If I were to start photography today, I often wonder what advice I would give myself. When I first started photography, information on the subject was convoluted and where a teacher started for beginners was different. Or professionals made it seem like there was some secret to taking great photos.
1. Spending Money On Camera Equipment
The first piece of advice I would give is forgoing spending a lot of money on equipment. What you have will work, especially while you are learning to perfect your style and vision.
As a photographer myself, what you need is a style and a niche, not more equipment. Asking a photographer what type of camera they use and what lens is irrelevant. Camera equipment does not make you a good photographer, vision and focus do.
Photographers need to have a vision for their work. What do you want your work to eventually look like? How do you want your photographers to feel to the viewer? What message do you want them to take away from your work? Once you have answered those questions, work towards obtaining that vision.
I spent too much time thinking I needed to be a family or wedding photographer and buying all the equipment for it. I bought camera equipment without thinking if this is the type of work I wanted to do. It took me five years to figure out that wedding and family photography is not what I wanted to do.
I did learn that used equipment is just like buying new, especially from sellers like B&H photo, who often sold their model cameras. So if you are going to spend the money on equipment, buy used until you are making enough money as a professional to buy what you want. (Being the money-conscious person I am, I still purchase used equipment.)
2. Be Intentional with Your Photos
My second piece of advice is to take pictures regularly and lots of them. Be intentional about the subject of your photographs. However, taking 10,000 photos for the sake of taking a lot of photos won't help you have a clear focus.
Start by taking your camera everywhere with you. Take pictures of anything that inspires you.
Be intentional about your shot and think about what subject you want to focus on. Take your time, follow compositional rules, learn the exposure triangle, and focus on the story you want to tell the viewer with your photo.
As you take more photographs, these factors will start to come naturally to you. You’ll think about exposure and your camera settings less and less.
Once you have the basics, you can start experimenting and find your style. Style only comes through doing the work and finding out what you like and do not like in your photos.
3. Go With Your Gut
Talking about style leads me to my third piece of advice, go with your gut. I listened to too many people at the beginning of my photography journey. I took in too much advice and information, which led me astray from my taste.
I’m not saying make whatever weird photos you want to - of course, you can, but those are for only you - you need to find a balance between what you like and what your viewer likes. There is a difference between constructive criticism of your photos and people who don’t understand what you are trying to do.
Listen to the positive feedback, ignore the information that doesn’t further your goal. Don't listen to people who don't understand what you are trying to do. It will only bring you down.
4. Investing in Yourself
Investing in education is essential to keeping up with the latest in photography techniques and trends. If you invest in photography education, do what the instructors say, invest in people only you trust, and don’t let your ego get in the way.
Invest in people only you like. Don’t get bogged down with what’s popular, especially if you get an icky, salesy feeling from them. Buy courses from people you connect with and mesh with your learning style.
Too many times I spent way too much money on a course from a teacher I didn’t like because everyone else was raving about it. Most of the time I didn’t need the course or didn’t fully engage in it. Invest in people you feel comfortable with and do exactly what the instructor is telling you to do.
Often, I would tell myself I don’t have to do it that way because I’m this or that. Wrong. Every time I did tell myself those things I never succeeded in business or the technique I was trying to learn. I thought I was better than that. Somehow I was going to be an exemption. Wrong again. Don’t be like me. Your teachers got where they did for a reason. They are giving you information. Take the shortcut.
In essence, this post is my shortcut for you.
If you’re an experienced photographer, what would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.