I have something embarrassing to share: when I first started out in photography, I spammed the HECK out of people. Without a doubt, I would almost always ask the same question to as many photographers as I could, over and over: what advice do you have for someone starting out in photography?
The answers very widely from “get the best gear you can!” to “gear is a waste of time and money if you don’t know how to use it!” to “don’t compare yourself” to no answer at all (that was the most popular ;) ) - and now, this is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from other aspiring photographers. So today I wanted to share a few of my favorite answers!
1. If you’re just starting out - try it ALL!
One of the toughest things about starting out as a photographer? You won’t necessarily know what kind of photography you love most until you actually try different types!
When I first started getting into photography, I photographed anyone who would let me! Seniors, couples, families, newborns, young kids, professionals, products, weddings, and really, it took a couple of years for me to figure out where my “sweet spot” was, and where it wasn’t. Which is why I do not photograph newborns or products, but love seniors, couples, and families!
2. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF.
You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s worth mentioning over and over again: don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle! You never know the story behind how someone’s gotten to where they are, or how much work they’ve put in to get there. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself!
3. Practice, practice, practice – and break that practice down into manageable goals and steps!
This might be the most obvious piece of advice, but you HAVE to put in the work to learn! Don’t be afraid to put yourself into situations where you have to learn a new skill, and don’t be hard on yourself for the time it takes to master each new skill.
For example, a few years ago, I decided that I wanted to really step up my wedding photography game – but I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things that needed to improve. So, I wrote a list of my top 10 things I wanted to focus on and improve, and each wedding, I tried to focus on one of those improvements – not on all ten things, just on one. By the end of the year, I had ten new skills to incorporate into all of my weddings, each building on the last. And by taking it one skill at a time, one wedding at a time, I was able to improve in a way that wasn’t overwhelming!
4. Take intentional social media breaks.
Ahhh, social media: where creativity goes to die. Social media can be inspiring, encouraging, and community-driven, but if we’re honest, many times it can leave us feeling lackluster and isolated. Social media seems to breed comparison faster than almost anything else, so taking intentional breaks can be a great way to reset and let your own creativity come to the surface.
5. Find inspiration from other creative (or non-creative!) mediums.
Other creative endeavors can be a great way to gain inspiration and a different point of view! You never know what can spill over from one medium into another.
6. Find community with other photographers – beginners and pros.
This has been one of the most life-changing tips for me over the last year! It’s amazing what a simple connection can do – finding other like-minded people who are in the same boat as you, or even further along, make a huge difference in attitude and in success as a whole! We need others in order to succeed. If you don’t believe me, go read The Power of the Other by Henry Cloud!
7. Find inspiration from other types of photography.
If you’re a portrait photographer, follow a wedding photographer. If you’re a wedding photographer, follow a landscape photographer. If you’re a landscape photographer, follow a sports photographer. You might find something interesting that you can incorporate in a unique way into your work! For example, as a wedding photographer, following food photographers has helped me learn how to better style wedding day details. Many food photographers will use stylists or incorporate their own special tricks into making their food photography stand out – some of which I’ve been able to incorporate into my wedding day detail styling! You never know where you might pick up a bit of inspiration!
8. If you struggle with comparison but still want to follow the work of other photographers, follow photographers who teach, not just photographers who simply post their work.
A few years ago, I was so in the thick of social media comparison that I knew I either needed to totally delete my accounts or find a way to manage what I was feeling. I remember sitting down with my husband and going through the Instagram accounts I was following, one-by-one saying “yes, I compare myself to that person” or “no, I don’t compare myself to that person.” It might sound silly, but I learned something from it: the people I was following, or specifically the photographers I was following that I tended to not compare myself to were educators. Maybe it’s selfish – but the fact that those photographers posed their accounts as wanting to help me, not simply just show their work, helped me not feel the need to compare myself. And I’ve been using that “line” to judge who I should and shouldn’t follow ever since!
Looking for additional help and resources to feel more confident and comfortable behind your camera? I now offer a limited number of mentoring sessions per year, along with a few digital resources to aid other photographers on their journey! Check out my Senior Guy Posing Guide below, or to inquire about a mentoring session, use the Contact tab above!