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.
Dani Diamond | Facebook | Facebook Page | 500px | Instagram | Twitter
Great post man, some fantastic knowledge here for any level of shooter.
Great tips. Thanks for sharing!
Loved this article. Very well written and lots of good information!
Nice article! But you didn't answere the most important question: Where can I get one of this suits?? They look awesome (also because you shot great photos of them)!
Btw., there's a nice TED-Talk about this whole "Fake it" thing (mostly about body language, but to "Fake it", is also a big part of this talk): https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are
Gear: The local photography club had a photojournalism contest where up to 7 photos, plus a title photo/slide, were used to tell a story. The judges for the contest were former or current photojournalists. Up until the final contestant's entry, there was a three-way tie for first. The tenth and final contestant placed first. In the tiebreaker for second place, I placed second for photos from a local Greek festival. I used a 30 year-old camera and gasp! B&W film.
Okay, I'm not starting out my career in photography. Computer programming is my vocation. I enjoy photography. If I do switch to photography for income, I hope that it doesn't become a "soul stealing" job that just sucks the life out of my enjoyment of photography.
Great article and fantastic photos!
The business one really hit home. It took me ten years and a lot of unhappiness before I really realized that I love being a photographer, but hate being a business owner.
Great article! Thanks for the tips!
Nice post Dani! I really agree with the Assisting and Business aspects you touched on. I assisted all throughout college for some very good photographers, I learned way more from them than I ever did in Art School.
We can never get enough of these motivational/inspirational posts. Keep them coming. I've found that I grow most as a photographer when my business is absolute crap for a month or two. When business is good, I get too comfortable in my ways. I handle my photo gigs and spend my money and free time as if I'm invincible. When business is slow, it can be depressing. Honestly, the thing that cheers me up most during those times is challenging my photography and retouching skills. I still have a lot of room for improvement, but all the technical/creative progress I've made was due to periods of slow business. Ultimately, making me a better photographer for those clients that pay me. Anyway, I'm going to eat some ice cream now. Ciao.
"Boldness has genius" as Goethe reminded... thank you for the simple boldness
Great article. Bookmarked so that I can refer to it from time to time!
This is a great article.
I have been slowly moving away from social media myself... found that I was trying to spread myself across too many different platforms and it was preventing me from actually getting out there to do the work. Very counter-productive. Additionally, since I have stopped viewing it so frequently... the ideas and inspiration have started flooding back which has been another nice bonus.
Gear! Don't get me started on this one... I couldn't agree more. I've been shootng for nearly ten years and still only have four lenses. Personally, the most important piece of equipment in my arsenal is my imagination/vision.
I still use my D90. It's awesome.
I love mine, still use it,and it has sentimental value at this point since it was my first real DSLR. The funny thing is I can still take amazing shots with it.
This honestly answers so many questions I've had. I didn't know how or where to find the answers, so thank you!
Specifically with gear and just being confident on a job... really amazing article. Really grateful Dani. Thanks.
I love #3. "Fake it 'till you make it" has what I have lived by as a photographer for the last three years. I have purposely rented larger cameras just to impress clients when I arrived at a gig while using my significantly smaller and less featured camera. I have put a lot of time into my logo, website, and invoices to give that highly professional touch when really I am not there yet.
I really appreciate this article because these tips truly reflect the experiences I have as a photographer. I like your note about social media as well. Now that Fstoppers has such an awesome community I would serious consider giving my Facebook some space!
Great post, very inspiring!
I disagree with 1. GEAR, especially with the quote "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.". I can shoot with a 50mm 1.8 for a $800 photoshoot from a client, but should I or would I... hell no! Cause I know if they showed the image to another photographer that photographer will show the imperfections of not being as sharp as another somewhat similar lens like a 50mm 1.2. Gear shouldn't matter, but if you got a market demand for certain type of photographer you should have the best to make the best quality. I cannot make great images on a 50mm 1.8 better than a 50mm 1.2, period!
Why would you care what another photographer thinks if you and the client are happy with the final product? Also; the 50mm f/1.2 isn't really that sharp to begin with. At least not at its wide apertures, which is where most people use it anyways.
Not any photographer, I mean a client of a fortune 500, that have photography "expertise" like their art director that may or should have this expertise will question the quality once they see the results. 50mm 1.2 isn't super sharp when shot wide open, and when compared to other L lenses yes I agree, but compare to a 50mm 1.8, beyond a difference in sharpness. The client sometimes is the art director, but sometimes they're not, when they're not the client sometimes they're consulted on the quality of the photos taken though.
This is so true.
Yes, better gear makes things easier but creating compelling images with impact has little to do with gear IMO. I've watched the work of several folks and realized they're using just mediocre gear and getting amazing results with their skill and patience.
Then again, I go over to sites like DPReview where folks can't imagine shooting with anything less than 36 megapixels constantly updating to the latest body without doing any kind of meaningful post-production to their work.
All the folks obsessing over what is the best 50 mm 1.4 lens are completely missing the point IMO. Give me the old Nikon 50mm 1.4 AF-D and I'll make it work...trust me.
Great points! I still have some difficulty following through with some of them, mostly because of my impulsiveness and indecisiveness. :P
I do have one more tip, though. Know your market. Where I am the biggest photography markets are seniors and children, because this is a family city/college town. So, as a more editorial-fcused photographer, I've realized that I'm either going to have to focus on regional/state publications from where I am now, or I'm going to have to move. Some markets just can't adequately support some types of photography, no matter how great you are.
As usual great post great photos, this type of article gives me a boost to get out and get better as a photographer thanks
I love it. Its all great advise for up and coming photographers. But the "fake it till you make it" is really great. I agree that clients that are paying you want to see what extra cost is going towards. I have brought extra gear and assistants out on shoots that are for important higher dollar clients and every time they have told me that they understood why I did it after we started shooting and they respected me more for it. I think it also helps you justify raising your rates. You deserve more money when you are not only taking photos but you are also managing a crew. It takes another to do that.
Thanks for the tips.
Amazing article! It definitely paint things in a different light. I'm looking forward to tip#5; I trying to hold some light stands, reflectors, camera bags it doesn't matter, I just want to learn.
Great artcle Dani i am now on a a 9 to 5 marketing job and i think to sop it for a photographer career useful topic i learned here