How to become a photographer
Every professional photographer started out as an amateur and then honed his or her skills, studied the techniques and put in the hours until they were good enough to make the move into the profession. The best photographers have a natural eye for their subject, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t work hard to reach the top of their chosen field – be it corporate headshots, editorial portraits, fashion, events or product pack shots. If you’re just starting out, there’s a lot to learn, but we’ve pulled together some useful tips to get you going.
Identify the gaps in your knowledge and set goals
A good photographer never stops learning and in the early days there’s an enormous amount to take on board. Work out what you need to know and where you need to improve, then set a schedule for it. If you have a mentor, involve them in tracking goals, progress and achievements – it’ll help to keep you motivated.
Never put your camera down
The more frequently you shoot and the more shots you take, the better you’ll become. Practice makes perfect, and to gain the most from it, analyse all your results to work out why some pictures are more successful than others.
Work as an assistant to a professional photographer
Even if you can manage this only part time or as a holiday job, the experience will be invaluable. There’s nothing like on-the-job learning and you’ll gain insight into running a photography business as well as valuable lessons in the reality of shooting for money. Be honest with yourself and see what you like shooting, i.e. do you like stills and products? Or do you like shooting people in the controlled environment? If it is the latter, then find a placement where photographers specialise on corporate headshots or portraits. If it is the former, then find a place that is promoting pack shots or a product photography services.
Keep a log
Carrying a notebook with you at all times is essential—jot down thoughts and ideas, note locations you discover and want to shoot, record techniques and camera settings, or stick in pictures that inspire you. In short, this is your aide memoire and the foundation of your photography expertise.
Take pictures in a variety of conditions
Indoors with lights, without lights, outside when it’s sunny, overcast, raining, blowing a gale… As a professional photographer, you never know what you’re going to come up against, so make sure you can take pictures whatever the circumstances. And better still, learn how to turn those circumstances to your advantage.
Study and question
You have your own opinion of what makes a great photo, but you’ll learn a lot by studying other people’s interpretation of their favourite pictures. Read about the best photographers and the techniques they use. If you can understand why a picture has a certain impact, you can start to recreate that feeling in your own work. And talk to other photographers about how they view other people’s pictures and how that informs their creative process. If you’re not fascinated by all you learn, then maybe you’re not ready to be a professional photographer yet.
Put in the time and energy
Concert pianists aren’t born stage-ready—we all understand that they’ve put in thousands of hours of practice to become world-class players. And this holds true for any creative profession. There are no short cuts to becoming a first-rate photographer, just hours and hours of hard work. But hopefully, by following these tips, you’ll make the most of the time you spend perfecting your craft.
About the author:
Yana is one of the of the co-owners of professional and leading London-based photography studio Headshot London Photography. Headshot London’s photographers specialise in corporate headshots, portraits, events and photo retouching. For more information, tips and their corporate portrait portfolio please visit their website.