It is easier than ever to get started in photography — affordable cameras are aplenty; free educational resources can be found all over the Internet, from YouTube to Light Stalking; there’s no shortage of social media outlets primed for everyone to share their creations.
Everything, it seems, is ready for the taking.
Actually doing it is another story entirely. So many eager photographers jump in head first and then ask themselves, “Ok, what do I do now?”
It’s a difficult and important question, a question with many potential answers.
What can you do to ensure you get off on the right foot as you begin your journey through photography? Keep reading for a few ideas.
1. Ignore The Market
The camera market, that is. When you buy your first camera, buy the best one you can afford. Don’t go broke trying to swim with the big fish — at this point, a $6,000 camera is overkill.
Furthermore, ignore the increasingly short upgrade cycle. You don’t need a new, marginally better camera every four months.
Invest in improving your skills and growing as a photographer, which is something you can do no matter what camera you use.
2. Learn From Others
Whether it’s the masters of photography, past or present — Elliott Erwitt, Gordon Parks, Diane Arbus, Fan Ho — or a photographer friend who lives in your town, seek out advice, guidance, and inspiration from those more experienced than you.
While I don’t subscribe to the idea that formal education is necessary to become a good photographer I do believe that, in order to grow creatively, you have to expose yourself to the creativity of others.
You can also learn from others’ mistakes so that you don’t waste your time making the same ones.
3. Give Yourself A Project
Picking up your camera and taking random photos is fun, especially when one or more of those random photos end up being really good.
But giving yourself a project to work on will help you define and refine your style and sharpen your eye.
A project also gives you the chance to explore a particular theme in depth over an extended period of time, allowing you to create images that will be even more meaningful than the ones you create randomly.
4. Publish Your Own Work
I’m sure every photographer dreams of having their work featured in a respected publication, but it’s not as easy as some people seem to think it is.
Assuming you’re producing work good enough to grace the pages of a magazine, you have to realize how much competition there is out there, especially now that everyone in the world has a camera.
If you want to be published, do it yourself. Self-published books and zines are all the rage these days. Going this route gives you complete creative control and you don’t have to wait on anyone to “discover” you.
And you never know, something you publish on your own could lead to bigger and better things.
5. Hold On To Your Love
When you decide to throw yourself fully into photography, it won’t take too long before you realize that there will be all manner of distractions and frustrations along the way. This applies to everyone.
Among the factors that determine one’s longevity in photography is an ability to filter out the distractions, power through the frustrations and remember why you picked up a camera in the first place.
No matter what it was that initially compelled you to get into photography, you probably stuck with it because you loved it.
As you progress as a photographer, as you’re presented with new opportunities, as you encounter challenges, don’t lose sight of why you fell in love with photography in the first place.
It’s the best protection against disillusionment.
There’s plenty that you will have to figure out on your own when you start down the long, winding road that is photography, but it is my hope that the handful of thoughts presented here will be of some assistance to aspiring photographers.
Good luck and happy shooting to all.