1. Do Not go out and buy an expensive camera thinking that it will improve your photography.
A bad craftsman blames his tools – what happens when you have great tools but your work is still bad? Upgrade yourself first – book a course, book some tuition, get a mentor, watch some YouTube tutorials. Buying nice new kit is great but make sure you also know how to use it.
2. Do Not become a wedding photographer…if you think it’s going to be easy.
So you’ve got a good camera, you think you’re quite handy with it and all your friends and relatives tell you you should do wedding photography because it’s ‘easy money’. But wait – can you deal with the stress? The pressure and burden of someone else’s MOST IMPORTANT DAY? The long hours, endless hours of editing, difficult customers, working weekends, marketing, book keeping, admin, kit failure, heart failure, drunken guests, horrible venues etc.etc.
Yes? Ok go ahead then.
3. Do Not shoot every day.
I hear many other photography tutors say that a key element to improving as a photographer is to shoot every day. I strongly disagree. Although shooting regularly is a good thing – planning, practicing and shooting is to be encouraged and will help you improve as a photographer. Forcing yourself to shoot everyday out of routine can do more harm than good. It can leave you feeling uninspired, bored and even demoralised because you start feeling you’re just doing it for the sake of it.
A much better approach is to create concepts and ideas, plan shoots that interest and excite you and then make them happen. By all means shoot as much as you want, but do not think that doing it every day will automatically make you a better photographer. It’s not like jogging.
4. Do Not join a camera club or society.
If you are starting out in photography or you are wanting to improve I would avoid joining these organisations. Now before I get chased down and lynched by hoards of angry club members, I don’t think that these are bad things per se. The camaraderie, experience and support from club members can indeed be a very good thing. And of course each organisation differs depending on who runs it.
It’s the club competitions that make me wince. I’ve been invited to judge a few so I have experienced this first hand. Now I understand that many photographers enjoy and get a lot out of this process and that’s absolutely fine and right. However for a newbie or someone wanting to improve, I find the way that these competitions are judged is quite formulaic, rigid and can easily stifle your creativity. Basically it breaks photography down and it becomes like painting by numbers. If you end up shooting by design to do well in these competitions then it can railroad you into becoming a formulaic and rigid photographer. I always encourage people to be free in their creativity so this is a big no no in my opinion.
5. Do Not use the auto settings marked by the pictograms on your camera dial. Ever.
You know the ones I mean – the running man ‘sports mode’, the mountain ‘landscape mode’, the flower ‘macro mode’, the face ‘portrait mode’. If you’re interested in taking any of those types of photos then please learn how to do it properly. First off these modes are not guaranteed to work because of the many variables that have to be taken into account. And secondly if I ever catch you using them I shall come over and use a scouring pad to remove them.
6. Do Not use Photoshop to turn crap photos into ‘good ones’.
Photoshop (and other editing tools) are a force for good. They can refine, alter and polish up your images. But if you shoot with the attitude that no matter how much you get it wrong in camera, you can rescue it in Photoshop then you are doomed to failure. Photography is like cooking – use the best ingredients you can and put them together well and you have good food. If you put horrible, past their sell by date, rancid ingredients together, you may be the best chef in the world but your dish is still going to be awful. So as a photographer you do your bit behind the camera to get the best possible result there before you take it to your computer and make it even better. And besides, a few moments shooting it right can save hours and hours in editing. Think about it before I get all Gordon Ramsey on your ass.
7. Do Not become a pro.
You love photography, right? You’re pretty good at it, right? You could make money from it, right? Turn pro – it’s a no brainer isn’t it? No. Think very carefully before you proceed down this road.
Just because you love something doesn’t mean you can do it as a job. It’s like all those wide-eyed Masterchef contestants who all profess that cooking is their calling and passion only to crushed by the pressures of cooking in a professional kitchen and the realisation of the ridiculously long and arduous hours.
Being good and passionate about photography is only part of the makeup of a pro photographer. You need to be an entrepreneur, a book keeper, a marketeer, a negotiator, a problem solver, a debt chaser, a producer, an art director, a project manager, a tech expert, a computer expert, a communications expert, a publicist, a social media expert. There’s probably more but I’m getting bored. Add to that the stresses and strains of being self-employed, no paid holidays, no sickies, no excuses.
The rewards are there too – otherwise why would we do it? The satisfaction and the love for my job outweigh the cons for me.
Are you still in? Ok but don’t say I didn’t warn you…
If you need any help or advice I run 1-2-1 tuition covering all aspects of photography. So whether you just want to improve or you are thinking about turning pro, or even if you are already a pro but need help, I can provide assistance from basic technical stuff, advanced shooting techniques to pricing and dealing with clients. Click here for more info.