An art director friend of mine recently asked some of the photographers she works with to provide her with some tips to pass on to young photographers. The tips were good and I shared them on Twitter under the hashtag #ProPhotoWisdom, in fact I thought that they were so good that they were worth sharing here. So, here they are.
Shoot what you love. Don’t bother with subjects that don’t excite you.
Be brutal with yourself, take lots of pictures and see which of those images resonate with you. And then ask yourself why. And start building from there. It will help you develop your individual style.
You need to love what you do and feel inspired. Of course its hard work etc., but I would never have continued if I didn’t love taking pictures. I never thought of the money or anything else, apart from the satisfaction of trying to keep getting better and keep taking more interesting pictures. I am very hard on myself and always think I need to try harder, keep getting better.
Don’t take a picture thinking, ‘I can fix it in post’, don’t rely on all the things you can do afterwards. Think of these programmes as only to be used in an emergency.
Make sure you look at what you are doing. Imagine you only have one frame left and make sure you capture everything you want in that moment.
I would start out with one lens, a 50mm would be my choice and work out what you can do and achieve with just one lens. You might find yourself getting frustrated, but it will make you think more about what you are doing
Find your own style and what you want to achieve
Look at books and exhibitions of old photography These photographers – whether it’s Lartigue or Don McCullin, were geniuses and they did not have Capture 1 or photoshop. What you see is the moment. Don McCullin said the equipment he took on assignment were his head, eyes and heart, he could take the poorest equipment, and would still take the same photograph.
Love and have passion for what you do, work hard.
Keep the creative side of photography going it’s easy to get stuck doing money jobs.
Don’t lose faith.
Make sure you work with a good team of creatives and be open to other peoples ideas.
Assist. Assist a variety of photographers. Don’t be tempted to stick with one, or you will only learn one way. Be flexible.
Photographic studios are a good starting point for starting out. You’ll see loads of shoots and handle lots of equipment.
You need to assist, and it doesn’t matter that you want to shoot, assist lots of photographers. You want to shoot fashion, but you’re not assisting fashion photographers to begin with, it doesn’t matter, you will learn something from each photographer you spend time with. Not just the technical side or how they take pictures either. It could be how they are great at keeping up with their print portfolio, or have a great system of updating their online gallery. Or they have a good personable emailing tone, whatever it is in the format of running the business of being a photographer. You can use, or learn to not use their techniques.
Be VERY thick skinned (like an actor) and persist with what you want. Persist with contacting people … you can’t give up !
It’s a hard industry to break into, you need to have confidence and believe in yourself even in the low moments.
Ultimately the professional industry isn’t just about whether you can take a pretty picture, so teamwork and listening to other people are really useful skills, collaborate and be open minded.
But above all, hard work and perseverance!
Anyone can take a picture these days so it is essential to find your own voice. Be that softness, crispness, composition, contrast etc. You want people to know who took the picture before they read the credit.
Be fully prepared before a shoot, but be open minded enough to allow for all your plans to change.
Never be afraid to shoot into the light.
Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 www.donotbendfilm.com. He is the presenter of the A Photographic Life and In Search of Bill Jay podcasts.
© Grant Scott 2022