I once wrote a piece titled "50 Important Things You Need To Know As An Aspiring Photographer". It's been a while, but here are 50 more tips to help you along you photographic journey.
It's better to have a deep understanding of how lighting works than to know about the latest lighting gadgets
Lighting is very simple, it usually comes down to these five aspects: Intensity, Size, Direction, Quality, and Color.
Put your work where the eyes go. Nowadays, that means you should probably be putting your work on Instagram, or even Snapchat. The printed portfolio is being phased out, and in a way, even the good old website portfolio is turning into just a "nice to have."
That said, not putting your work where the eyes go is like putting out a fancy billboard in the middle of nowhere.
If you want your main source of income to be from taking photos, you should probably know a thing or two about marketing. It's much simpler than you think. See: Stock and flow
If you're discouraged about being a photographer because you're not getting as many likes / comments / followers as you'd like. You probably shouldn't be a photographer.
It's beneficial to know a thing or two about casting.
And make up, wardrobe, hair, and set design.
That said, photography is more about the art of setting up and preparing for the shot. Taking the picture is the easy part. It's everything else that comes beforehand that's hard. (pre-production - training yourself, your eye)
Great photographers are also great at seeing. In fact, seeing is way more important as it is the core of where photography comes from. The camera is merely a tool to capture what we already see.
When you don't have a camera, don't fret, just enjoy seeing.
Great photographs have something to say.
Everybody should have a personal project. This is what defines who you are after all. That said, personal projects usually aren't the most popular, but if done right, it will be popular among the right people. - Not to mention, it will keep you grounded in your values and what truly matters to you - it will also keep you sane.
If you want to "make it" in this industry, you need to be much more than a photographer. You need to be a marketer, a leader, a schmoozer, all kinds of things, but try not to be a snob. People tend to do that a lot in this industry... unfortunately.
It helps to know a thing or two about post-processing. Photography is like harvesting your food from the fields. Post-processing is putting it together and cooking up a delicious meal. If you don't know how to post-process, you're just left with a bunch of raw ingredients without your personal spin on it.
You can't manage what you don't understand. Being a photographer often means working with many different people from all different stages of photography. It helps to know a thing or two about the daily obstacles of the team you're managing (producer, assistant, etc) (well, you can, but whoever you are managing will probably hate you)
There's a difference between photo-editing and photo-retouching. Most people say photo-editing when they really mean photo-retouching.
Photo-retouching is a fine art. Don't knock it. Some of the greatest photographers in history don't print their own photographs.
There's nothing wrong with using on-camera flash. Somehow, I feel like this whole notion about on-camera flash being bad is a gimmick lighting companies popularized to get you to buy their lights instead.
Admit that being a photographer means sometimes stepping pass boundaries and being a little annoying at times. I find it is best to avoid any troubles by plainly acknowledging this fact and explaining your intentions, why you do what you do, and what it will ultimately be used for.
If you're scared, you should probably take the photo. It will probably be the best photo you'll take.
Most people love being photographed. Then again, most people are not used to receiving so much attention. Sometimes it takes a little bit to help them warm up.
Much of the photographs we take are taken before we even pick up our cameras.
There is usually only one way to take a photo that is true to who you are.
You should probably triple back up your hard drives. Two copies in-studio in case something fails and you need it immediately. One copy off-site.
If you're ever stuck, ask yourself, "What would ______ do?" Insert name of favorite photographer there.
Gear is great and you should get the best gear that you can, but once that is set, you really should set your eyes back on photography. Remember, some of the greatest photographers used cameras much less advanced than yours.
There are so many photographers nowadays. It can be a bit discouraging in terms of "making it" but consider it a blessing in disguise as it forces you to be your true self. Any other option is useless.
Nobody wants to hear your excuses. If you took a bad shot, then you took a bad shot. Yeah, it sucks, but that's just how it goes. Deal with it and move on.
Just because you worked really hard on a photo doesn't mean it's good.
Get a second pair of eyes. We're terrible judges of our own work. It's very useful to have someone you trust help you identify your masterpieces and utter failures.
I've noticed there has been a trend towards bright and colorful images. It's almost as if there's something wrong with darker images. I don't think there is. They can be quite beautiful, actually.
Disposable cameras are fun. You should always keep one around you somewhere.
Your portfolio should be like a menu that showcases the different recipes you're capable of putting together.
Proudly exclude people from your work. You are defined as a photographer not just by who you let into your frame, but also by who you choose to leave out.
Photography is great but more and more I realize that what I cherish even more is not the photographs I've taken but the relationships and the memories I've created because of photography. Something to think about as we continue our work.
Keep a reference file. This is a folder of images you've taken that could work as jump-off points or inspiration for future projects. Most importantly, these reference files are pictures that you created yourself so they are uniquely yours, versus just a knock-off of somebody else's idea.
Build strong relationships. Photography is a bit of a lonely endeavor. We're like lone wolves. But we're stronger together.
Be incredibly clear about being compensated for your work. Because there are so many photographers and people with photographer friends who are willing to do things free of charge, there is a culture of people asking for photos without pay. Nothing wrong with that. But never sell yourself short. Because when you do, we all suffer.
Every once in a while, go to the rental shop and spend a few days shooting with a camera you normally wouldn't shoot with. I love doing this, that was how I discovered the Contax 645. Such a great camera!
Instagram is a great place to showcase your work, but Instagram isn't a really good place for inspiration. Most popular accounts are skewed towards photos that have perfect centered compositions. Often of food or landscapes. Photography is much more than that.
Having said that, your phone is a great tool for photography. Lately, I've been obsessed with these add-on lenses for the iPhone made my Moment. This sounds like an ad, but it's not. I just really love these lenses, it literally turns my phone into a dSLR.
Never equate the quality of your work with the dollar amount people are willing to pay for it. The market is saturated, so more likely than not, your work won't be worth much (unless you shoot weddings, headshots, corporate gigs, or on the rare occassion, land a huge commercial project). Thinking yourself as less of a photographer due to a lack of high paying gigs is a terrible standard to measure your art by. Basic supply and demand simply drives the price of photography services down. It's been doing so for years, and it will keep doing so.
Find your muses and take as many photos of them as you can. Muses don't come often, but when they do, I try my best to develop a relationship with them. I love photographing these people. And I'll continue photographing them for the rest of my life.
The most common question you will be faced with when photographing in the public is "What are you doing?" - Whenever you're given the chance, answer this question as soon as possible, in fact, answer it before they even ask, this is beneficial for alleviating any unnecessary tension.
Make people look good. I know this might be stating the obvious but nobody likes to look bad. I know the more "artsy" photographers might not necessarily care for this, and you don't have to, really, but it goes a long way.
Learning how to curate your own work is probably one of the greatest skills you can learn. It's incredibly difficult. I just figured it out this past year.
Take selfies. No, not the kind where you use your front facing camera. Take it a little more seriously. I don't say this to be narcisstic, but I do find it a little sad that so many incredible photographers have so little photographs of themselves. In fact, I think one of the best ways of learning how to photograph people is to be photographed.
Make prints. I spent A LOT of time making physical prints of my work during my early years. It's funny because I feel most people don't even notice the subtleties and maybe I'm just wasting my time, but I like knowing I have that ability, and I think all photographers will benefit from making and analyzing physical prints of their photographs rather than staring at digital screens all the time.
Don't take it too seriously. I mean, take it seriously so you can create great work, but I notice when I take photography way too seriously, it's not fun anymore, and I like to have fun =)
by Jason Lam