I received an email from someone a couple of weeks ago looking for an assistant’s job. Obviously, I already have a fabulous assistant in Eric, so I don’t have a job opening, but I offered to meet with her for coffee and discuss the industry. She’s not from Vancouver, so couldn’t meet up but I thought I would put together a post for all the aspiring professional photographers out there. After 17 years in the business, I wish I’d been told a few of these things when I started out.
1 – Do not compare yourself to other photographers. This is not a competition, nor is it worth trying to make it one. There are so many talented people out there that if you spend your time looking at what they can do better then you, you’ll lose what you can do really well in a sea of self-loathing. Each photographer brings a different perspective to things and while there are “rules” in photography, there is no right or wrong way to break those rules 😉
2 – Do make time for learning. Whether it’s online, at a conference or with peers, always make the time to learn new skills and improve your technique. You can never have too much information!
3 – Do strive to become better. Choose one thing each week or month that you want to learn and practice, practice, practice. Borrow friends, family, check out Model Mayhem… whatever it takes to get someone in front of your camera and trying new things. This tip ties in really well with number 2!
4 – Do not sell yourself short by not charging enough. When you’re starting out and building a portfolio, it’s really easy to take jobs for free or next to nothing. This is NOT a sustainable business model. At some point, you’ll need to make a decision about whether or not you want to keep working crazy hours for next to nothing or actually charge what you are worth. You can find more on this tip here.
5 – Don’t give up. If this is your dream job, don’t let anyone take that away from you. There are times where you may want to quit, but stick to it, you’ll be amazed at how rewarding this career can be.
Photography as a career is not for everyone. I remember when I was first starting out and I would rent space at a local darkroom to do my own printing. One afternoon I was asked by one of the pros that was also printing if I was a “really good amateur or a professional?” After much conversation, I came to understand that his view on the photography industry was much different then mine. He felt that it was an incredibly hard industry to be involved in and that I was better off sticking with a different career and having photography as a hobby. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to him (and I’m sure a few of my clients are as well!)
And because no post is complete without a photograph… I’ll leave you with this one. The best way to achieve your dreams is to reach for the sky! Good luck 🙂