Yes, really. I get asked this question a lot! Or variations of the question.
How can I be a photographer?
What gear do I need to be a professional?
What’s the most difficult thing to learn as a photographer?
And I’m here to give you the low down on what it actually takes to call yourself a photographer. I’m talking step by step action plan. Today we’ll dive in to the very basics. Are you ready? Let’s start with the most important piece that very frequently is forgotten. A piece that I myself forgot to account for in my early stages. And I’m going to be all Phoebe here and tell you that the first step is to put down the camera.
Okay, maybe not the advice you were expecting, but it’s a million percent the advice I received too late in the game. When I started my career as a photographer, I focused so hard on the marketing. On the brand image. On the brand identity. I was told I needed to attract a very specific client, because that’s where the money is. High end clients want to see class and sophistication, and that’s not an identity that comes with being a young 20-something. I hid my age, I hid my relationship status, I hid any detail that would make me seem younger than the clients I was trying to attract. I built up this idea that if my clients knew more about ME, they wouldn’t hire me. Which is SO FAR from the reality.
I’ve learned that the more a client gets to know you, the more they like you, and the more they trust you. Quirks and all. So before you pick up that camera, register your business, or create an Instagram. Remember to hold onto that voice that makes you unique. It will be heard.
Okay, now for the juicy details. What gear do you start with? Do you jump for the full frame? Do you start shooting film? What lenses should I get?
From personal experience, I can tell you that purchasing a full frame made the world of a difference in my photography. And so did film! However, I should caution you from comparing your gear and getting “gear happy” aka, spending every last cent on the hottest new toy. What I would encourage you to do is start where you can. Wherever you can! Whether that’s a hand me down, a goodwill buy, or whatever was on sale at Best Buy, just start were you can. Learn Manual! Learn Kelvin! Learn what all the numbers and buttons mean. What happens when you make a micro adjustment?
Now, my rule for lenses is a bit different than for cameras. I highly recommend purchasing a fixed lens, as opposed to a zoom lens. My personal favorite is the 50mm! The reason is because most zoom or “kit” lenses don’t have the capabilities to create a nice depth of field, or the blur you see in the dreamy portraits you love! If you’re starting out with Canon I recommend the 50mm 1.8 as it’s an introductory lens that will give you the opportunity to be more creative than with the alternative. If you have a bigger budget, I would still recommend splurging on the lens versus the camera, as camera specs go out of fashion a lot faster than lenses do!
Okay, so by now you’ve decided to show up as yourself. You have a camera, a lens, and hopefully a memory card! Time to shoot. But what? Or who? Getting the work can be the hardest part of becoming a photographer. In the beginning it relies on grit, perseverance, and passion. If you don’t have those things, I would suggest starting at the very core of your decision to be a photographer. Remember, before you make any big decision in your life start with WHY.
This might cause controversy, but when you first begin you will have to shoot for free, or cheap. What I don’t recommend is shouting from the rooftops how free or cheap you are. I don’t recommend sharing your services in referral groups or making posters and signs. Start within your inner circle. Friends, family, acquaintances. Before I even had a business title, my portfolio was FILLED, and I mean filled with TWO people. That was all I had. And we shot a lot. Every chance we had to shoot, we took it. That’s all it took in the beginning. And I kept asking new friends and acquaintances if I could have 30 minutes of their time. In a digital age, nobody says no to free photos!
The goal is to build experience. Not just with how to use the camera, but how to pose, shoot in low light, shoot in the rain, comfort your clients, make them happy, learn to slow down, learn to make adjustments, learn to check your progress, etc, etc, etc. The more experience you gain, the more you can confidently tell your future clients, I’ve got you.
Are You Ready?
More importantly, are you scared? I think you should be, ever so slightly. Not to the point of being terrified! But you should have a feeling in your gut going “oh no what am I doing?”. Truth be told, that’s a feeling you should follow when it comes to business. It means you are taking a step out of your comfort zone. You will learn big lessons because of it and welcome amazing people and experiences into your life.
Now that you have the basics by your side, it’s time to get started. Photography is a really amazing skill to have, and it changes lives. Be the reason for smiles and long lasting memories! I’ll catch up again with you soon for Part Two. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to send any and all questions my way.