Five Things That Are Guaranteed to Skyrocket Your Photography Career



When talking about improvement in photography, we often hear a lot of nonsense answers, such as upgrading equipment, hiring more staff, trying to find a niche, and so on. This isn’t bad advice, and I give it as well. The thing is, it is so generic and so common that it has lost its meaning. Here are some real tips on how to become a better photographer.

Patience

This is not a sprint; this is a marathon, an Ironman challenge if you will. You need to have endurance and passion if you want to become a photographer. Naturally, you may wonder, how do I know? After all, I’m only in my early twenties, so it’s an expected question. The thing is, at this age, there are plenty of much easier paths to go down than art fashion photography. While there are people my age who do it as a hobby, very few would call themselves full-time. Photography is my 24/7 job from which I make my living. There were plenty of times when quitting seemed like the more logical and easier option. I even tried quitting it for a few months in 2021. I soon realized that my passion for the craft lies very deep, and it is something that is simply impossible to forget or beat.

Being an artist, a photographer is not a get-rich-quick scheme. If you’re my age and are reading this, get prepared for sleepless nights, baked beans on bread, and dry months. No sane person would choose that, and the only thing that will help you through these periods is patience and passion for what you do. Be in it for the long run. I know people who started after I did and quit already, saying that there is nothing in it.

Lighting Skills

One thing that is often overlooked by a lot of photographers is the need for lighting skills. It is fairly difficult to understand light, and I won’t lie, the more I dive into this, the less I know. Quite ironic, but still, I notice that my lighting has become better and better. This correlates with the clientele you can get and budgets. A photographer who knows how to set up a softbox will get stuck as soon as the client asks for the shadow to be brighter, moved to the left, and the light on the face to be harder, more specular, and contrasted.

Lighting is an art; much of your style is your lighting and editing. Importantly, to edit in an authentic way, you need to light in an authentic way. It is fairly hard to take an image already taken and edit it to look like something in your style. Not impossible, but hard. Familiarizing yourself with as many modifiers as possible, renting modifiers to see how they perform, and seeing beyond the softbox is a slog every photographer must go through to understand how light works. While it sounds a lot like the skills required to use flash, it really isn’t. I shoot some of my work on location with no extra lighting. Being able to position your subject at the right angle with regard to sunlight is another important skill. Landscape photographers will know very well how important the time of day and weather conditions (hence light) is to how the work looks.

Authenticity

It is hard to be original. It is often said that everything has been done before and we are just repeating it now. While I agree with this statement to some degree, it is still worth highlighting that originality is being true to yourself. Another difficult concept to comprehend, so let’s break it down. Authentic work isn’t something that is visually different from what everyone does. It is far deeper than that. It is about the aesthetic and your way of working. Two photographers may photograph the same model in the same setting but are bound to achieve somewhat different results. This is much more personal; it is not about the technique that you use.

Most photographers are familiar with things such as softboxes, etc., and have used them on occasion. There are also plenty of tutorials on lighting and so on. Yet, each photographer finds their own way of using the same equipment. Another factor worth considering is your approach to photography. I take a very impersonal approach and work with my subjects from an aesthetic point of view, expecting models to be more like actors and subjects of my art. Others may want to take a more personal approach and strive to capture real feelings and emotions. Neither is better or worse; they are simply different approaches that we take, which form an authenticity around our work.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are something that I am working on at the moment, so it is worth touching upon them as it’s something that is rarely taught. Soft skills are almost as important as your technical ability. Very few photographers are able to make it without being good communicators who are likable as well as memorable. Don’t go out of your way and develop a fake personality that conforms with everything; that is everybody else already.

In an industry where it is about your opinion and point of view on things, you must have one. Developing a finessed, clever way of being a likable, memorable person with an opinion, sometimes a contrarian one, is something I am working on as well. Speaking of likability, when I interviewed Rankin, he mentioned that he burned a few more bridges than he should’ve in his early days. Burning bridges is sometimes inevitable; however, you are likely to need that bridge later on. Leaving on good terms is advised.

Good Education

Photography education is all over the place these days. There is far too much random information on the internet that is coming from people who barely know what they’re talking about. An option would be to go to a photography school and get a degree in the craft. While you will get better information, something that will likely be missing from the syllabus is business skills, vital to being a profitable freelancer. I’m talking about everything from how to set up your company to how to file taxes to how to market yourself. Being just an artist is good enough if you have other streams of income, but it won’t cut it if you’re looking to level up your photography business. A lot of the time, we learn by doing or by having a mentor. A good education can also come from video courses, such as the ones sold at Fstoppers. Filmed by leading industry professionals, they provide the necessary insight and depth into this tough industry.

Closing Thoughts

Technical knowledge aside, here are some important skills that will help you develop your photography career. If you’ve ever wondered why somebody who produces worse work has more clients, it’s probably one of those things. I want to finish off by saying that patience is a virtue. Pair it with perseverance, and you are bound to be a successful photographer.



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