There are a lot of speed bumps on the road through this world we call photography. After years of being a photographer and a tutor, there are lots of things, I’ve learnt that no one told me beforehand.
Being a photographer isn’t a profession with a clear road map. No two photographers will ever have the same journey. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could get map to tell you where and when all those problems will arise?
That’s why today I’m looking back at 10 things I wish I knew before I became a photographer.
This camera, that camera, which camera?!
Every digital camera will seem better than yours and you’ll spend your time ogling photo store windows like a thirsty St. Bernard. Don’t waste your time coveting something that you probably don’t need.
If you think your camera isn’t good enough, chances are it could be you that’s actually the problem. If you know how to use a camera then any camera is good enough.
This is the ‘sin’ of every photographer, not just beginners. Either way, expect to lust after everyone else’s photographs, kit bag and set up regardless of how good you are.
Photography is like climbing a mountain with no summit. But by envying other photographers you’re putting them on this phantom summit where you imagine yourself.
Instead aim either, to become the one that everyone else copies, or use turn that envy into motivation and inspiration. Aim to be the trendsetter and the individual who has a distinct style. You’ll feel more fulfilled, honest and happy in your work we guarantee.
And with the highs of photography, will come the lows – and they can get really low.
Sometimes you may find yourself looking at your camera blaming it for everything that goes wrong and refusing to take it anywhere.
There’ll be periods of frustration and creative blocks as a photographer. How you handle them will dictate the length of these woes. All we can say is that you’ll get out of the funk by taking more pictures.
Photography is the only addiction where the problem is also the cure.
You’ll want everything in the photography shop window but can never afford most of it. That’s the trick with camera companies. They always have that aspirational product (the really high-end cameras and lenses) just outside of your purses allowance.
In the end, you may just settle for a cheaper version or a knock-off brand, but it’ll never give the same buzz. Though this also circles back to point one – expensive camera gear won’t make you a better photographer alone.
You need to condition yourself to a hobby of finding creative ways to take creative photos. Use props and materials around your home instead of buying expensive backdrops.
Draft in friends and family instead of hiring models. In some ways, this makes photography way more fun and satisfying.
I can bet that you’ll have at least 10 great photos in your portfolio already, but you may disagree.
Confidence, anxiety, self-esteem, call it what you want, but it’ll be a demon in your quest for great photographs. Don’t compare yourself to others – we all do that and therefore no one stands out.
Praise yourself, get feedback and let others praise you too. Congratulate yourself and be positive about the good photos you’ve taken. This progressive mindset will only help you look more adventurously for new ideas and techniques to try out.
Don’t become a photographer with the plan of being super-rich and mega-famous. Even all the great photographers never became super-rich.
Instead, they were iconic because of what they created. Art is a pursuit of inner dispute and refuge, it’s done to satisfy the soul and mind, not the bank manager.
Yes, it’s totally possible to make a living out of photography – one that affords you flexibility and stability. Don’t expect it to bring home the Ferraris.
Now for the positives things that being a photographer comes with, and this is a big one.
The way your photography can change lives and impact others is something no one can ever prepare you for as you start out on this photographic journey.
Taking an amazing portrait that hangs on a family’s wall for 20 years to remind them of happy times is a priceless feeling and one that extends further than your focal length.
Mums regularly say if there was ever a fire in the house the two things, they’d save is the children and the photos – the irreplaceable.
Photography can be a humbling art and you need to be respectful for the areas you’re allowed in to. You get to see life up close and are permitted to capture personal moments like a CCTV camera. Like a Greek God your work, name and impact will be remembered for years by someone, somewhere.
Think of a photo you’ve taken this week. It’s nice to look like but easily discarded too. It’s not until 5-10 years down the line that the importance of this week’s photo grows. The older it is, the more important it is, as the further you are from that moment.
You’ll never be so glad and grateful for taking up this wonderful hobby as when you find a photo you completely forgot about. That rush of nostalgia fills your head with instant memories connected to the picture in a way that nothing else compares.
Think of another hobby that can fill your heart with emotion quicker than you can blink – I’ll wait…
If you believe photography is an addiction (a good one), then you’ll agree it can spiral into other things.
It’s rare to find a creative who only does photography and not another type of art. It may be painting, writing, dancing, sculpting or even editing.
Either way, once you have the photography bug, you’ll let it lead you to other things and turn that creative eye to other creative outlets.
Finally, this is more a warning than a glorifying statement, so be warned!
The better you become as a photographer the more in demand you’ll become. Whilst this sounds great, if you want to be a professional photographer it can also be an annoyance.
The family will regularly pawn you out as the ‘family photographer’ and nominate you for every camera-worthy occasion. You may never be allowed to attend weddings, as a guest, without your camera.
There can be the regular ‘would you mind just taking a few quick shots?’ at every birthday or christening your go-to. If you don’t mind this then brilliant, otherwise, we have one simple piece of advice for you…
…if you want to enjoy yourself, leave your camera at home!
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