I was just wondering how you got started in photography, and if you could give me tips on how to get started myself.
I was asked the above question by a follower earlier today on Instagram and wrote her a long DM with the following tips. I thought this might be helpful to other people as well so I expanded my answers into a longer blog post. This is what worked for me:
Go to school
I am not a self-learner. In fact, whenever I want to learn something, I hire a teacher. I do not turn to Youtube nor do I start searching the internet. I find a professional and I pay them to teach me. I find it a waste of time to spend hours figuring shit out and learning peoples’ bad habits because you are trying to save some money. Naturally when I decided to become a wedding photographer, I enrolled in the best program I could find. I don’t think I would’ve been able to get as good as I am today in photography and especially in Photoshop if I hadn’t gone to school. Being a student forced me to practice and to experiment with skills I wouldn’t have tried had I taught myself.
Take away The absolute fastest way to learn something is to model an expert. If you aren’t a highly disciplined individual, just go to school. In this case, if you want to become a wedding photographer, go learn from a wedding photographer.
Action step : At the very least, enroll in a photography class, or better yet a professional program. If you absolutely want to learn on your own, follow an online course that has a curriculum so that you can make sure you are moving along.
Do not buy a camera right away
I didn’t buy a camera until a month after I started photography school. My peers made fun of me for being in a photography program and not having a camera. However, I didn’t really need one at the time because we were just learning theory. Meanwhile, I was scoping my environment to see which of my classmates I liked best and which I thought I would be friends with. As it turns out, the first two friends I made had Canon cameras. I knew nothing of cameras at the time so having the same brand cameras as them meant that we could swap lenses and accessories, and that they could help me out with camera settings and other general questions I had about my camera.
I also bought the most basic DSLR camera I could get because I wasn’t sure if I would like photography once I started. This removed the pressure of having to stay at it because I had just invested 2000$ in a camera. (FYI, I never upgraded from that basic camera until a week ago, when I bought a professional full frame camera. I worked for 2 years as a wedding photographer with a (very) basic camera).
Take away : If you don’t know anything about cameras wait until you start class to buy one. Talk to your teachers and classmates to get real reviews from people. It also helps to pick a brand of camera that your friends have that way you can swap (in my case only borrow since I had nothing to offer, lol) lenses and accessories. And for God’s sake, by a basic camera until you know what the hell you’re doing. Hold off from buying a camera until you’ve done some research
Action step : Buy a basic DSLR to begin with. I would even buy a cheap used one because you might find yourself wanting to upgrade in a very short amount of time like many of my classmates did. Lots of them spent $700-$900 initially, only to buy a full frame/pro camera for $2500-$3500 one year later.
Get a Geo- but don’t be a bugaboo
I met Geo at a mutual friend’s Christmas party. Somehow it came up that I was studying photography and was enrolled in the same program that he had graduated from 7 years earlier. We got along instantly and I somehow ended up assisting him at a small wedding he was photographing. I say somehow because I cannot remember if I was the one to ask if I could assist him or if he asked if I wanted to tag along. Whatever! The point is that I was actually getting the chance to work with a pro wedding photographer! It was the first wedding that I photographed and I will always be grateful to George for giving me that opportunity. This is a picture of me and Geo. This is also how I smile when people force me to take selfies with them:)
Now the second part- don’t be a bugaboo. Don’t just randomly ask a photographer you don’t know if you can assist them. It’s annoying, and if they are any good they will probably say no- as well they should. Meet other photographers through meet-ups, oh, i don’t know, going to school:). Once you have a relationship with them suggest that you collaborate or assist them.
Take Away- Make friends with an established wedding photographer. It also helps to let everyone know that you’re learning photography because people will probably be like « oh, so and so is also a wedding photographer » bam! Get the digits.
Do not just ask a wedding photographer you don’t know to assist them. However if you feel that you can collaborate with them on something cool and can actually bring something to the table (can organize the shoot, find great models, know a great stylist, location, etc.) than go ahead and contact them.
Action step– Join a meetup, a photography group (on Facebook or something) and meet other photographers. Be their friend and they may ask you to assist them on shoots.
By the way, for those of you who don’t know what a bugaboo is, here is the definition from the urban dictionary (and yes, that is how they spell girl in the urban dictionary, lol)
Gurl or Guy Who Dont Leave You Alone.Callin You Up Every Two Minutes On Your Celly, and Just Dont Trust You Doin Nothin, You Say Your Out Wit Your Boiz And She Thinks Your Out Creepin With Some Other Trick.
Organize personal shoots
I cannot stress this enough! I am so surprised at how many photographers that I know that don’t organize personal shoots. I mean, when you are just starting out, you basically have no other option. Also, organizing shoots will help you decide which area of photography you are most passionate about. When I first started out I experimented with boudoir/lifestyle type of shoots. I still love them which is why I encourage my brides to do boudoir shoots to give as gifts to their future hubbies.
Another advantage to organizing shoots is that it made me look more serious to the people in my circle and the more they took me seriously, the more they encouraged me and told people they knew about me.
Take away- Plan a shoot. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. My first organized shoot involved black panties, a Nirvana tank top, and my own ottoman. My location was my bedroom and my light source was light coming in from a window. I used my T3 and my 50 mm 1.8 lens.
Action step- Call up a friend and tell them to come over for some pictures. Plan a very simple photoshoot to get you started. Remember simplicity is king!
Work your way backwards
When I started in photography 3 years ago, I had a clear idea of what I wanted my photos to look like. I kept looking at where I wanted to be and tried to get there little by little. I still have a long way to go but my skills have been improving dramatically because my efforts have been so focused.
Take away- Look at styles of images that you like and work to get your photographs to look like that. Obviously don’t copy but have a general look you work towards.
Action step: Pick a couple styles of images you like and shoot. Be prepared to be discouraged because your images will probably look like crap compared to what you’re going for at first.
I now consider myself a professional because I know what to expect all the time and I can confidently say that my clients are getting a really amazing product. This certainly wasn’t the case when I first started. Take the following picture I took of my sister for instance. It’s beautiful and all but it’s blurry af! Back then, nothing I photographed was guaranteed! lol
Now I do stuff like this (damn, check out that sharpness, lol)These 5 steps really helped me go from an amateur to a pro. It really was that simple. What about you? Have you been thinking about getting started in photography? What’s stopping you? Try these steps and if they work please let me know! And if you think they suck, definitely let me know, lol!!