People are always so startled when I tell them that I am in love with the art of photography. Like no kidding. Whether it be portrait, landscape or just photos of abstract things, I love it all. Even my camera has a name (his name is Picasso, we go everywhere together.) For job interviews, in everyday conversation and just shooting the breeze with my friends, I always end up talking about the love of my life, photography. But, in a world full of others who share the same passion for photos the question is how does one stay relevant when everybody now has the same title: Professional Photographer?
Now, I am no pro at giving advice nor am I in school currently for my first love but I can say that with over 8 years of shooting and over 200 events under my belt, I’ve learned quite a lot about photos in a plight to stay relevant in the industry. Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way that I share with anybody who asks me for quick tips:
1) Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a big fancy camera to make magic
One thing that I’ve noticed that I get asked a lot is, what kind of camera do you have? For some reason people always assume I’m working with some fancy big cannon or a really expensive Nikon but in hindsight my camera cost me a little under $1500 which is cheap compared to the big boy camera’s out there. In essence, it doesn’t really matter what camera you’re using, the lens on it is what is most important. If you’re into portrait style photography the 50mm as well as the 85 mm would be perfect for your style of photography. But, if you’re more into landscapes and broader surfaces a variety of wide-angle lenses would be more up your alley. Regardless of what you’re into just know it’s not the camera per say that makes the photo, but the lens plays a big part in that as well.
2) Practice: Everything that the eyes can see is an opportunity to create art
There is no set formula to creating perfect photos or any perfect setting that will just make your photos look the exact same as anyone else’s. There are hundreds of books out there that have tips and tricks to camera settings that allow you to get close to recreating certain shots others have done but it really just comes down to having the eye for the capture as well as timing. Timing is one of the most important factors in capturing the moment. It makes the difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary photo. Whether it be taking photos of leaves, landscapes, hands, or hot-wheels, practicing different settings and lighting will make the difference in how your eye for photos is perceived by others. How you perceive something will reflect in the way you capture it.
3) Social Media should essentially be your best friend
In order to keep your name and brand in the forefront of people’s minds, you have to keep yourself accessible. When I say accessible I don’t just mean that upon request people should be able to see your photos but more so your work should be able to be seen all social mediums you participate in. One thing I’ve picked up from some of my favorite photographers is that no matter where I look, they make sure their social media presence is consist across all boards. If they post something to Instagram then I know they posted it to Twitter and probably even their portfolio. They make sure to make their work visible to all audiences of these different social media channels where all roads lead back to their personal site. Just like timing is important for capturing photos, timing with posting photos is equally important to make sure you are posting when your audience is engaged the most on these social platforms. (Between you and I, here’s a cheat sheet I found that actually worked wonders for me.)
4) If you’re actually going to charge people top dollar, make sure your quality and professionalism speaks for itself
Around this time last year I had the thought that maybe I wasn’t charging enough for what I do and that I was wasting a talent on the fact that I thought maybe I wasn’t good enough or if I charged what I was worth, nobody would support me. I was wrong. I started doing a lot of research on photography business models and marketing mixes and found my own happy medium that best suited my brand and what I was going for. I even had a business consultation about how I could improve my brand and business to best capitalize off what I love to do best; take photos. What I found out is that I’ve actually been selling myself short which was a wake up call for me to take things to the next level. No matter what you do in business, the number one thing you must realize is that your professionalism can sell your product/service faster than the actual product/service ever will. If you can sell yourself to the person (personality wise guys) then I guarantee you they are more likely to shop with you no matter if your work is not exactly at its optimal quality. Now, I’m not saying sell people on a hope and a dream and produce low quality work to them just because you have the gift of gab. But, I am saying that even if you’re not out here shooting for Marc Jacobs and Burberry you can still make a decent living just by how professional you are with what you do and how you do it.
Also, make sure you have tangible examples of what you are able to offer individuals seeking your services or at least have a vision. One thing I’ve realized is that although I’ve shot a number of events, there is always something new clients ask me to capture. Instead of just turning the opportunity down or telling them I can’t do it, I always ask for examples of what they want done and even refer them to my virtual vision board so that they can get a feel for what I would be aiming to do with them for their special shoot. This always helps both parties get an idea of what’s in store for the shoot and provides some clarity on the direction and vision I would be going for essentially.
5) Natural photos are good but Editing can make your photos great
There is no doubt about it that you can create amazing photos with just the right settings and an eye for great photos. But, one thing that can take your photos to the next level is retouching your photos. Me personally, I do not immediately take to photoshop for all of my retouching but I use Adobe Lightroom religiously. Don’t get me wrong, Adobe Photoshop has so many amazing capabilities that many other photographers use to make their art pop but for me Lightroom’s functionablity works a lot better for me. With the effective image management and the logical workflow, lightroom is a winner for all photographers who do not need the many extra components we tend to pass up alot on photoshop. Lightroom allows you to make those simple changes to coloring, exposure and spot healing that are usually the only changes needed to make a good photo great.
I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of other small tips and tricks that other photo geeks like myself use so be sure to leave your comments and tips in the comments!