Have you ever seen an absolutely gorgeous photo on Instagram with thousands of likes and wished you could take photos of your own that are just as beautiful? Perhaps this inspired you to save up for your own camera, just like the one your favorite photographer uses. As soon as you buy it, you bring it out for your first ever photoshoot. You start taking photos. When you get home, you review these photos only to find out that, well, they suck.
Don’t worry, bud. All photographers have gone through that stage. Although it may be difficult to imagine, your favorite photographers were also mediocre at what they do in the early stages of their career. That didn’t stop them from wanting to grow and improve their craft. That’s all there is to it: growth.
Top-quality digital cameras have become easier to acquire in the last decade. Everyone and your mom can purchase a DSLR or mirrorless camera capable of taking amazing photos at a relatively cheap price point. A lot of people own cameras but only a fraction of these people actually dedicate the time and effort needed to go beyond that dreaded amateur photographer phase. If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably in the right mindset. Here are some beginner photography tips to guide you along the way:
Find out exactly what you want to shoot.
A lot of beginners want to try out so many things that it often overwhelms them. “I wanna shoot fashion and food and landscapes and streets and so many more things” is not the best mindset to have if you want to speed up your growth. Shoot around and try to determine what subject you want to stick with. Doing so will make sure you learn as much as possible in as little time as possible.
2. Study the greats of photography history.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz -- do these names ring a bell? If they don’t, you’d want to look them up. These are just four names of what I would consider the titans of photography history. Dissect each and every photograph to see what they considered to be beautiful through their lenses, listen to online video essays detailing the intricacies of their work, watch interviews of them to see how their thought process is like. Sure, there are some superb photographers floating around social media nowadays, but as with any art form, you have to study the masters and build on what you learn.
3. Stop obsessing over photography gear.
The first thing a lot of beginner photographers tend to do is to think their skill level can be bought with money. They save and buy the newest cameras paired with the fastest lenses. When they start shooting with new gear, what do they get? The same forgettable photos but this time with a lot more sharpness and background blur. The fact is this: Almost all digital cameras nowadays, including the one on your phone, is capable of taking breath-taking photos that you just couldn’t a decade ago. There’s a saying that goes “The best camera is the one you have on you” and that couldn’t be any truer. A camera is only as good as the person handling it.
4. Build your network.
As personal as art may seem, you can’t deny that there is a social aspect to be tackled if you want to make it big in your chosen scene. Photography isn’t any different. It’s an absolute must to get yourself out there, whether that’s by marketing yourself the right way on social media or attending social events related to photography. You’re gonna want to grow your network as much as possible because this is where you will get most of your work from. A larger network of photographers can also mean a larger network of people you can approach to critique your work.
5. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to emulate the works of your idols. You may remember when photographers like Brandon Woelfel shook the scene with neon-lit portraits. After portraits like those spread like wildfire on Instagram and Pinterest, many amateur photographers tried their best to replicate the look. This is a great way to start off your photography journey but it’s important to try out new things. Experiment with different shooting styles, editing techniques, and maybe even mix formats. You never know what’s going to look good until you try. You can read all the instructionals and watch all the tutorials in the world but you can learn much more from trying new things out first hand (and learning from the mistakes made along the way).
This is the most crucial out of all the tips enumerated in this article. If there’s one mindset you just have to adopt to get better, it’s the ‘growth mindset’. It’s a way of seeing life explained by Carol Dweck in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” which basically divides the path to success into two mindsets: the fixed and growth mindsets. Basically, having a growth mindset is to believe that anyone can and will grow with the help of focused and consistent work. If you put a lot of time into practicing how to shoot the camera, you will see noticeable, positive results. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same goes for your skills. Who knows, you may be the next great photographer!
You will get there!
You can become a renowned photographer one day if you put in the work and dedication needed. This isn’t a race, either. Everyone should grow at a pace that is suited for them. Some people pick things up faster than most, and for those who lag behind, the important part is to keep at it as consistently as you can.
In a world where people crave for likes and shares from their peers with digital photography, a lot of aspiring photographers forget that what matters is to focus on what can actually make you grow as an artist. If you follow these tips (while picking up a few more along the way), you can and will become a great photographer.