List-a-cle, Success

10 things I’ve learned as a young photographer


I don’t have it all figured out.

I don’t have a long list of awards or a bank account stacked with bullion. I’m just a college kid who loves to create visual art. But, I do have some valuable experience.


 

Here are 10 things I have learned thus far.

1. Be honest with people

I share my weaknesses with my clients. I’m open. Realize though, I don’t ever put forward a foot of weakness, but rather simple truth. I ask them what they want and I try to deliver. If their expectations are too much for my skill set, I’d rather get them to an artist who will help them than take their money and time without delivering their product.

2. Replicate greatness, and then be great

It’s really that simple. If you want to capture great images, study the what inspires you. Reach out to a photographer who has been in the game longer, read books, gaze over youtube tutorials. Ultimately it’s your responsibility to be successful. You have to chase your dreams. Find what inspires you and capture it. And then, make it your own.

I waited for several minutes to capture this. I constantly shifted my perception so I could get the lighting just right.
I waited for several minutes to capture this. I constantly shifted my perception so I could get the lighting just right.

3. Take your time

I’ve been shooting professionally for a little over two years. The most difficult obstacle for me — is me. I get in a hurry, rush through poses or my visual pre-planning because I am impatient. When I get back to editing, I see so many opportunities I’ve missed because I move too quickly. Take your time, feel out your shots. Take deep breath in between exposures.

Bob Miller, RUF/NEKS president from 1947-49, sings the OU chant before a football game at Oklahoma Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium, Sep. 2015.
Bob Miller, RUF/NEKS president from 1947-49, sings the OU chant before a football game at Oklahoma Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium, Sep. 2015.

4. Its not always about the gear, but it sure helps

I started with a Nikon D200 and a 50 mm f/1.8. I spent around $300 to get a skin in the game. I learned so much with my limitations. You can shoot with anything. But, know your limitations. I now shoot with a Nikon D610 and have several lenses to choose from. I have begged and borrowed to get to this point. I have a long ways to go, but I know I can create art with much less. Some photographers start with more equipment, some start with less. Don’t hesitate or not start photographing because you don’t have the right equipment. Just get something and start from there.

5. Find a mentor

I’ve been fortunate enough to find visual artists who want to share their knowledge. CHECK OUT MY POST ABOUT A MENTOR I HAD.  They empower me to become the best version of myself. When you find someone to show you the ropes and they care about your future success, you’ll see great improvement in your work.

6. Be a mentor

If you have a mentor, you know how important this is. It’s okay to share your “secrets,” it’s okay to encourage, empower, entrust, enthusiastically ensure (… okay I’m done with the alliteration.) the success of another photographer. We’re all on this journey together. Find someone who is passionate and share what you know.

7. Know what you are worth

I struggle with pricing. Many times a friend/family member will ask, “How much do I owe you?” I typically look at them and stare in to space wondering. This may be one of the most difficult things I am trying to figure out. How much do I charge people? Ultimately, I think understanding your value, your market and your skill level is imperative to finding success.

Law enforcement students nuetralize a threat to save a hostage held in a darkened building at a fire training center in Edmond, Oklahoma during a Special Weapons and Tactics school held by Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office, Oct. 26 to Nov. 6, 2015. Will Rogers Air National Guard Airmen and six other state agencies executed precise joint operations and procedures that will later be used to save lives in real-world situations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)
Law enforcement students nuetralize a threat to save a hostage held in a darkened building at a fire training center in Edmond, Oklahoma during a Special Weapons and Tactics school held by Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, Oct. 26 to Nov. 6, 2015. Will Rogers Air National Guard Airmen and six other state agencies executed precise joint operations and procedures that will later be used to save lives in real-world situations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)

8. Take risks

The more you shoot the more you’ll find “what works.” This is good. It’s called experience. However, don’t let that get in the way of shooting new and exciting things. Don’t settle for the same ol’ shot you always get. Branch out and continually find new ways to redefine yourself. If you love photography, then love the beauty of newness.

9. Visual pre-gaming is essential

Visual pre-gaming (AKA visual pre-planning) is essential. Before any shoot, whether senior portraits, uncontrolled action, photojournalism, real estate photography — it doesn’t matter. Prepare for your shoot. Spend time understanding what you want and how you want to get there. Practice poses, lighting techniques, exposure settings, etc. Preparing for a shoot is essential to confidence. Confidence during a shoot leads to more work. START PLANNING.

New Mexico
Sunset near Red River New Mexico, July 2015.

10. Never stop shooting

Here’s the deal. I don’t have this whole thing figured out. But I do know this. If you want to get better — shoot — a lot. No excuses. Everyday set time aside to get better. Practice compositional guidelines. Practice lighting techniques. Practice anything you can. But never, never stop shooting. Photography is a skill. Skills are crafted over hours and hours of tedious labor. If you want to see results get in the visual gym and start lifting those photo-weights. (I know that’s cheesy. Sorry.) But don’t give up.

Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.

 

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