I didn’t study photography at university. At the time, all my friends in the industry told me to pick up a camera and start shooting. Learning on the job and working my way up the photographic food chain seemed like the smartest thing to do. And they were right. But just because I didn’t wear a fancy gown and throw my cap in the air, it doesn’t mean I haven’t learnt some very important lessons along the way.
Here are the top five things I wish someone had told me when I began this beautiful journey…
Trial, error, and error again is the best way to progress as a photographer. Testing out different approaches, techniques, subjects, and settings is a sure-fire way to build up your portfolio and your skillset. And you don’t need to spend a fortune – thinking outside the box and improvising with what you’ve got will produce brilliant results (and some terrible ones, but that’s OK, too).
I have an intimate relationship with all of my lenses! That’s because I’ve taken the time to really get to know each and every one of them. Which lenses you choose to shoot with can come to define your work and your approach. Start thinking about what you’re drawn to – telephoto lenses (zoom) or primes (e.g. 23 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm) – why you like them, and what you can use them for.
And you can learn from your mistakes too. I figured out pretty quickly that a prime 35 mm was no good for a close-up portrait while on a job. It’s a wide lens, so the closer I got to the client, the larger her nose became, and I had to reshoot everything.
I get all my much-loved lenses from wexphotovideo.com
When you’re starting out, any opportunity seems like a good opportunity, even if the client isn’t willing to pay you for your skills. But recognizing your worth early on will go a long way. Dedicate personal time to boost your portfolio and use this to encourage people to pay up or go elsewhere.
Some clients might promise more paid work in the future, if you do the first job for free, but in my experience this rarely materializes. And once you’ve worked for nothing or next to nothing, it’s really hard to negotiate a better rate in the future.
If there’s one thing you shouldn’t skimp on when you’re starting out, it’s insurance. When you’re shooting with expensive kit that you can’t afford to replace, hiring equipment, and attending events, such as weddings or photography studios, having insurance to cover all and any eventualities is vital. Whether you’re a full-time pro or a keen hobbyist, I recommend finding a policy to protect yourself and your kit. I use Towergate, and the best rate I’ve received for the annual cover that I need is £400.
A huge part of being a professional photographer is running the business side of things. Marketing and self-promotion are important skills to keep on side if you want to be successful. From attracting new clients and showcasing your work to engaging with your followers and finding new income streams, there are a number of important benefits to making the most of marketing.
These are some of my favourite marketing books. Check them out on Amazon, I’ll usually have them as audible and print.
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