I remember when I first decided to take photography seriously being overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of advice on offer. Trying to learn the basics in the face of information which is routinely challenged in online debate is not easy.
Wind the clock forward several years and I've found myself reflecting on some of that early-stage advice: what I found useful and what, in retrospect, I did not.
In no particular order and ranging from technique to the commercial aspects of running a photography business, this post is devoted to some of my favourite snippets of advice I'm sincerely glad I followed.
“Photograph what you enjoy”
You can only be truly creative and develop your craft when pursuing a subject (or subjects) you enjoy. Experiment in different areas - I certainly did - but once you discover a subject you find most fulfilling, whatever it may be, throw yourself into it.
“First learn the rules, then learn to break them”
Getting to grips with the rules is the first step but don't ever be so wedded to them that you feel you can never go against them. Rules govern technique, not creativity.
“You don't need to cover every focal length”
When starting out it can be tempting to feel that you need every millimetre from 18 to 300 in your arsenal. The reality is you don't. Your particular style and subject will dictate your most common focal lengths and you might surprise yourself with how small that range actually is. I've yet to meet anyone who has told me how much they love the 36-49mm range...
“Analyse photographs, especially your own”
The digital age has made reacting to images instinctive and rapid, swiping from one to the next at a dizzying pace. Taking the time to analyse and critique what you see is a valuable exercise. Ask yourself what do you like? What could be improved? What techniques were applied?
“Having a photography business means less time shooting”
It's no lie that the majority of time running a photography business is spent editing, networking, invoicing, chasing clients, providing quotes, emailing, blogging, and accounting. Operating a camera is just one small part of "being a photographer".
“If you only have one lens make it a 50mm”
You see this advice everywhere and that's because it is so true. A 50mm will teach you about discipline, depth of field, and the benefits of packing light. I couldn't get my hands on one soon enough and to this day it's the one lens that I take on every trip or job.
The moment I began to understand histograms was the moment that so much of the technical side of photography started to crystallize. Understanding what information is being displayed, how your settings affect it, and how to react to it in the field is a vital skill.
“Use leading lines”
A common landscape photography tip but one that I insist on putting top of my list when it comes to improving your composition and images generally (dare I say even more so than the rule of thirds).
“Read more books. Visit more exhibitions”
Doing either of these is great for your knowledge and inspiration. Invest in books that you want to read, will re-read, and then want to show off to others.
Got any advice of your own that you'd like to share? Any tips you picked up on in the early days that has proven to be invaluable? Comment below! And don't forget to subscribe to my mailing list if you'd like to be kept up to date with my latest posts and promotions.