I am admittedly an average photographer and I don’t know that I am qualified to offer any advice to photographers.
But, I began thinking about the 2 years that I have practiced photography seriously. In that context, I thought about advice or lessons that I could share with beginning photographers. In other words, what would “Uncle Tommy” (see what I did there) say to Tommy (the beginning photographer) two years ago?
Learn Your Camera and Settings, Then Learn Them Again and Again……
Cameras are highly complex pieces of equipment. The technical aspects of operating a camera, lighting equipment, etc. can be daunting. But, learning your camera is essential. I am always revisiting technical aspects of my camera. For example, I am currently varying my techniques with white balance and exposure bracketing. As a photographer, you can always learn something new or interesting (technically speaking) about your camera.
Discover What Makes a Good Photograph (To You)
Some Professional Photographers talk about developing your own style. I tend to think that photographers do not really consciously set out to develop a certain style. I think it happens over time. I like to think about it in terms of discovering the key elements necessary for a good photograph. Let’s face it, that’s an individual thing. We all will be different in this element. Once you figure that out for yourself, I think your “style” will follow over time.
Embrace the Bad Photographs
This is hard to do at first, but do not beat yourself up over bad photographs. As a photographer, you learn fairly quickly that you will only be satisfied with a small percentage of your work. The key is to accept that fact! After you accept that, you can look at your bad photographs with an objective eye with the mindset of improving them. I always keep a folder of “throwaway” photos from a session. In fact, I analyze them more than the good photographs. I want to figure out what went wrong, what could I improve, etc. Over time, that strategy will reduce the number of bad photographs.
Appreciate the Work of Others, But Do Not Envy It
I realized quickly that there is a key to critiquing your work. You gotta keep the blinders on! What do I mean by that? When I critique my work, I do not let the work of other photographers influence me. I try not to compare my work to anyone else’s. I love following other photographers and I appreciate good photography. But, I leave it at that. You have to realize that all photographers are at different stages of learning and that is probably evidenced by their portfolios.
Learn About Off-Camera Lighting
This may be the one thing that has improved my photography the most. It is somewhat daunting at first, but moving a flash off-camera can dramatically increase the quality of your photography. It was also surprising to realize that you do not have to spend a tremendous amount (relatively) on a couple of extra flash guns, a couple of light stands, a few light modifiers, etc.
Don’t Forget About Snapshots, Carry Your Camera
A lot of photographers recommend carrying your camera everywhere. I think that may be a little excessive. But, it is a good practice to carry your camera often. I love taking my camera to tailgating before football games, holiday parties, etc. I noticed that the urge to carry my camera diminished a little when I got into off-camera lighting. But, snapshots can be fun and they reinforce some of the important training and techniques for keeping sharp as a photographer.
Have Fun, Enjoy the Journey
Lastly, I would advise the beginning photographer to have fun!
We all got into photography because it’s fun! Don’t let anything damper that fun spirit over time. Especially when you are a professional photographer and it is the main source of your income, photography can become something different. Even so, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy photography.