I don’t have all the answers, but the things I do know I will gladly share.
I am a firm believer in hard work, I don’t really believe in lucky breaks, although I often find myself wishing for one.
I started out in July 2014 with a Canon 650D camera and a kit lens (50mm F1.8), I took photos of friends who were kind enough to let me try out my skills on them. My first shoot was a boudoir shoot, I fell in love instantly. It took me almost 2 years of hard work, blood, sweat and TONS of tears to get to where I am (not to mention countless hours on Creative Live and You Tube). I only moved to a Fuji-film in February 2016, upgrading to a XT10 and buying a 35mm F1.2. If this confuses you then you already have some homework to do.
The first 6 months went by in a blur between newborn shoots, family shoots, couples shoots and assisting at weddings. I had to offer discounted shoots to friends to start off. When it came to shadowing photographers I had to think what can I offer, why would they let me shadow them and learn from them? What can I bring to the table?
Step 1: Learn how to shoot in Manual. It will blow your mind at the difference in photos. I went to Pixel-Pro for their beginner’s workshop with DSLR’s. Albert was amazing and opened my eyes to shooting in Manual Mode. I have never looked back after that. The workshop was the best R900 I ever spent.
Step 2: Get experience, shoot everything and anything you can. You need to LEARN how your camera works BEFORE you start charging people. Charge them for petrol if you need to, do personal projects. Take photos of flowers, animals, kids or yourself.
Step 3: Find a mentor or 10. I knew I needed to meet photographers and shadow them to learn more about photography. I didn’t know how to go about it. Then it hit me…..
I posted this on a photography group (especially for photographers in Gauteng) and I was OVERWHELMED by the response I got from this single post. I even had photographers willing to PAY me to carry their stuff around! I was chuffed. Most importantly I knew I needed to learn and I knew they needed something from me.
With this said….. You can’t drop a photographer just because you are not getting paid. Yes I drove kilometers and kilometers to get to where I needed to assist people. But I can’t tell you how valuable my time spent and petrol actually was.
The BEST part of it all is I made amazing friends and contacts in the photography industry. I was humbled by the amount of hard work and dedication that goes into a shoot. and I was hungry for more. I am still in contact with all the photographers that I was lucky enough to assist.
I did NOT even take my camera with for many of these shoots. You can’t expect to build your portfolio on another photographers’ hard work. UNLESS they tell you its ok.
Step 4: When you feel comfortable start taking photos of friends and family at a discounted rate- make sure you are offering a discount and not just a cheap price. It is VERY difficult to get out of a “cheap” market. The more you shoot the more you will learn so don’t give up!
Step 5: Go to EVERY free workshop and photography talk you can find. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Watch EVERY Youtube video you can on posing and which ever editing software you have. I use mostly Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop. I am 100% self (and husband) taught.
Step 6: Make a friend. It is lonely in this industry. You will not survive without someone to bounce ideas off of. Because of friends in the industry I am where I am today. Not just photographers, but friends in the printing industry, models and make up artists. Build up a personal network.
I am by no means saying I am an expert, or that I am the best photographer. Not at all. I still have a lot to learn. But I got to this part right here, by being humble and not being afraid to work to get to where I need to be.
Photography is not glamorous, it is not easy.
Photography is hard work, it is editing until 3am every morning, it is watching YouTube to figure out how to remove bra straps or pimples, it is saving up for years for your dream camera, it is going hungry at weddings because you have no time to sit down, it is visits to the physio for bad posture from editing, it is missing your best friend’s kitchen tea because you were booked for a wedding, it is not putting your kids to bed on Saturday nights, it is giving up braais and social gatherings.
I do it because it is my passion, I do it because it has filled a hole in my life I didn’t even know I had.
Step 7: Look at how far you have come….
(Yes I will admit I did take BOTH these photos…….)
Step 8: Never stop learning. I still watch tutorials and go to workshops to learn. I learn something new EVERY SINGLE TIME.
You will not be the best in one month, it will take time and you need to be patient. Believe in yourself. Believe in the art and keep on keeping on.