Got an expensive DSLR as a gift? Or have you just seen what your photographer friend could do with that cam of his and are impressed by it? Or have you been working hard to achieve the status of a professional photographer? No matter what stage you’re at now, these tips will help you become a better photographer.
Part I: On Becoming a Pro-am
Before you can become a professional, you need to become a Pro-am i.e. Professional-amateur. Assuming you have at least a simple point-&-shoot camera and the passion for photography, you can declare yourself ready to embark on the journey of becoming a Pro-am. It is strongly recommended that you have at least a decent point-&-shoot and not just a shoddy mobile phone camera to begin with. This is in the beginning. But you will need to be ready to invest in a proper DSLR with good lens set-up when you decide to become professional.
Create an online presence
Create accounts on websites such as DeviantArt, Flickr, Behance etc. where you’ll find like-minded artists showing off their talents. It will not only give you the inspiration to take great-looking photos but also give you an idea of what you like and which approach you can take. Another good thing is that you can have discussions with professionals and others on forums. This will give you the knowledge necessary to make your explorations and personal experimentation more efficient and guided. The best part is that with an account on one of these websites, you’ll feel inclined to fill it with photos that show off your best work. You’ll be motivated and compelled to go out there, experiment and create products that impress those who inspire you. A few active months in experimental photography driven by your online presence can significantly boost your abilities.
Theory of Photography
There are certain tried and tested methods that photographers learn over long spans of time and to bring speed to your learning you can explicitly learn those general principles of photography by reading photography tutorials or ‘how to’ books on photography or if you’re short on time and patience, through video tutorials on different photography techniques offered by YouTube channels such as AdoramaTV. While there’s no substitute for in-the-field practice, learning the theory or general principles of photography can significantly improve and guide your work.
One of the key attributes of a great photographer is his/her creative eye – the ability to see ordinary things in unusual ways and capture them. To develop your creative eye you need to do certain exercises. A good way to go about it is to pick an ordinary object lying in your household that is preferably not ugly and spend a whole day capturing it in different ways. Use different lighting, different set up, different background, different camera settings etc. At the end of the day you should’ve explored the maximum possible ways in which that ordinary household object could possibly be seen. During this exercise you could also try to develop the ability to incorporate themes in your photography. For instance you could pick up a simple caption such as ‘Time and tide wait for none’ and use your imagination to pick an object and capture it in a way that reflects the caption you’ve chosen. It carries the same difficulty that all creative tasks carry but you get a lot of pleasure when you’re finally done with it.
Don’t restrict yourself to a particular type of photography. In the early stages capture as many things in as many different ways as possible and eventually you’ll naturally narrow down to your specialty or your niche.
A professional photographer is a whole package. He/she starts right from the conceptualization of the object of photography, goes through setting it up, shoots and finally culminates the process with post-production work. This final step has the potential to significantly boost the quality of your work and for some it may even be the most important step in the whole process. This set of skills again comes only with practice and since we’ve all gone digital, getting feedback for your editing is instant as against what it was some years ago when things were still in film. Thinking of this fact and of how much more laborious the processes that photographers of previous generations had to take their work through to perfect their art can reduce the level of cumbersomeness that you might associate with post-production. A good piece of advice is to work on different ways of editing a single picture to see what sort of effects you can bring to it. Save the different images and take a break or something and free your mind off the work you’ve done and come back and take a look at the different images. Practice this for every outing/project and you’ll gain an intuitive feel to editing.
So far you’ve seen the different skills and practices that you need to do to get from a newbie to a pro-am. Know that this might take from a few months of relentless work to a few years depending on various factors such as the amount of effort you put in, the steepness of your learning curve, the nature of your subjects, your interest in photography etc. Once you’re satisfied with your growth and you feel you’re limited by the lack of opportunities to work further or by the limits of your equipment, you can declare yourself ready to embark on the journey to become a professional photographer.
Part II – On Becoming a Professional Photographer