To be a photographer you need many things - the ability to take good photographs is just one of them, and if you look at the work of some professionals you realise just how small a part of the job it can be. A good business brain, energy, enthusiasm, determination and the backing of friends and family are far more important - especially at the beginning.
No matter what you talk about in life there seems to be a scale: left to right, top to bottom, right to wrong. I can now add a new one....journalism to design. These are the two ends of the scale that I exist in as a photographer. At one extreme my work is pure journalism and at the other it's little more than eye candy.
My call goes out - Amateur photographers, wannabees and bored professionals everywhere... rise up, burn those backdrops, dump those videos and escape the cult now. There is a world of interesting, unique and occasionally truly original work to be done out there. Before you know where you are, that chant (ommmm-mainlight, filllight, hairlight, backlight-ommmm) will just be a distant and mildly embarrassing memory.
Portraiture is something that you either find easy or you don't. There are things that you can learn to make the whole process less painful and there are ways of shooting that eliminate risk (and creativity) if you really find that saying something about your subject isn't what you were cut out to do with your camera. My advice is to talk to your subject, look around the room or the garden for something that they relate to and shoot a lot of frames.
Advances in equipment and in technology have always made the impossible merely difficult and the difficult little more than routine. The area that we can all concentrate on now is being creative. I for one welcome everything that helps me to make my work better, and technical gizmos that free my thoughts from the boring mechanics of photography allowing me to be more of an image creator than a picture taker are welcome additions to my kit.
- Keep every receipt. Claim everything against tax and make sure you get paid.
- The business is full of sharks. You have been warned.
- Get a great portfolio, keep it up to date and never let it gather dust.
- It's good to know how to make beautiful prints, but only so you can tell your printer where he's going wrong.
- A distinctive style is good, just as long as it doesn't go out of fashion.
- Spend as much time looking at other people's work as you do fretting about your own.
- Only buy enough equipment to do the bread and butter jobs. Renting makes sense.
- Whilst it might seem a privilege to make your living in such a wonderful job, you still have to pay the bills.
- It's not good enough to take good photographs most of the time, you have to take great ones all of the time to survive
- Never take advice on photography from someone who tells you that there is only one way to do something!!