by Richard P Walton Published 01/08/2012
Nobody was born an amazing photographer but we were all born with the potential of becoming an amazing photographer.
2. Get critiqued!
One of the most important things we can do, not only in the early days of learning photography, but when we are at any level of photography, is to get critiqued. It's painful to hear that you are failing in some aspects, of course, but the great thing is that you'll never see it until it's pointed out to you. If you can take a critique without being bitter then your work will begin to improve immediately.
I was learning photography in college for a couple of years, I thought I was great. The teachers liked me and said I was producing nice work. It wasn't until I found the photography website www.skateboardphotography.
com (which is sadly now no more) I realised I was really quite rubbish! The website was a place where all levels of photographers would post images for critiquing; I soon found out that I wasn't even producing average work, my work sucked, big time! Not only did my work suck, but I couldn't even tell the difference between a good photo and a bad photo. I continued to spend months getting slammed and was even told to sell my cameras. Whilst it was a harsh environment I cannot thank those guys enough. I had really started to learn things, things which I still apply in my photography today.
Getting critiqued was and still is a great way to learn to open your eyes.
I still ask for critiques all the time, for me it keeps me on my toes and helps me to learn something new all the time. Knowing that a fellow photographer is looking at my work stops me from becoming lazy as they will spot anything sloppy or anything else that might be out of place. When I'm getting critiqued I sit down, open my mind and shut up! A critique is a perfect chance to see your own work with a new pair of eyes, it's certainly not a place to sit and defend your work. The photographs you are giving your clients will have to stand on their own merit when you aren't there to explain them.
When a fellow photographer has taken time and effort to give you critique he/she is giving you a gift, you should receive it that way, with humility and grace.
If your ego is too big and can't take someone's opinion then you might be in the wrong job.
3. Trends in photography
Remember 'spot colour' (black and white with a touch of colour) - did you do it? I know I did, now it's the vintage look, photographers making photos look like they were taken 30 years ago. These are trends and whilst we all want to be original artists there may come a time when we have to do these. After all we're running a business. The trick with trends is to not try to force your client away from them but to add your own take to it if they really do want it. Sometimes it's worth adapting if it means helping our business. If you do not want to follow the trends then don't show them on your website and in your marketing material. You will attract what you show at the end of the day, so if you hate spot colour don't have any traces of it on your site. However, if a clients asks you for it don't be too proud to do it.
There are lots of starving artists in the world because they are too pure for their own good.
4. Using reference and being inspired by other photographers It's amazing to be inspired by other artists and I fully agree it's a good thing to look at another photographer's work, but we should try not to copy other photographers. If you like wedding photography for example I would consider looking at other photography instead of wedding, perhaps fashion. This way our brain picks up the subtle bits it likes and these then end up in your photos making them unique and distinctive in a world of copycats.
Something else that is more important than we realise and is something I wish I was taught and that's the traditional basics of photography.
Rembrandt lighting, the rule of thirds, posing, etc. Even the most famous conceptual artists in the world had to learn the basics, if they had not then even their most expressive work wouldn't have looked right.
If you really want to be an artistic innovator then make sure you learn the fundamentals and make sure you know plenty about what you are photographing. Skateboard photographers for example don't just have to learn to take pretty pictures but they have to learn about what they are photographing, what is the best time to press the shutter to show the trick in its best position, what angle will make the trick look more impressive, what composition will make the skateboarder pop off the page, with no distracting backgrounds.
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