Regret is the worst feeling in the world but as humans, we feel it. There are times we all look back at, kicking ourselves thinking "if only I had known… I would've done it differently." I remember telling myself if I was ever given the opportunity to be heard, I'd collect a list of tips to share with others so they don't have to feel the frustration that often comes along with regret.
This tip is cliché but an article of this nature would be incomplete without it, so let's just get it out of the way. I can not stress enough that gear should not be the one thing holding photographers back from producing great results. Of my four years as a photographer, two of those years were wasted on worries about lacking equipment. My good friend and extremely talented photographer, Ett Venter says "You don't need 15 million lenses. Just one body, one 50mm lens, one flash/reflector, and you can do 90% of the stuff you see on 500px." To prove this thought, I wrote an article about it last month.
2. SOCIAL MEDIA
Facebook and all other social media outlets are a controversial topic. Personally, I believe that while these platforms are a great source of inspiration, they do more harm than good for photographers who are starting out. Before I discuss the dangers of social media, I will say this: social media is the key for marketing and a necessary evil in our trade. However, Facebook is like cancer, it's the rust accumulating underneath a car. It eats away at life and kills creativity slowly. Countless hours are lost by surfing through other photographers work. Personally, I followed a group of photographers and I found their insane skill level to be depressing and disheartening. I decided that the best way to change that was to quit social media. For six months, I was "Facebook free" and I was out shooting and editing every single day. Those six months changed my mentality and my skill level immensely.
3. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
Two months ago, I was hired to shoot for English Laundry & Nichole Miller (Images used in this article). As a photographer, I am partial to natural light. The majority of my work is all about natural light. When I was hired, it became clear that it was going to be a pretty large production and I knew I'd get laughed at if I showed up with my D800 & 85mm 1.4g. So I brought along 2 assistants and a van full of gear. They setup strobes and modifiers and they triggered the strobes every few minutes between each of my shots. All this, just to impress. The clients were excited to see the overwhelming amount of gear and loved the photos even before they saw them.
There's no need to let your audience and fans know that you are working out of your parents' basement. Additionally, never offer free photo shoots publicly on social media. It's like screaming that you're not busy with paid gigs which hurts the reputation of the business. Your work and business will not be appreciated the way it should be.
Patrick Hall said this better than I ever could but I'll paraphrase. As counterintuitive as it may seem, clients are generally more relaxed when rates are higher. As an event photographer, Patrick Hall found that when he raised his rates, although it was scary, his clients were more excited to work with him and his photos came out better. He attributed this to the fact that the overall budget was much higher for the wedding/event/promo. He said that "with cheap clients does cheap looking final images." Further, the respect you garner as a higher rate photographer is not comparable.
The lesson to be learned is that once you are confident in your skill level and you can compete with other photographers in your area, raising prices is the best thing you can do to for your business and photography.
In general, hands on experience does not compare to what is learned in, say a classroom setting. Most photographers will agree that you will learn more in four months of assisting a photographer than four years at college. Although workshops and schooling are definitely important, only motivated people get far in this field. Lee Morris is a big believer in the idea that being out in the real world fosters an environment for actual experience as opposed to theoretical conversations about camera settings.
Photography is more about business and marketing than actual photography. As someone who graduated with a bachelors degree in business, I applied everything I had learned to make my photography career a success. Interestingly enough, when I first started out doing photography I was surprised to see photographers who were mediocre who were doing a lot better business-wise than photographers with insane skill level. What I learned is that top photographers must be excellent businessmen as well.
Lee Morris is known to say "no matter how much money a person makes, they can still be broke." Making more money will not make a person richer, making wise decisions will make a person wealthier. As photographers, we are constantly with faced financial decisions. Whether that means investing in a new camera, better lenses and flashes or a more powerful computer, a person can get lost in the flash and pizzaz of gear. There will always be a better camera body out there, a new lens or a better computer. However, throwing away hard earned money for "better" gear is contradictory. A rule I have is that I don't upgrade my gear until I sell the older item first. When I sold my D90, I was "camera-less" for three days because I knew that If I had gotten the D800 two years back without selling my D90, the D90 it would still be sitting on my shelf.
Whether its learning how to retouch a photo or an actual photoshoot, staying calm and patience are two qualities that are incomparable. Becoming a master retoucher, branding and marketing or even becoming a skilled photographer are not things that happen over night, a week or even a year. When referring to the importance of patience, Rey Vo Lution says that it is of utmost importance to "be patient with your subject. Most of your great shots happen towards the end of a shoot." For more on this subject check out "Expressions: A vital detail often ignored".
Although the photographers mentioned in the article and I came to these conclusions through trial and error and through an abundance of frustration, it's important to mention that the trials and tribulations are what molded us into the people and photographers we are today. I speak for all of my colleagues when I say that the blood, sweat and tears shed were worth it. It has helped us appreciate our skill set and our success. If given the opportunity, I would not change the course of my journey. I hope that each of your journeys are as beautifully disastrous as mine was. Make sure to share the different things you learned with me on my Facebook page.