Between the dawn of the digital age of photography and services like Instagram, more and more people are trying their hand at photography. Whether you’re looking to be the next Ansel Adams, or just looking to take a few nice photos of your kids and loved ones, there are a few things that you NEED to look out for when getting started in photography.
If you've been engulfed in photography for long enough, you've probably ran into a few of these problems before, and learned a very valuable lesson from it all. If you’re new to the photography scene, or have dodged the bullets so far, let these 5 tips be a precautionary tale to keep you thinking smart and not getting scammed.
Grey Market Sales
When you’re looking to buy a new camera body or lens, you’ll probably search all over the internet to find the cheapest price available. You’re going to find that Amazon, B&H Photo and other similar camera stores will largely have the same prices. Then you’re going to find a store with a name like SuperShopExpress that is selling the same exact product for 25% off the price of it's competitors. Resist the urge to clicking the buy button - as it may become nothing more than just a headache and phone calls to your credit card company.
What they are doing, is a classic bait and switch scam. They’ll have you buy the camera (without a warranty, mind you), then call you trying to up-sell you batteries, memory cards and everything else in between. If you don’t comply with these additional charges, they’ll casually inform you that they’re out of stock on the item. Not only will this slow down the process of getting your fancy new camera from a different seller, it’ll also leave a sour taste in your mouth. My advice is to stick to the reputable sources, and only buy cameras and accessories from stores that are authorized sellers of the product. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Sadly, there are members of the community who exploit the naive nature of new photographers and sell gear that is re-branded, with a bit of a price hike. Last week, we touched base on one of these stories, where re-branded flash units were being sold for over $100 of their normal price. Nothing was different except for a sticker hiding the original brand. Sadly these stories are far too frequent. Be sure to do your research before buying gear online, cause you may find that it's not what you're looking for or need. When in doubt, find a photography forum or Facebook group to ask for help.
When finding an interest in photography, it's easy blame your gear for your own limitations. You'll probably find yourself sitting at B&H Photo's website, building a wishlist of everything you "need", reaching figures into the tens of thousands. Stop that. A $2500 lens is only as good as the hands holding it, so there is no sense in upgrading to the best of the best until your photography is able to really show it off its advancements and features.
Master The 50mm
The general rule of thumb I tell photographers who are just getting started into photography, is to master the 50mm. Not only is the 50mm among the cheapest lenses you can buy for all systems, but it's also the same focal range as the human eye (roughly). By limiting yourself to this lens, you'll be able to craft the skills that a bunch of gear won't be able to teach you. Color, composition and other fundamentals of photography are best learned through limitations, not by hiding them behind gimmick styles and bags of equipment. Find your skills using a 50mm, and you'll be able to master all lenses and focal ranges much easier.
Having Proper Paperwork
When starting out, you won't even consider getting the paperwork needed to insure that you're protected and that you own the rights to the images you take. It may come to your surprise, but nothing will save you in this industry more than a correctly worded release form. Making sure everyone signs a model release form and making it a part of your system of workflow will save you from headaches, legal threats and angry clients in the future. I've gone ahead and provided you with my model release form attached here. While it's all branded up with my logo and information, it should at least give you a starting point on how to build a release form. It is about as basic as they come, but has saved me from a lot of stress when I've gone ahead to put work in my portfolio.
Focusing on Trends
Two years ago, everyone was focused on adding lightleaks to their images. Before that, everyone was in love with trying their hands on free lensing. We're currently coming out of the double exposure era and into everyone becoming a lifestyle photographer. While trends are important and interesting, and will help you when creating a portfolio that is both current and creative, it's important to not let trends define your work. Building a portfolio that is unique and part of who you are is not just important - it's essential. The downside with trends is that they're temporary - and will eventually feel stale and overdone. Three years ago, having a model in a bathtub full of milk was considered very creative - now you've probably seen a dozen different images mimicking the same concept. Build a portfolio built off of your own style and personality, and you'll attract the clients you want to work with.
Hopefully this article has provided you with some insight on what you watch out for when starting you creative adventure in photography. While starting off in photography can be an exciting and fun experience, it's important to approach it all with some objectivity. If you have some insight to provide on this topic, I encourage you to do so in the comments below.