There’s a lot of negativity and poor advice on photography on the internet, and that can put off amateur photographers — photographers who would otherwise go on to become full-time professionals. So, here’s some of the best advice for amateur photographers who want to make it.
The reason for writing this article is to encourage those of you reading this to carry on taking photos and enjoying the art and science of photography. I see way too many people online discouraging others and putting people down about their photography work. The most important thing for me is for beginners and amateurs to enjoy photographing and feel inspired enough to take more. I see photography as a special discipline that combines art and science, giving us the ability to discover the world and connect to it in a deeper, more meaningful way. So, that’s why I’ve put together 10 tips for beginner and amateur photographers.
Ignore Others and Do What You Love
When you first start taking photography seriously, you’ll hear lots of advice from other people. They’ll tell you not to spend money on cameras and lenses, they’ll tell you not to bother entering competitions, they’ll even dissuade you from practicing photography itself. But don’t listen to them. If you like it, keep doing it.
Listen to Photographers Whom You Respect
Though I’ve advised you to avoid the naysayers, you should pay attention to photographers whose work you admire. This is different from just listening to any person with a camera in their hand. Perhaps these are seasoned professionals whose work you’ve admired for a while, or maybe they’re just great people who take fantastic photographs; either way, try to learn what you can from them.
Establish Yourself as a Photographer
Start by establishing a presence as a photographer by entering competitions and gear your day-to-day lifestyle towards photography. Make sure to get up early to capture dewy sunrises or head out at lunchtime to shoot some street photography in town. Use those images to enter local photography competitions online. Start small and build up as you go.
Treat Yourself to Good Gear
You don’t have to rock up to a shop and buy the latest entry-level camera with a kit lens just because you’re a beginner. You could opt instead for decent secondhand gear that’s perhaps a few generations behind but would have been in the hands of pros just a few years ago. This doesn’t have to be expensive; look around for relatively cheap mid-level camera bodies and used lenses. Prime lenses such as a 35mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.8 are a great place to start, because they’ll provide high-quality optics at a low price.
Learn From the Pros
Take as many workshops and online classes from good photographers as soon as possible; if you can get instant feedback, you’ll learn much faster, but be aware that much of the information at the early stages will go over your head. Just take notes, and you can refer back to them later.
Try Every Genre
Experiment with many different disciplines, from food to portraits, astro to macro. You never know what you’ll like or dislike until you try it out, and there’s always something to learn from each discipline. Motorsports will have to concentrate on autofocus and shutter speed, whereas macro photography will make you acutely away of how aperture affects depth of field. What I’m saying here is in the beginning (or even later in your photography journey), don’t limit yourself just because others tell you to.
Take Inspiration From All Artists
It’s not just photographers who are visually creative. After all, it was only about 150-200 years ago that photography was even invented. Look to the obvious: painters, sculptors, and illustrators, but also take in the beauty made by woodworkers, architects, and even music. Absorbing influence from many disciplines helps develop a wider awareness of art, thereby helping you find your own style.
Work the Small Jobs
The best way to learn more about photography is to learn on the job. Apply for entry-level photography positions and do assistant work if you can, but bear in mind the quality of the studio/workplace’s output. It’s easy for wide-eyed, bushy-tailed newcomers to become enamored with one company, but institutionalization isn’t helpful. There are many ways to take pictures, and it’s important to bear in mind that some people are just in it for the money. As long as they get the money in, they couldn’t care less about the quality of their work. So, try to find workplaces that value high-quality output. Use these small jobs as stepping stones to gain skills and work towards something you want to do, taking with you a large collection of skills and experience as you move through your photography journey.
Ask for Critiques
Again, this should be from photographers you respect, not just a family member or friend who hasn’t the foggiest idea about photography. You need someone who knows what they’re talking about and is capable of producing high-quality work. Make sure you take advice from a variety of different people that are experts in other photographic fields, because what a portrait photographer might spot, a wildlife photographer might not. Attention to detail, lighting, composition, and much more varies from person to person and genre to genre. Try out the advice they’re offering, but always take it with a pinch of salt; after all, photography is an art form and art is subjective.
Learn Off-Camera Lighting
I recommend you do this as soon as you become more comfortable with the basic exposure triangle. Light is everything, and most amateurs don’t apply themselves to this area. It’s really not as hard as it seems, though. If you’re capable of learning about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, then lighting is well within your range of ability.
Overall, it’s not just about learning the technical specifications or buying the latest camera. The best way for beginners to improve their photography is to study art, listen to others, and experiment with as many disciplines as possible. Invest in your kit when and where you can, and avoid naysayers that put you down with negative comments (especially internet trolls). But most importantly, have fun and do what you love.