of your work there. Flickr: Groups also has various photography groups you can join that have weekly challenges. Doing a "Photo of the Day" is also a fabulous way to get you to pick up your camera and start experimenting. Not only that, but it will get you to look at the ordinary things you see on a day-to-day basis, in a whole new light and get your creative juices flowing. Look all around you for inspiration! I often find myself mentally cataloging locations for future photo shoots as I am driving. I'll see a great spot and think "what a great place for a shoot!" I have found that Photography has given me a greater appreciation for the simpler,less obvious things in life. What more could you ask for in a hobby or career?!
Don't rush into things. Take the time to hone your skills and learn more before going pro. Not to say you shouldn't share your photos publicly with others. But once you have attached the label of "pro" to yourself and put your photos out there as a professional photographer, that is what your clients will base their decision on as to whether or not they want to hire you. And most likely, if they don't like what they see, they are not going to come back again for a second look or refer others to your website or blog. In all honesty, sometimes I am downright astounded by the difference I see in the pictures I took a year ago compared to the pictures I am taking now. And oftentimes, I wonder what I was thinking when I thought a particular photo was "great". I've definitely seen an improvement, that's for sure! It will take time, but if you pick up your camera and practice, you'll see a lot of growth as well.
Schooling vs Hobbyist-Turned Pro?
There has long been a discussion in the photography industry about whether or not going to school and getting a degree of some sort in Photography is essential. My personal opinion is.... no. Though, it certainly wouldn't hurt. In fact, I learned a great deal from the course I took in college. But, will getting a degree in Photography make you a better photographer? That really all depends. As far as learning the technical things such as ISO, apertures, shutter speed, different lighting situations & white balance... sure. But if photography is truly not your passion and you don't have a good eye for it, then... no. You won't magically be taking photos like Robert Altman or Ansel Adams. Both of whom, coinsidentally, are two of the most well-known and respected photographers in the field and did not go to photography school.
If you do not have the time or money to invest in going to school, don't be discouraged. Many photographers these days started out as hobbyists, just taking photos for fun, before going pro. There are lots of other options out there if you want to hone your skills and learn more. Photography Workshops are always a great stepping stone in expanding your photography knowledge. Beware though, they tend to be very pricey. But I've found that they are far more hands on than traditional Photography classes in a college. Inquire about being an assistant photographer, or 2nd photographer, with a professional photographer in your area. Also, try to check out some local photography groups in your area. Never be too proud to ask questions or opinions from people who may know more than you or have more experience in the field. None of us are perfect and we can always learn more from others. Ultimately, if you plan to go professional, most (if not all) of your clients will not be interested in your schooling or what kind of photography degree you have or don't have. They are going to hire you for a photo shoot or buy your prints based on the photos you take. A great example of this is Alyssa W. (who can also be found Here). She's a brilliant photographer and has never had a day of photography training in her life. What makes her such a great photographer then?? She experimented with her camera and started shooting in manual (most of the time doing very little processing and posting her photos SOOC). She's also super creative and likes to try out different shots. And most importantly, she picks up her camera on a regular basis.
Some interesting Link-age for this week:
*12 Weeks to Better Photos
*10 Ways to Jump Start Your Creative Edge
*Next Week: Technology and the Internet Are Powerful Tools