Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What I would say to a new photographer...

Also visit my Beyond the Photography by DonnaKay blog @ http://blog2.photographybydonnakay.com ... a way to get to know a little more about me personally...

I have been very blessed to have some wonderful instructors and mentors along the way in my photographer's journey.  And I'm no different than anyone else - I don't like to have someone criticize me -- no one likes criticism.  But if you want to really be the best you can at anything then criticism is sometimes necessary.  As a photographer it helps to have someone give critique, as it allows you to see things from another angle and it pushes you to grow to a higher level.  For someone considering a profession in the photography world - or someone who is even new to the field - here are a few of my thoughts and a little advice I would like to offer.   

1) A camera does not make someone a Professional Photographer.  It doesn't matter how big or small, expensive or inexpensive your camera is -- the camera is just a tool.  A photographer is much more than someone who pushes the button - but rather they are an artist who knows how to envision what the picture will look like and they shoot with that in mind.  That being said, don't ever think "if I could just get a better camera then my pictures would be so much better."  It's simply not true at all.  A good camera can help a lot - but without a good eye, an understanding of how the camera works and how to take a good picture, you will just be taking a more expensive camera.  So learn - take classes, attend seminars, ask questions, and most of all practice, practice, PRACTICE!!    NOTE: Please don't say this to a photographer "what kind of camera do you use? I love that picture - if I had a camera like that I could take pictures like that."  It is actually an insult.  It is SO much more than the camera.  And even knowing the settings ("what were your settings for ISO, f/stop, shutter speed when you took that shot?") when we captured a shot won't be a recipe to take a similar shot.  So much more comes into play: what time of day was it, lighting source & direction it was coming from, etc. are equally and often more important questions.

2) Critique is important!  We don't grow by just sitting back having our friends and family tell us how nice our pictures are... but having an experienced photographer critique your work (sometimes harshly!) will really push you to grow.  I always love and appreciate the kind words of my friends and family (so please keep saying nice things to me!)... but honestly it's when I get a compliment from a complete stranger, or from a fellow photographer that I get really the most excited.  I remember one time when I was going to be sitting before an accomplished photographer having my work critiqued... I seriously don't think I slept for a week beforehand, I was so nervous.  I was sure he would laugh at my work!  It was such a growing experience to hear him give his professional opinion about the work of the photographers in the room, and offer advice, critique and compliments on photo by photo.  I felt like I grew in my understanding and appreciation so much.  Don't be afraid to put your work in front of someone who has the experience, ability and talent to offer you critique - and be willing to take the good and the bad.  There is such a potential to grow from this experience.  

3) Don't get on Facebook (or other social networking) and upload every single picture that you take.  Nothing is more annoying than to see someone putting up these photo albums with several hundred pictures.  And you click through a few and it's almost as if you are watching a moving picture!  Go through your photos and choose the best representation and choose the top ones to show.  You want to peak someone's interest, not bore them.  Remember - if they get bored they will go to another page.  So do what you can to hold onto their interest on your page.

4) Learn from other photographers, follow them, admire them, gain new ideas from them.. all of those things are great.  But don't try to duplicate them.  Be yourself!  Find your vision and develop your own style.  And that is not only in their photography style, but also respect the hard work they've put into personalizing their own business and don't try to copy that.  If there's something you would like to borrow from to develop into something that would work for you, then ask permission (and respect if the answer is "No") before just copying (which is stealing).  EXCLUSION to even asking: the wording used for describing a photographer's business AND especially the "About Me" should NEVER be copied (or even asked about copying!)  The main message here is that you should want to sell yourself to your clients.  If you feel that you aren't good enough for a client to want YOU, then work on that, don't try to sell them something you are not!  In the end that never turns out well, and it keeps you from becoming all that you can be.

There are so many great photographers out there, and any artist wants to know their work is appreciated.  If you are a photographer, grow in who you are as an artist - and your clients will know exactly who they are getting when they hire you for their next session.