6 Things I Learned as Professional Photographer
Recently I’ve been getting this question a lot: How do I start photography? My immediate answer is just to grab a camera and go practice! But the more I thought about it, the more photography tips I came up with that are just as important as practice. Even though I have a tendency to stubbornly want to learn and make mistakes on my own these are some lessons I would have benefited from when starting. With that, I hope these are useful in helping you start your career!
1. Know that there is an endless number of things to learn
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, there is an endless number of things that we do not know. And here is the kicker – the more you learn, the more you learn about the things you need to learn. Photography sometimes tends to be an underestimated field, especially now that everyone has a great camera built into their phone; everyone and anyone can be a “photographer,” that is until dependable and professional quality is needed.
What most don’t realize is how much gear, experience, and skill knowledge it requires to create quality images that can knock somebody’s socks off. From composition and light to creative thinking and postproduction, photography is not that easy. But that should not intimidate you, with time you will learn and get to where you want to be. Use this small piece of advice as motivation to get better!
2. Learn and practice the basics
This goes hand in hand with the first lesson. Learning the basics is a must, the sooner you learn ISO, Shutter Speed, and f-Stop, the sooner you will be prepared for any situation and environment. And the best way to perfect the skill? Plenty of practice! Take your camera everywhere, take pictures of everyone you know, even pets; many friends and family are usually more than happy to have their picture taken especially if it turns out nicely. This will serve as an advantage if they print or share it, getting the word out that you take photos.
Secondly, when you take your camera along everywhere, you find yourself in different environments. The light and subject variety creates a perfect opportunity to put those skills to the test! The more you practice the more of those skills become second nature. A helpful suggestion to making sure you don’t stay stagnant in growing your skills is to make it a goal to watch at least 3 YouTube videos (or Skillshare) about photography a week. You can also use make a point to take a class, or a workshop, follow a professional photographer, or spend time talking to someone who can provide some mentoring.
3. Quality gear is key, but lenses make all the difference
Let’s face it, photography gear is expensive and upgrading seems to only make sense when you have some income coming in from doing photography. This may be controversial, but I think buying the most expensive gear you can afford to meet your needs is the way to go (after you feel comfortable with your subject of interest and have a good grasp of the basics). The reason for this is that learning and experience are gained exponentially. If you have mediocre gear, you will outgrow it very soon. While more professional tools are a little more difficult to use is you can always grow into them and learn the full function of them with time.
If this is not a possibility, look into investing in quality camera lenses. Lenses can make the biggest difference in helping improve your pictures. In the long run, they make financial sense too. Most lenses can be transferred over to the upgraded camera body later. The bottom line is that, if you want to grow as a professional photographer initial investment is necessary to kick start a career of amazing work. In case you need a guide on getting started, read this blog about the photography tools I use.
4. RAW images are your friend, so is shooting in manual mode
If you take away anything from these photography tips, it’s to shoot and always save your photos in RAW format, and when you shoot be sure to do it in manual mode. There are about a hundred reasons why RAWs are recommended, but for a beginner, this is even more important. As you learn more techniques and develop your editing your style WILL change. You may want to go back and re-edit those photos from before in a much more polished way. Plus, it’s great for practicing; you can revisit the same photo over and over repeatedly to try out new things.
I can’t name how many photos I have re-edited because my preference changed, but I was very grateful that I had all of them organized and stored to make this happen. A note on the shooting manual, you should mainly focus on leaning knowing how to use Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO and the relationship between them. This is what will separate you from a regular phone picture and photography amateur; learn and use them to your advantage to make strides in creativity.
5. Start a portfolio and share it
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to start a portfolio and make sure it is shareable. In my experience with portraits and wedding photography, as soon as the word gets out between your friends and family that you are a photographer open for business, people WILL start asking you for examples of your work. You won’t want to deny showing your work, especially if you want to work with prospective clients. You also won’t want to scramble at the last second trying to get organized and looking through hundreds of folders for your best photos, so start NOW!
After every photoshoot, add your favorite pictures to the portfolio, over time you’ll have a great collection ready to be shown to anyone on the spot even in the most unlikely of places.
6. Don’t doubt yourself
Even if you started photography a day ago you are already better than you were yesterday and you probably have a better grasp of your skills than you give yourself credit for. Yes, there will always be a professional photographer who is better than you, but you will have your style and field of interest that is unique to you. So, take risks! If someone asks you to take pictures, say yes! Of course, be honest about your level of experience and maybe ask someone with more years in the field to help be your back up but say – YES! This is how you learn, grow, and start your photography journey.
While I have much more to learn I love teaching what I know to anyone who is interested and needs a little inspiration. Feel free to reach out and follow me on social media for tips, behind-the-scenes, photography tips, and adventures!
Hi! I'm Mariya Maximtsev - a published Chicagoland portrait photographer. I love taking pictures of amazing families, and creating custom sessions for women and business owners!