I've been getting asked a lot of photography questions recently. I find this funny, because if I had photo questions I can think of 103 other people I'd rather ask instead of me. Half the time I'm even asking myself if I know how to use a camera. Wap wap. Thanks for the faith, though, guys! Well, I thought I'd put together a little summin-summin' of things I've learned over the last year and a half of shooting.
1) DON'T shoot for free. Let me clarify and expound. When you're starting out (I still do this all the time..) it's great practice to grab a friend/some friends/your family/a friend's family and work on shooting people. Practice makes imperfect perfection, yeah? Obviously you're not going to make money off of that. That's why it's called practice. However, when people come to you and ask to shoot their dog/sister/baby/family/UFO, they're showing interest in your work. In your ART. AKA: They like yo' shiz. Respect yourself as an artist. Make it worth your time. Be reasonable with your prices, but don't sell yourself short (my biggest battle always and forever, I'm telling you!).
2) You don't need to give clients a disc of 92 pictures for every shoot you do. Another thing I find in common with my photographer friends - when we just started out with a camera we were editing/giving away MASSIVE amounts of pictures. And doing it for free. It's insane. It's time-consuming. And who really wants to go through 92 pictures of themselves?
3) Don't compare yourself to other people. We all have people from whom we draw inspiration. I have my list of favorite photographers across the world and across the many genres of photography, and I am a self-admitted stalker of their work. However, I recognize that their work is their work. It is not mine. Nor do I wish it to be. Some people say they won't even look at other photographer's work, because they don't want to compare themselves and/or feel insecure with their own art. I don't think you need to go to such an extreme as to shut yourself off entirely from a realm of art you're passionate about. The best piece of advice I've ever gotten: Compare yourself to yourself. If your recent shoot is better than your last, you're improving! Ansel Adams didn't develop his talent over night. Just because you own a DSLR camera doesn't mean you're a photographer. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes patience. Don't expect mind-blowing art the first time you try shooting. But don't get discouraged, either. Just do it again; and do it better.
4) On that note, your style and perspective will most likely change as you shoot more. I go back to old shoots ALL the time and think to myself "ew, what the heck was I thinking?! Did I honestly think this looked good?!". But that makes me happy. It's helped me develop a style I feel is my own. Definitely still working on that, and am by no means completely satisfied with where I'm at. But art is a progression..and the journey is what makes it beautiful and worthwhile.
5) "Expensive" doesn't necessarily equate to "better". I've shot on a $1400 lens and hated it. I've shot (and usually shoot) on my $400 lens and love it. Don't invest in something just because it looks nice, sounds fancy, and/or has a lot of numbers and letters in its name. Read reviews, research your product, ask people, heck - go rent one for a day!! I'm such a n00b with equipment. I'm constantly calling people and asking for opinions. My friends probably think I'm a nut.
6) Shoot what you're passionate about. Don't shoot weddings if you hate shooting couples. Don't shoot dogs if you hate animals. Don't drink coffee if you're Mormon..wait, what?! :) But seriously.
Honestly, I don't really know that much about photography. I know what I've learned in classes. I know what I've learned from physically shooting. I know what I've been told by people I look up to. But there is SO much out there I'm completely clueless about. All I do know is that I love it, and it makes me happy. Am I trying to turn it into my career? No. Would I be opposed to that? Not at all. Perhaps I don't make goals for fear of being disappointed. I'm not really sure. Photography is art, and art is vulnerability. Put me in front of hundreds of people and give me 5 minutes to prepare a verbal debate - no problem. Put me in a room of 10 strangers and ask me to show them RAW images that I shot on the spot - I'll have a heart attack. Perhaps that's my fascination with photography: I find myself completely out of my comfort zone time and time again.