Friday, July 15, 2011

Advice for Aspiring Photographers

A terrific article for anyone thinking about entering the world of photography as a professional.  I feel this applies to any business though and also much of it to life in general.  

I don't know Cheryl Jacobs Nicolia (the author) but I do know I like her perspective a lot :)

My personal advice to add on to this:  PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  I shot mostly my kids and family and friends (for free) for more than five years before starting my business professionally (and I am still only a year and a half into my business...I am new too!).  

I am not saying you should wait as long as I did but with two babies and a full time job, I was simply not ready and I knew that.  You must be technically sound before you jump into the deep end of this pool and should really know your way around your camera very well because (and you can quote me on this) you WILL have moments where things are not going well and you will need to know how to get yourself out of a bad situation and into a favorable one for the sake of your reputation and for your clients.  In my opinion, this includes learning to use off camera lighting as well (just MY opinion). 

Oh and one more minor detail...this business is BUSINESS so be prepared to put on your business hat on about 75% of the time (whether you like it or not...).  Sadly, shooting is only part of it :)  

Last but not least, once you are official and have your business running you MUST join the {b} School where and you will learn a ton, get fantastic support and have thousand of amazing photographer to inspire and support you and your growing business.  Tell them Michele@Smooch sent you!

Professionalism is key and professionals know their stuff and can navigate most situations expertly.  

Now, read on then grab your camera, take it off the "Auto" mode and have a ball figuring it all out 
(the most important part of all!).


My Advice For Aspiring Photographers

The Cottage on the Island
Deep Lake Diver
Little Boy in Big Tub
Barn Girls
Bad Mood Interrupted

I get asked all the time, during workshops, in e-mails, in private messages, what words of wisdom I would give to a new and aspiring photographer. Here's my answer.
- Style is a voice, not a prop or an action. If you can buy it, borrow it, download it, or steal it, it is not a style. Don't look outward for your style; look inward.
- Know your stuff. Luck is a nice thing, but a terrifying thing to rely on. It's like money; you only have it when you don't need it.
- Never apologize for your own sense of beauty. Nobody can tell you what you should love. Do what you do brazenly and unapologetically. You cannot build your sense of aesthetics on a concensus.
- Say no. Say it often. It may be difficult, but you owe it to yourself and your clients. Turn down jobs that don't fit you, say no to overbooking yourself. You are no good to anyone when you're stressed and anxious.
- Learn to say "I'm a photographer" out loud with a straight face. If you can't say it and believe it, you can't expect anyone else to, either.
- You cannot specialize in everything.
- You don't have to go into business just because people tell you you should! And you don't have to be full time and making an executive income to be successful. If you decide you want to be in business, set your limits before you begin.
- Know your style before you hang out your shingle. If you don't, your clients will dictate your style to you. That makes you nothing more than a picture taker. Changing your style later will force you to start all over again, and that's tough.
- Accept critique, but don't apply it blindly. Just because someone said it does not make it so. Critiques are opinions, nothing more. Consider the advice, consider the perspective of the advice giver, consider your style and what you want to convey in your work. Implement only what makes sense to implement. That doesn't make you ungrateful, it makes you independent.
- Leave room for yourself to grow and evolve. It may seem like a good idea to call your business "Precious Chubby Tootsies"....but what happens when you decide you love to photograph seniors? Or boudoir?
- Remember that if your work looks like everyone else's, there's no reason for a client to book you instead of someone else. Unless you're cheaper. And nobody wants to be known as "the cheaper photographer".
- Gimmicks and merchandise will come and go, but honest photography is never outdated.
- It's easier to focus on buying that next piece of equipment than it is to accept that you should be able to create great work with what you've got. Buying stuff is a convenient and expensive distraction. You need a decent camera, a decent lens, and a light meter. Until you can use those tools consistently and masterfully, don't spend another dime. Spend money on equipment ONLY when you've outgrown your current equipment and you're being limited by it. There are no magic bullets.
- Learn that people photography is about people, not about photography. Great portraits are a side effect of a strong human connection.
- Never forget why you started taking pictures in the first place. Excellent technique is a great tool, but a terrible end product. The best thing your technique can do is not call attention to itself. Never let your technique upstage your subject.
- Never compare your journey with someone else's. It's a marathon with no finish line. Someone else may start out faster than you, may seem to progress more quickly than you, but every runner has his own pace. Your journey is your journey, not a competition. You will never "arrive". No one ever does.
- Embrace frustration. It pushes you to learn and grow, broadens your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacency. (full article here)

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