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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to become a good photographer? Be inspired, learn from the best and shoot !!!!!

I was asked this question by many of my photojournalism students last semester at the School of Mass Communications at USF. I posted some ideas in an earlier post, but I decided to give this question a second thought. My short answer is- LOOK FOR INSPIRATION, LEARN and SHOOT!!!!!
My long answer is next.
• I believe that practice makes me a better photographer. I learn my own mistakes so, yes, shoot, shoot, shoot. I would suggest you take on small projects, like shooting a flower, etc.
• Shoot, shoot, shoot to learn your lens. I mean it. I have been shooting with my wide angle zoom Tamron lens for a year (yes, I use third party lens, I know Zack Arias says otherwise. The only caveat- he has money and I don't). I know this lens inside out :) My other favorite lens is the dirt cheap 50 mm Nikon lens (it is not zoom, but you can't have a sharp, cheap and zoom lens :) And, BTW, Zack, awesome website!!!!!
• “Photography is not a happy accident.” (Bambi Cantrell)- It’s not the gear, it is the photographer who creates the shot. So, yes, I am a budget photogr who believes that you can have good and CHEAP gear
• Learn, learn, learn…. Obviously, you have to know the difference between “an fstop and a bus stop,” as photographer Bambi Cantrell said in her workshop on creativelive. I often participate in workshops to learn and network with other photographers. I also suggest you follow other photographers, look at their pictures, read about their work. Knowing the basics about lighting, posing, and proper exposure will allow you to be creative and to start defining your own style, your own voice. You must define your own style if you would like to sell your work.
• But apart from knowing the technical aspects of photography, you have to learn to listen. What does the client need?
• Use the camera in manual mode, use your flashes in manual mode- this way you have control over your settings. I have never used the flash in iTTL mode, nor do I want to ever use it in that mode. I did however, shot in auto when I got my camera three years ago. If you learn to shoot in MANUAL mode, you can adjust your settings at all times. If you don’t learn to shoot in manual mode, you will be lost when you have to shoot sports in dark or you have to shoot pictures at noon when the light is strong. So start raising the bar on the quality of your photos!
• Post only your best photos to give people a reason to hire you (and yes, to improve your photography, you should take classes, workshops, get books, read blogs- there is ton of information out there. I take classes from local photographers, this is the best way for me to learn more about lighting).
• Learn how to accept critiques and how to build on them. There is no other way to improve unless you accept constructive critiques from your peers. I don’t get the feedback I need if my peers post comments like “Nice shot,” “Cool!,” and “I love it.” It’s great that my peers like my work, but if I can find out what is good in my picture and what is bad, I can grow as a photographer. Sometimes, you might have to pay to get a thorough review of your work from a photographer, but it is money well spent.
• Learn to live with the ups and downs of the market, learn to stand out, and use different techniques to attract clients. Some photographers advertise on Facebook, some advertise in a local paper, etc. Find out what works best for you and if you are in doubt, hire an expert to teach you or guide you. If you are on a shoestring budget, like myself, well, then we just have to learn on our own 
• Accept that sometimes you don’t feel like picking up the camera. That’s okay. Sometimes I don’t feel creative, sometimes I just want to use my cell phone and sometimes I just don’t want to shoot. But if I am hired to do a photoshoot, I always do my best because the client is on the first place.
• Learn everything about your audience/clients: age, gender, education, create a folder containing your clients’ name, birthday, family members, pets and send them an email/card for their wedding anniversary, birthday.

Feel free to share your ideas about this!

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