So you’ve made the decision, bought the gear and maybe even quit your comfortable, well-paying job in hopes of cutting it as a professional photographer – congratulations! The road ahead will not be easy, considering the advent of smartphone photography and the already incredibly saturated market, but not impossible. Here are some tips on photography for beginners, to help you get started.
Tip 1: Your portfolio should reflect you
If the eyes are the window to the soul, then your portfolio is the window into who you are as a photographer. The first step is obviously, to start developing your portfolio, but that doesn’t mean throwing in every shot you’ve ever taken. You might be naturally talented at landscape, portraiture and wildlife photography, but before you establish yourself as a versatile photographer, you should start by featuring just 1-2 related genres (street and portraiture, landscape and astrophotograhy) in your portfolio. Basically, what do you want to be hired for?
Tip 2: define your shooting style
Look, anyone can point a camera at a waterfall, shoot it and then edit it to create a beautiful image, but if you do a quick search on Flickr, you’ll be amazed by just how many beautiful images of the same scene there is out there. In the saturated market, you’ll never cut it if your work looks like everyone else’s. It takes time and lots of practice, but you’ll need to figure out what it is that makes you different from everyone else. Why should a potential client hire you over someone else with a similar background and portfolio? Don’t forget to keep this in mind as you go about building your portfolio. Do your research, get creative and be different.
Tip 3: shoot within means
Your dream might be to a travel photographer, but what happens if you have limited funds and can’t afford to travel as extensively as you’d like to capture the wonders of the world? The first step is not to despair, and start by shooting within your means. Get creative and shoot scenes in your hometown, but lend them a unique twist such that it looks different from what one might expect – this will look much better in your portfolio than a series of typical shots of the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel Tower. This holds true for whatever genre of photography you choose to pursue. For wildlife photography, hit the zoo or nature reserves in your area. Street photography? Explore parts of your city that you don’t usually go to. Portraiture? Work with make up artists and stylists to come up with unique shoot concepts.
Tip 4: collaborate
Speaking of make up artists and stylists, collaboration is a great way to build a portfolio. For example, if you are looking to go into fashion photography, go online and look for a MUA or stylist to collaborate with on a concept shoot. Interior photographer? Look for an interior designer. No man is an island, and by helping each other, you are not only benefiting your portfolio but also opening doors by getting your name out there.
Tip 5: intern with a pro
This advice goes out to those pursuing photography at a beginner or intermediate level, who really want sound guidance and quick improvement: Consider taking up an internship with several already established professional photographer. Not only will you learn invaluable, real world tips, but you’ll also have a better understanding of the industry and learning how it all works. When you are trying to cut it out there in a new, unfamiliar industry, being able to see the “big picture” gives you a good handle on what you’re getting yourself into, and if it is truly the career path you want to take for the rest of your life.
Tip 6: be prepared to work for free
… to a certain extent anyway. Yes, you’ve seen all the posts on social media slamming certain brands for expecting free work in exchange for “exposure”, but when you’re at the lowest rung of the ladder, that is to be expected. However, instead of approaching bigger companies that clearly have the funds to afford an established pro, we suggest speaking to smaller, local businesses that don’t always have the means to afford photography work. For example, if you are looking to specialise in food photography, the next time you are at a café or even a wedding, shoot some snaps and offer them to the owners or the caterers along with your name card. There’s a chance they’ll use the photos for advertising, which could lead to inquiries about your work from anyone who sees them. Free work isn’t always bad, as it gives you a chance to practice your skills and also learn how to develop relationships with potential clients.
Tip 7: never stop learning
Even seasoned pros don’t know it all! With the amount of free courses available online and YouTube, you have absolutely no reason to stop bettering yourself, because believe us, other photographers are doing exactly that. In an industry this competitive and saturated, being at the top of your game is one way to stand out, whether it’s being a wizard at post-processing or knowing exactly how to react in different conditions. As an investment, we suggest skipping the internet at the beginning until you are more familiar with the ins and outs of photography and go to workshops or classes instead. This way, you’ll get to learn from a real person and be able to ask real questions, plus you might make some friends whom you could go shooting with and exchange tips in the future!