So You Want To Be A Photographer
So, you want to be a photographer. Sure, it's easy, right?
Well, taking a picture might be, but the art of photography is quite different. You need to sit down and take a long, hard look at a few questions. Why do you want to be a photographer? What are you offering, sharing or showing and is it new or different? Do you need to go Pro? Have you left it too late? Can you afford it? These are all perfectly valid questions and only you can answer them. But don't forget, it is possible to keep a hobby just that - a hobby. You don't need to become a professional. In fact, if it kills your enjoyment of photography, I beg you not to even consider it.
I truly think that everyone has at least some artistic ability. Does that mean we should all be artists? No. People do things because they enjoy doing them, because they love the escape or release they bring, because they like to learn and experience new things, and some do it 'just because'. Rob, an old friend of mine in Spain, was truly a 'Master of Ceremonies'. He could sing, play instruments, write songs, draw, paint, juggle, tell jokes, act, perform magic and much more (although not all at the same time!). He just had a gift or, rather, he had many. But he was happy doing those things, when and how he wanted. I am sure that if he had to turn any of those talents into a fixed income it would have killed him a little inside. That certainly happened to me when I was performing magic - the pressure is far more intense when you are being paid and taking it to a professional level so make sure you consider that fact before making the leap.
There has been a huge amount of chatter on the subject of 'Everyone thinks they're a photographer these days'. So let's add to that discussion.
With the likes of X-Factor, Great British Bake-Off and Master Chef being so popular, I am sure there has been an explosion in those creative industries too. Everyone suddenly thinks they can sing, write songs, bake or make mind-blowingly delicious food, but is it really that simple? Sure, most people can follow a recipe and some can play a tune, but far fewer go on to be celebrity chefs or rock stars. Why is that? By the same token, pretty much anyone can point and shoot a camera, but can you create a piece of art? Even if you can, just as musicians need to learn the chords or chefs understand ingredients, you must learn the foundation of photography in order to get the best from it. Once you have that grounding, it's a case of practise, practise, practise because without that, photography is a guessing game. What to shoot? How to shoot? What settings are required? Soon that will become less of a question and, eventually, second nature, freeing you up to simply capture scenes. Remember when you were learning to drive, you had to focus and think about everything - gears, speed, route, traffic, road signs. After a while, you even stopped focusing on your route, you knew it, you didn't watch your speed intently, you felt it, and you became aware of other cars and pedestrians without trying. That is what you are aiming for with your camera.
So why is photography so popular? Firstly, entry level cameras are more affordable than ever, and camera manufacturers have every price point covered. Secondly, it's simple to do because of the inbuilt automatic settings and the fact that digital cameras offer instant results - let's face it, today it seems we all want instant gratification. The appeal is obvious. The act of photography also gives you a creative outlet to share your vision, to express yourself and to document your life and experiences, so why wouldn't you? In addition, the ability to take photographs is built into devices which most of us typically carry at all times - it's almost like we are being conditioned to capture the world around us.
However, taking it a stage further and making photography your business is a whole new level. While the notion of working for yourself appeals to many of us, the reality is something different - you need to know that! Before ploughing head first into a photography business, properly weigh up all the pros and cons, consider your market and start acting like a professional.
If you are serious about being a photographer, start with education. Don't listen to the magazines and chase the latest greatest gear - instead, buy what works for you and be prepared to graft for your craft. There are some amazing online resources available to help you on your journey - CreativeLive, Kelby Training, Phototraining4U, The B School, Phlearn.com and SLR Lounge. Take advantage of them, don't rush it, absorb the knowledge and put it in to practice. Of course, there are also plenty of books if that is your preferred way of learning. Bryan Peterson has a fantastic beginners' range - start off with something simple like Understanding Exposure and progress from there. Other options I would recommend is to find a photography buddy, join a club or Meetup group, and get a mentor. These things will help you progress more quickly and stop you making (potentially expensive) mistakes. They may also offer honest feedback and critique, which will be invaluable in your growth.
Some people might tell you to learn one style of photography and stick with it. While it makes sense to have a genre focus, I would advise that, initially, you try all aspects of photography. It will not only make you a more rounded photographer but the various skills may well come into play with other genres. For example, by photographing products, food, architecture, portraits, landscapes and children, you will gain some practice in all the skills typically needed when photographing a wedding! Besides, if you don't try the other types of photography, how will you know what you like and what you are good at? Having said that, once you find your niche, hone your skills in that area so people know you are the go-to person for that particular genre.
Don't forget that all those 'rockstar' photographers you may aspire to be, were once where you are now. I leave you with this thought: "Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat."