2014 was a great year for me as I managed to do a lot of super cool stuff such as shoot posters for the Birmingham Clothes Show 2014, get an editorial published in Like A Lion Magazine and even managed to do a test shoot for a modelling agency, which was actually one of my goals for this year!
Although these are just some of the best bits of last year, it goes without saying that doing things and getting such opportunities has not been easy. Also, as a photographer, there’s so much to learn, so here are 7 things I’ve learnt so far in my journey towards becoming a photographer and the best pieces of advice I can give in my current position:
7. Update Your Portfolio
This one sounds like a no-brainer right?
You would think that people who label themselves as photographers would surely be running around doing nothing else, but you would be surprised! I feel that in our current age, with so many photographers, there’s nothing more important than updating your portfolio regularly. I’m not saying that you should do a photo shoot every week (it gets pretty exhausting!) but you must be aiming to update your portfolio at least every month to 2 months depending on the type of images you shoot.
Think about it: when was the last time you did a photo shoot that you were proud to attach your name to?
It’s also pretty important to shoot some stuff that isn’t portfolio material only if you are testing a new technique out but if not, you should consider the difference between the percentage of images you shoot vs the percentage that you show.
6. Get Technical
I think that it’s extremely important for a photographer to have a thorough knowledge of how work both in the studio and outside on location. It super fun to do either and they both provide you with different range of challenges and effects.
A year ago, I was scared of shooting in the studio. I thought that it looked way too technical and that I’d never understand how to use all of the different equipment but once I learnt how to use it I realised that it is actually really easy to use. It’s no different for you!
Also, don’t just get technical with the knowing how to use the studio; get used to all of the equipment. Do you know what quality of light you get from a beauty dish as opposed to a softbox? What situations would you use them in? Would you use them together? How would that work?
What about the sun? How would you utilise the light from such a large source if you had to shoot a model on a blindingly sunny day? What equipment would you use to get the best possible images?
Remember, you can achieve countless effects with even the most basic equipment, but it is how you use the equipment to shape available light that is the key to a successful image! It is not about having the most expensive equipment; you can be a great photographer without ever having to step foot in a studio; but just the possibilities that learning that could open up!
Furthermore, don’t just stop at the physical technicalities. Learn about colour theory, retouching, light balance, make up, composition etc. All of things will add to your overall knowledge of photography.
Are you a fashion photographer? Then read about fashion! What is the difference between bohemian and hippie styles? How has fashion evolved in recent years?
The more you learn, the more you are informed about what you are shooting, which will help you to define what makes a good image and, ultimately, a good portfolio.
5. Spend your time on the internet wisely
It is no doubt that the internet is a great tool for a lot of things, but it is also a major distraction. As cool as it is to watch cat videos on youtube or to spend time browsing pinterest, ultimately, they are not helping your business to flourish. When you’re on the internet, you should ask yourself how much you are helping further yourself and your business. Instead of watching a video about cats, why not watch a video about lighting setups or a BTS video of a shoot by your favourite photographer and note down what makes the video interesting for when you make your next BTS video?
Rather than browse pinterest just to browse the internet, why not look for models to photograph (if you shoot people) or start a pinterest board with ideas for your next photoshoot?
There are probably 100,000,000,000,000 things you could be doing on the internet, and whilst it is great to browse the internet occasionally as a way of relaxing, really consider how you could be utilising it to help yourself.
Where are the best places to find models? If I was a client and asked you to arrange a shoot within a week, where would you go to get a MUA, model, stylist, assistant, the equipment? Where would you go to get all of these components from?
Being a photographer is not just about taking awesome images, you have to spend time researching/ learning techniques, meeting clients & collaborators, location scouting, doing admin for your business, archiving/printing images, post and pre production. That’s not considering the fact that you may have a full time job to focus on as well!
4. Patience is a virtue
You need patience to be a photographer. That’s a must. You need patience to wait on replies from models/companies/collaborators, whilst bearing in mind that you are not everyone’s priority and some people may never contact you back.
As a side note, you should acknowledge that a photoshoot is never set in stone, even when you are actually at the shooting stage. During a shoot, the model or assistant may offer up an idea that is completely different to that pinterest board you made a month back but you should roll with it. Just make sure that you are still in control. After all, you need images out of a shoot as much as anyone else (if not, perhaps more if you’ve planned the shoot and are going to edit them yourself. Further more if you are looking to get them published with your name attached to them!) so make sure that you’ve still got portfolio enhancing stuff! Also, if you are planning on getting images published, just be aware that you may have to wait around 3 months (and possibly longer!) for you to be able to release the images online.
You need patience to plan a photo shoot, which is not the easiest or hardest thing to do ever (depending on the amount of people involved and the scale of preproduction). There’s no set way to do this and you have to make sure that everyone you are working with is on the same page and that everyone is clear as to what they shall receive from after the shoot is done. Are you doing a TFP shoot? Or is it a test?
Lastly, you have to be patient when finding an audience for your work. There is no magic formula for attracting a large audience that all want to pay you for your work and there’ll be days where nothing happens, but you shouldn’t worry and stress that no one’s looking at your work. Just double your efforts to market yourself or use this time to learn a new technique. People who are interested in your work will engage with you.
3. Be Practical
This is probably my most vital piece of advice. Being practical is essential. Knowing your own (often physical) limitations is super important. I’m very sure you’d love to shoot that high end clothing editorial in that abandoned location. So would I, but practically, are you really able to do that? Do you have the funds to get everyone together (having fully paid everyone’s travel costs of course!) to that location? Sure it is great to have goals and ambitions but really, look around you and see what you can do right now to further yourself.
Maybe you are a sports photographer in need of some new portfolio images. Why not go down to your local sports centre and ask them if you can shoot some images of their sports classes? Tell them that they can have a few images for advertising purposes (as long as you are fully credited of course) so that way you both win! Or maybe you are a landscape photographer who lives in the city. Why not switch it up and shoot some cityscapes and then alter the colour in photoshop? What if you overlayed your previous landscape images onto the cityscape image and look at the degradation of the rural environment?
I think that no matter what you do, there is always a way, not necessarily clear cut, to do what you want to. It’s up to you to use your photographic vision to find opportunities where it looks like there are none!
2. Study Images
Right, this is a piece of advice I am guilty of doing a lot of and I could probably write up a whole blog post about it so i’ll keep this pretty short. No matter what area of photography you are shooting, look at other photographer’s images to do 2 things:
- i. To get an idea of how people are selling this particular area of photography and how “professionals” /create/compose their images.
- ii. To know what not to do! Why would you want to copy another photographer’s work? Use what you see as the foundation for you to build upon. Consider what this person’s photo has that your photo doesn’t. Is it the colour? The composition? The lighting? Consider how you improve that area in your own images rather than copy what you see!
1. Re-contextualise Your Genre
This is quite a controversial piece of advice because photography is notorious for their industry standard, particularly if you are shooting fashion or beauty where you “have” to follow the rules that define such genres. I’m not saying that you ignore the rules. You should totally learn and create by them, but just be aware that they aren’t the end all and be all of an image; what looks good to one person will always look bad to someone else.
Also, consider what you are shooting. Are you just shooting the same images as everyone else? Other than you shooting it, how is your work different? What are you saying with your work? What is the bigger picture? Remember, as photographers, we are creating the images that will aspire the next generation in the same way we look at the work of other’s!
So, that was a pretty long post but I hope it was helpful in someway to you and your practice!
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