I am not ashamed to say that I am nowhere near as good as I wish I was. I fail constantly and maybe that's not such a bad thing. I learn new things every day and some times those things that I discover may be something that everyone else with a camera already knows, or something I learned in college but didn't appreciate until the moment I stumbled across it myself. Messing up is part of the artistic process. Many wonderful things we hold (or have held) in high esteem were invented on accident such as: Silly Putty, Play Dough, The Slinky, Potato Chips and even Fireworks. What all these things have in common is they bring joy to those who enjoy or have enjoyed them and that's what you have to bring to the table with your photography. I am not saying that I stumble upon the newest trends in photography or that I have found the perfect formula because I know that I haven't. But what I have found is a way to create images that my clients are fond of. It's a real joy to see posts from them on Facebook using one of my images as their profile photo.
I am not a professor; I am not the Strobist, nor do I have a fro; But if there is anything I can pass along to other photographers, it is to create a product your client is fond of. Know how to use your camera, and how to manipulate your images to create what you want but make sure what you are creating is of value. Anyone can pick up a camera and take a picture, never forget that. Photographers do more than battle other professionals for jobs, they have to fight back excitable parents and the high school kid with ambition who will do it for free. This happens all the time. Know your market and make them happy with your work. Doing this requires research, public relations, advertising but most of all, you have to educate yourself in your craft. I am a musician who spent a long time learning my instruments but I learned them my own way. When I started learning photography, I adapted the same process:
Here are my 3 Steps for educating yourself in photography:
1: Read and Watch A LOT:
Reading is fueling your brain with information. If you are reading credible sources on almost any topic you are expanding your horizons and therefor allowing yourself to grow. I love reading the DSLR magazines from the UK. Also, I enjoy thumbing through old film instructional books that go in to depth with traditional composition and lighting. As far as online sources, I enjoy watching videos online from FroKnowsPhoto, DigitalRev, Dombowerphoto, and FilmRiot on YouTube. I also enjoy reading The Strobist and the Improve Photography blogs. Do I put all of what they do in to practice? No, of course not but just as I would take one trick from one guitarist and make it my own, we also have to do that with our photography by choosing which styles work for us and make it our own.
2: Be An Assistant
Being an assistant, really made me learn how to become a photographer. Working under someone who has being doing this longer than you have is a good experience builder. Also, the beautiful part about being a second shooter, it opening yourself up to more creative shots, where the main photographer gets all the shots that he or she has envisioned themselves needing.
3: Be social!
Use your Facebook for something other than Farmville and chain photos. Find other photographers around the world that you admire and like their pages. Keep up with them and send them messages. Start with someone that doesn't have a million followers and gets hounded every day. Find a photographer who you like and send them a message with a link to some of your photos and ask them what they think. Many are honored by the opportunity and love to share their opinion. This will help you understand what you could have done better and what you are already doing well.