So while I was relaxing for some days I had some thoughts I wanted to share and give you some advice I wish I had known in the beginning, this is just about everything I wish someone had told me the first day I started my formation as a photographer.
People will use you for free photos.
Don´t misunderstand me… now in the beginning, you are going to have to do some things for free – yes you read right you will need the experience to become more confident in your own abilities and you will need to build a portfolio but my first advice anything you shoot for free that isn’t related to what you eventually want to be paid for is actually a huge waste of time. This doesn’t mean that you should specialize immediately you probably shouldn’t well until you find what you’re really passionate about. That doesn’t mean that you are obligated to take any “free” job offer that comes along.
The “Pro” photographers will use you as an unpaid assistant.
Interning is something I normally recommend, buuuut you should get something out of it. If all you’re doing is running around, carrying heavy gear… yes I know you don´t want to upset nobody but if you’re in an internship, ask about the posing, camera settings, the lighting; the why of this and that! Sure some questions are better asked at the end of a session, when the client is gone, but if you have a question for heaven’s sake ask. If the photographer you’re interning for won’t answer your questions or if you have the feeling that he doesn’t take you seriously, find someone else to intern for. This person is after the free labor, not in mentoring an upcoming photographer and he probably see you as an free worker… but here I need to defend the mentors you need to keep in mind that they are also hard working humans also use your common sense when asking… and never sign a contract saying you’ll work for free for any given amount of time… no good idea…
More experienced “Pro” photographers will try to sell you things.
There are a lot of photographers who are more than willing to take your money by selling you workshops, gear, actions, presets, tutorials and more. All taking advantage of the fact that you’re a little green… Now, I am a huge supporter of photographer education: I have taught workshops on my own, have had tutorials and action sets on my old blog, but you should know how to find the good ones. If you’re thinking of attending a workshop, ask to see references or testimonials from other workshop attendees. Ask to see an itinerary of everything you will be learning. Email the instructor to start a dialogue and see if your skill set is at the right place to be learning what they are teaching, and make sure any images you take at the workshop belong to you. You want to walk away feeling like you’ve actually grown in your development, knowing that all images taken by you belong to you, and that the money spent was worth every penny.
I have attended to various workshops most off them about weddings and fashion and in most cases they were very disappointing mere entertainment than an real educational experience…
Look for getting criticized
I love my family and friends, but when I’m looking for constructive feedback on my work, neither of them are the best people to go to. They are simply to kind to kick my ass…
Brutal honesty hurts.
The whole point of feedback is to get better, which usually means something you’re currently doing can be improved. It never feels good to hear you’re weak in a particular area, but the sooner it’s pointed out to you the sooner you can do something about it.
Value Business Skills and Photography Skills
Just because there are a lot of photographers does not mean there is no room for you. As with any other business, the quantity of vendors does not determine the success of a new vendor. A new vendor’s success is determined by the quality of their product or service, their reputation, their marketing plan, their community involvement, their prices and countless other things. Every business is different, just as every photographer is different. Figure out what it is that you can offer that is different than what is out there already and run with it.
Get ready to work… a lot.
I can’t honestly remember the last time I had a day off. If I’m not shooting, I’m editing, or sending out submissions, or planning and designing… every ounce of free time is spent doing something photography related. You need to know your workdays will be long and your days off will be few, and if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, than do it.
Use the business model that works for you.
Don’t feel bad, for one second, about begin a shoot-n-burner, charging less than everyone else, shooting for free or doing anything else other photographers are going to berate you for. The fact is, you have to shoot some things for free in the beginning and you have charge less in the beginning. It would be unethical not to. You don’t have the skills, the experience or the portfolio to be charging what established photographers do. And in all honesty, if your low price is taking business away from them, they’re doing something wrong, not you.
Raise your prices when you’re worth it.
All that shooting for free or at very low rates is no way to make a living though. As soon as you’ve got a decent portfolio together, you’ve got to start raising those prices to something more reflective of the kind of images you can produce. And yes, you’re going to lose some clients, but the truth is anyone paying you 60€ for a full photoshoot isn’t a client anyway – it’s someone taking advantage of an exceptionally good deal.
Never underestimate the value of social media.
Learn how to use social media or get left in the dust. Personally I don´t like Facebook but actually its a great tool… although there might be better tools… I had my Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, google plus, Domestika, Bechance, Linkedin and Ello… moment…
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in this industry. A 365 day project or a 52 week challenge is a great way to change things up a bit. In addition, start shooting things you aren’t necessarily familiar with. If you’ve only ever shot families, take on a pet shoot. Take a drive to somewhere new and shoot a few landscapes or try your hand at some street photography. You may not completely switch gears, but you’ll no doubt learn some new skills you can apply to your current photography.
Keep Reminding Yourself Why You’re Doing This
I love my job… ok I am now unemployed but I love waking up every day to take photos. I even like slaving away in front of the computer spending 40+ hours editing a single photo because I know at the end of it all it will be worth it. I also know that there is plenty of room in this industry for newer, upcoming photographers and the world would be a lot better place if more people loved going to work every day just as much as I do. Keep plugging along, keep learning, keep growing, keep researching, keep shooting and keep taking things… what you are still reading this… come on go and take pictures…