This article is the first in a series of five that will provide informative and (likely) heavily opinionated suggestions on how to succeed in photography. I received an email through one of my websites. The web visitor asked: “I am starting out in professional photography and admire your work. I was wondering if you had any advice.” I’ve taught photography to many including nine-year old (underprivileged) children. BTW: they make the best students of the art and I’ll talk about that more in future articles. Narrowing “it” down to a list of 10 or more things you’d want to do to succeed in photography was a fun challenge for me. “Sure,” I thought to myself. “I’ll just summarize several decades of dedication and commitment to my craft with a few bullet points. No problem!”
I replied to the sender with my carefully drawn game plan for success. Sent the email. Felt lifted with excitement. Poled my email client for new messages and THERE IT WAS: “Mail Delivery Subsystem : Message Not Delivered.” The reply email from the web visitor was invalid. I spent a long time thinking about how to respond to this guy. My heart sunk. Then, I realized that this effort was NOT wasted. That, in fact, it was the work of a higher power calling upon me to share this divine wisdom with the masses. – OR – the guy who made the request for my help just doesn’t do well with entering his valid email address correctly. Either way… let’s get started (although, and this is between you and I, I think it is the higher power thing going on here. Besides, that gives me a bit more of a creative buzz.)
1st advise: Don’t start out in Pro Photography. Start as a student of the media. Pro Photography is more of a business, then a skill level.
Example: You might be a great songwriter and performing artist, but the people you are hearing on the radio are the “pros” in that business (keyword… “business”).
I know I’m mincing words but my point is that you start as a student and must also learn the business of…”
2nd: Master the art of seeing. Don’t see objects like books on a shelf. See shapes, tones, lights and shadows. Learn to see. I study the great masters’ paintings and sculpture… they “saw.”
3rd: Be as good or better in Photoshop as you are with your camera gear. It is the paradigm of today’s world of digital photography and necessary for your overall skill set.
4th: Learn how to light things. Lighting is the most important factor. (assuming you have some basic composition skills and somewhat of a creative eye). NOTE: I’ll be writing about methods to help you develop your creative eye in future articles. Ya… I know what you are thinking, “promises, promises, promises.”
5th (and not last): Next time you take a photograph of something, lay down on your belly to change the angle from where you are shooting. That may NOT be the place to shot from… but let yourself experience that dramatic vantage point from where you might create that image. If it were kids in the park that would be a good place to shoot from, compared to standing up straight in a typical “look this way and say cheese.” (para español, oprime y decir un queso)
6th (and still not last): Buy a reflector. It’s affordable and excellent for spilling (reflecting) light back on to your subject.
7th (and definitely not last): while we’re on the subject (pun intended) shoot into the sun, NOT with the sun behind you. I’m not gong to tell you why. Remember the first Karate Kid movie? “Wax on, wax off…” Let’s just say that this 7th tip is my way of setting you on the course to “getting it” -or- if you prefer this shall be my Zen of Photographic Techniques. So… shoot into the sun until you “get it.”
Okay, Grasshopper. “Cheese!” (I can’t believe I just said that.)
8th Tip: Make it fun. Do it because you have to – because you are driven. If you’re not driven, go back to your songwriting.
9th Tip: It’s the results that count, not how you get them. This generalization is true for this article. DO NOT use this advise in parenting your child please.
10th Tip: Life is full of disclaimers. Don’t (always) overlook the fine print. Here’s an example: There are 361 more tips to fully answer my web visitor’s question. I’ll provide the 50 I’ve committed myself to in this series. However, for the additional 311 tips I’ll have to assess a $9,000 fee to provide those. You see, “it’s business buddy” and I “am” a pro (one of those stupid smiley face things goes here : ) you know… the grinning, almost evil one ;_}
Okay! Now shut up and shoot something. Remember, “Capturing the Moment is a Full Time Job(tm).”