Some less frequently uttered pieces of advice for getting into photography you won't find on many other blogs.
1. Your gear is not important
You have probably read endless blogs and opinion pieces about which is today’s best camera, how Sony cameras destroyed Canon, how the new Canon R5 makes all other cameras obsolete. Okay, truth time, this is all complete bull. News and blogs create this content for contents sake, it's their business. We are served these marketing mistruths of how new cameras enable all these pioneering possibilities for photographers were simply never possible before. Well yes, a slightly higher frames per second is nice, and those two extra megapixels I’m sure are magnificent, but turns out people have been creating stunning, moving and most importantly, timeless images for over a century. Some of the best creators today work with phones, low-end DSLRs and gosh, outdated tech! Trust me, people right now are creating masterpieces with the camera you already own! The classic saying applies here – “the best camera is the one you have with you”. If your pictures are not coming out how you would like them, a new camera is not magically going to solve all your issues. It doesn’t matter what camera you use, if you don’t know how to use it. A far better investment would be to spend that money on workshops, experiences, or just good old practice to better understand the equipment you already have and how to create with it. Which leads us onto...
2. Stop watching YouTube
Okay, so YouTube is an amazing place to learn the basics of photography, pick up tips and get inspired. I used it a lot when I first started photography and still do today. However, if you are a photographer that just follows step by step guides, or produces carbon copies of what you see online, then are you really a photographer? When Gordon Ramsay wants to make dinner, he doesn’t reach for a Jamie Oliver cookbook. YouTube learned photographers also have the unflattering issue of standing out for the wrong reasons, there is a clear trend emerging, especially apparent on Instagram, of work being very repetitive. You have probably seen many examples of it, from every milk bath, to every person looking out on a mountain edge, surrounded by overly punchy blacks and washed-out greens.
You should challenge yourself to be creative in your own right, scrap the guides, drop the blogs and turn off YouTube. Be inspired by what you have seen online to invent your own project, or throw yourself headfirst into aspects of photography you have never tried before. For all you Lightroom editors out there, ditch all those preset clones you bought online, and try making your own preset entirely from scratch. A constant obsession with ‘what should I be doing?’ distracts from the possibilities of ‘what could I be doing?’. And, if you get it all terribly wrong, then keep reading.
3. Embrace your terrible photos
I take bad photos, everyone does, I bet Annie Leibovitz has a draw full of absolute stinkers somewhere. Learning from your mistakes is how the world has worked for millennia, and this is exactly how I learned what to do and what not to do in photography. I would say I have learned as much about my camera and photography from thinking ‘how do I do that?’ as ‘why was I doing that?!’. If you want to try something, and you think it might work, even if it goes against what you have read online, do it anyway. Doing things wrong will encourage creative thinking and problem solving, enabling you to think about photography and your camera in entirely different ways, open your workflow to trying out new tools and camera techniques, and produce unexpected and often surprisingly effective results you never would have achieved otherwise.
4. Stop expecting people to find your work
One of the biggest misconceptions I hear when talking to newbie photographers is that if you just put your work out there then people will come flocking to you. Now I am not arguing that this never happens, but the reality is, for almost everyone that will not be the case. So, what do you do? Well, the best thing to do is come up with a comprehensive promotional plan, covering all bases from having a captivating website, listing your website in the right places, paid promotions, and social media. And social media doesn’t just entail posting new images on your channels at the right times, you have to master hashtags, sharing your images with groups, competitions and other online cabals. It’s also not just about what you put out there, it is about others too, you have to make sure you spread your likes around, comment on other’s pictures, consistently follow new people, share other’s work, react to people’s stories. All of this not only contributes to social media companies’ algorithms pushing your content to new people but helps build community around your work compounding the success of future posts. So, who said photography is just taking pretty pictures?
5. The photography business isn’t about taking pictures
The photography business doesn’t have much to do with taking pictures, sure you might take a few snaps, but the physical act of photography is the smallest fraction of what you actually do. To start, you have all the business management side of things, this is your usual things like website maintenance, updates, managing Google (etc) and ads, finances, insurance and tax responsibilities. Planning, creating and implementing a comprehensive social media plan (see above). Responding to leads and queries from clients, putting together quotes and cost analysis, creating invoices.
Following this you have to deal with your new clients, this would most likely involve hours of additional pre-photography consultation and planning depending on the client. Whilst many clients trust me to follow a concise consultation and do my job effectively, there are many where I receive a textbook of requirements for the day, or dozens of calls a day leading up to the shoot, all of which have to be dealt with.
Oh, now you might actually get a chance to briefly take some pictures!
Then comes the post-production, often misleadingly simplified as ‘editing’, but actually involves organising, culling, labelling, editing, exporting, uploading and then organising (again), labelling (again), and sending to the client. Subsequently, providing optional printed albums, framed pictures, or personalised memory sticks. All taking several times longer than the shoot itself. Exhausting!
Words & Images @gareth.bevan