Inside Scoop | Lessons to become a better photographer

When I first started in photography, I had no idea what aperture was or how to even work a dslr.  It took help.  Help from blogs, websites,  other photographers, and myself through trial and error.

And I got to thinking about all the new photographers out there who are going through what I went through.  The long nights of staying up until 2am to learn the next awesome thing in photoshop.  The nervousness and self doubt.  

Because I know how you feel, I decided to start a new segment on the blog!  It's called Inside Scoop.  This segment will run every month outlining 5 lessons I've learned along the uphill climb that is photography touching on subjects like renting, assisting, clients, Facebook, blogs, and much more that will hopefully be helpful to you.  So no more banging  your head on your keyboard in frustration... because I've been there too. 

1.  Learn your stuff + Keep learning

I can not stress enough how important knowing the fundamentals of photography is.  I remember, back in college, when I was first starting that I had no idea what aperture did.  I couldn't get the concept to sink through.  I tested the button on my little Rebel and to no avail.  I even cried once in utter frustration.  Then one night, I was at Barnes & Noble reading photography books and then, it clicked.  It was probably the 4th book on the table I skimmed through forcing myself to learn what aperture was.  I went home, applied what I learned.  Knowing photography is INVALUABLE to doing photography.  

This goes hand in hand with learning your camera.  LEARN YOUR CAMERA!  It is imperative that you understand the functions and settings on your camera.  Know what AF points are, know what it means to back button focus, know how to change the aperture setting and the shutter speed.  Know how to change your ISO and even your battery.  Learn it inside and out.  Learn it so you KNOW it.

2.  Renting

I have had many people ask about renting.  I will say from personal experience that renting is a great way to test new gear, gear you want, and gear you're thinking about.  Renting will help you choose one lens over the next or it will allow you to shoot a wedding with a 70-200mm that otherwise you wouldn't have.  Camera gear is expensive and it is more convenient to spend $30 bucks on a rental than $2400 on that new lens.  I rented the Canon 580 exii flash for two years before I bought it.  I couldn't justify spending $500 on a flash when I didn't have enough work that required it.  When the weddings started coming, I decided it was time and bought it.  

I have also heard many people feel as if they are inadequate because they don't have all the gear they'd love to have.  Renting is the perfect solution.  I rent from my local Calumet store in Santa Ana.  They are knowledgable, ready to help, and they even offer classes to learn more about photography!   

3.  Go for it!

Being in an industry where it feels as though everyone is a photographer can be kinda scary.  Especially since there are so many great names out there.  It is scary to jump into something new.

Here's something to think about:  Jasmine * went for it.  Jose Villa went for it.  They jumped at new and exciting opportunities.  Jasmine has stated many times that she second shot, got familiar with how others were doing it and then added her own spin to make it hers.  She jumped and failed and got right back up with a vengeance and is now top 10 destination wedding photographer.  Jose Villa still shoots film.  He went for it in a totally different direction.  He probably got a lot of opposition and probably turned down potential clients who wanted digital.  But he did it.  He went for it and he's shot celebrity weddings, editorial spreads, and weddings I wish I could have shot.

I was scared to photograph people.  Intimidated would be a better word.  But I went for it.  And I have the greatest time doing what I love to do.  I wouldn't want it any other way. 

It's scary to jump into something you have no idea how it's going to turn out.  It's definitely a risk.  If you never go for it, how will you know if you will succeed or fail?  

4.  It's okay to be nervous

It is completely normal to be nervous.  Back when I first started, when I was still learning, I would be so nervous my hands would shake. Shaky hands are no bueno when you're a photographer.  I convinced myself that I needed to eat before each shoot because it settled the nerves.  Somehow, it worked.  Didn't stop the nerves but it kept my thoughts away from psyching myself out.  I'd eat slowly, take deep breaths, tell myself that I've got this and asked God to help a little bit.  Everything always turned out just fine.  

Being nervous is a sign that you care about your work.  That you care if you will do a great job and you care about your clients loving your work.  It means that you are human.  Find a way to curve the nerves and be excited.  People are hiring you to make them irreplaceable!  That's an honor and trust me... You've got this!

5.  Take Charge

When  I switched my major from public relations to photography, I had myself convinced I'd be doing food photography.  Yes, food photography.   Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on food photography, but it would have never worked out for me.  But here's the reason I wanted to shoot food: I was afraid of people.  Afraid of directing, posing, telling them what to do... taking charge. 

Taking charge makes your client trust you.  It makes the shoots run smoother and allows for better photos.  When I shoot, I like to tell jokes, make my client feel comfortable and less nervous in front of the camera.  I talk, ask questions, and create an overall laid back feel to the shoot.  I also make sure to be very specific with my directions and posing.  The best way to practice this is to practice on your self.  I know it feels silly at first, but it works!  Okay, Jackie point your toes towards me and put your left hand on your left hip.  Now, give me a soft smile without teeth and point your nose to the left.  Drop your shoulder, relax your eyebrows, etc. etc.  You get the idea.

Another great thing I've learned, and read it on Justin & Mary Marantz blog, was to use your client's name when directing.  I have done this and it helps create a whole different experience.  And it also builds more trust between you and your client.  

So there you have it!  The first 5 lessons of Inside Scoop.  Next, I'll be talking more about assisting, making photo friends, and more!  Hope you learned something new!

Happy Friday!