Advice To An Aspiring Photographer

I’m a number of things, broadly I simply tend to refer to myself as a creative or creator at this point. It allows me to encompass several of the different things I do on a professional level be it writing, blogging, content for business, personal content or photography.

I’m going to focus in on one of these areas in this post, photography. I took a break from photography for a good year and six months where I didn’t shoot a single photo and started again in January of this year.

I took that break because I found myself lost and generally unhappy with the photos I was shooting at the time, hating them and not wanting to share them with anyone. That let to me feeling down and depressed about photography and the camera was retired for 18 months.

Coming back to it since January, I have fallen in love with it all over again and everything I have been shooting since January has been a pleasure and a joy. That has resulted on my working on my Instagram strategy and building up my portfolio again the way I want it to be. The main thing to take away from this is that it is okay to not be happy with every single thing you shoot. Not every shot is going to be one you are happy with, that is why we shoot more than one photo.

Earning the right.

With the increase in Instagram activity since I started shooting again, people have been reaching out and it feels good but one question that tends to come up from aspiring photographers from time to time is “When did you feel like it was right to call yourself a photographer?”

It is a tough one and each individual will feel a different way about it. People will guage it different ways and each to their own, if you feel like you have earned the right to call yourself a photographer then call yourself a phototgrapher.

I referred to myself as an “amateur photographer” for a long time, a number of years. When people (and I don’t mean your family) started taking prints to hang in their homes, that is when I dropped the “amateur” and felt like I had earned the right to call myself a photographer.

Find a niche.

One of the best things you can do I have found is to develop a consistency in what you are shooting, be it nature, animals, people, food, black and white, weddings…it helps when you want to grow your name or your personal photography brand when people can associate you with a certain style.

For me it is cityscape photography. I love shooting in and around the city, I love taking photos of the city and its streets, people, businesses, corners and so on. When you look at my Instagram page for example, much of it is shots from cities.

When I tried to shoot a wide variety of different things I found myself becoming unhappy because I found that invariably I would prefer doing one over the other and when that happens you are best off sticking to what makes you more happy.

So when I was out shooting photos of food I would find myself thinking ‘I really wish I was shooting something else, like photos from around the city.’

Stay away from things you know you will hate.

I always get asked about wedding photography, “you have a great eye, why don’t you get into wedding photography?!”

Simple answer — because I don’t want to hate myself and my work. The very first day I picked up my first DSLR the one type of photography I swore I would never do is wedding photography and I have turned down several requests to be a photographer at weddings in the past.

Why? Because I have never had the desire to take photos for someone’s memories of their special day. Sure the money is good but have you seen the pressure that some of those photographers are under? The workload is high too, people really underestimate the amount of work that goes into the photos after they are taken on the wedding day.

If you know you are going to hate it then don’t do it. As it turns out I am breaking my own promise and will be doing photography at a cousins wedding this weekend, it will be the first and the last I ever do. I only actually caved and agreed to it as the wedding is small but after this weekend I’m going back to a firm no.

What is the low down on equipment, does it actually matter?

Yes and no. Let me explain, people who say that the equipment doesn’t matter are partially correct. When you start out, the most important thing to do is to learn the very basics of composition and framing.

I see people who are aspiring photographers go out and buy big DSLR cameras but don’t have a clue on how to compose a photo. You can take awesome shots on smartphone cameras now, they are getting close to entry level DSLR cameras or you can start out on a point and shoot.

When you are beginning, the important thing is to begin. Start shooting on a point and shoot camera or your iPhone, basically start taking photos first. The equipment can come at a later stage, for anyone starting out the safest approach is to buy an entry level DSLR and see how you get on with it.

My most popular shot to date was taken 12 years ago in New York City long before I became a photographer when I was 17 years old and it was taken on a Sony point and shoot camera.

You may find that you don’t enjoy photography as much as you thought you might and at least if that is the case you won’t have blown all that cash on a mid to high level DSLR camera. I started with an entry level Nikon that cost me around €300 and after about a year when I knew that photography was something I was going to enjoy over a sustained period of time I decided to upgrade to something more advanced.

Photography is an expensive hobby/career choice. See how you get on with it first before investing in the equipment. So it is true when you start out that the equipment is not important, doing is important.

However should you decide that photography is for you and something you want to stick at long term and possibly become a pro photographer then equipment will grow in importance and you will want to invest in more expensive gear or editing software to help you take your shots to the next level.

How do I get my name out there?

Same as with any other kind of branding or marketing these days, set yourself up with a simple portfolio website and upload a small handful of what you consider to be your better shots. Stick the link in your social media bios, setup a Facebook page and run Facebook ads, set yourself up on Flickr or Pexels, get yourself on Instagram and start uploading a minumum of three shots per day.

Interact with other photographers, follow them, comment on their work, share their work and keep griding away at it. Like anything else in life, it takes work and so if you want to get your name out there you are going to have to work at it.