Like many facets of life, there are many photography lessons that I’ve learned over the years that I wish I’d known earlier! Let’s have a look at some of them, in the hope that it might help those of you who are just starting out in the world of photography.
1. You’re what counts, not your camera
Equipment doesn’t make a photographer! Cameras, lenses, computers and lighting are all essential tools for photographers in the modern age, but there is a tendency for photographers to think they’re the be-all and end-all. But it’s important to remember that the best gear in the world is no substitute for knowledge and a good eye.
2. Aim for the eyes
It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how often people forget to focus on the eyes in a portrait. The old adage of the eyes being the window to the soul is one to remember here – by focusing on the eyes, you’ll create a strong composition. Sharp eyes draw the viewer into the shot and help to create a successful image.
3. Keep your social media up to date
In a world that’s increasingly focused on the online world, being a successful photographer means you need to keep your social presence active. Number one is having a good website, which you keep relevant and is optimized for search engines (SEO). But it’s also important to use apps such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, as these are often the way that people look for new photographers.
4. Learn about lighting from the start
Without light, there is no image and light makes or breaks a shot. Understanding light is the single most important thing for a photographer. You need to understand natural light and how different times of day and weather conditions affect it. And you also need to understand artificial light – flashguns and studio lighting – so that you can learn to control light in all situations.
5. Maintaining a balanced life
It’s very easy when you start out as a photographer to work seven days a week. You want your chosen career to succeed and it’s easy to put pressure on yourself and think that you should be working all the time. It’s particularly hard as, for most photographers, photography is a passion so it doesn’t always feel like work. But balance is actually key for long-term survival in the industry! You need downtime to relax and keep your brain fresh.
6. Check your camera settings
This sounds stupidly simple but I guarantee that at some point, you’ll take a load of images and then realise that you had your camera on the wrong settings (ISO being a particular favourite amongst many photographers I know!). The way I avoid this problem is by always returning my camera to what I call its ‘default’ settings (i.e. a series of settings I use most frequently). That way I know how the camera will be when it comes out of its bag and there’s far less chance of making any mistakes!
7. Actually running a business
When I came out of my degree, I knew a great deal about the technicalities of taking a photograph and a lot about photo history and theory. What I didn’t know was how to run a business. And if you want a career as a photographer, you need to know how to run a business! It’s a particular bugbear of mine that more focus isn’t put on this when studying but, even if you have to do it yourself, you need to put business practices to the forefront of your mind.
8. And finally… keep shooting!
However many of these tips might be useful to you when you start out, the best way to progress as a photographer is to keep shooting. Try different styles, be innovative and develop your own style. Experience is the one thing that you can’t take shortcuts on.