I’ve been a fashion photographer for a very long time. In fact, I’ve had a camera in my hand for over 10 years now! That’s a lot of photos. In that time, I’ve learnt a few things, which I wanted to share with you today.
Here are 5 things I wish I’d know before I started my photography career:
1. It Will Take You Years To Feel Comfortable Behind A Camera:
I first began studying photography when I was 15. I say "studying" because that's still what I do now! I still learn about the technical side of photography very regularly. There's always more to learn. However, I do now feel like a camera is an extension to my body, more or less. When I see an image in my head, I now know exactly what I need to do to take that photograph and make it a reality.
To get to this point has taken years! I think that when I was first starting out, I assumed that I'd "know it all" very quickly. That really wasn't the case. Even though I understood how my camera worked manually, for years I had to think really hard about what I was doing to get the shots I wanted.
Now it's much more intuitive, but yes, it's taken a very long time. I wish that I'd let myself learn patiently, and not told myself that I was "a bad photographer" as many times as I did, when all it was was lack of practice.
2. It's Ok To Change Direction, And You Will
Oh my goodness, the amount of "genres" of photography that I've tested out is madness. At my core, I've always been a fashion photographer, but I've tried and tested so much more. My stint as a wedding photographer, I've done kids portraits, I've considered launching a pet photography business, I've done family photos... I've done it all.
Each time I did one of these things, I thought: "This is it. I've found my direction."
That never lasted. I've changed direction many times in the last 10 years, and I've come to realise that that is normal, and it's ok! I'm someone who finds change quite hard, so I resist it, but the older I get, the more I realise that change is sometimes inevitable. My creativity will change, my inspiration will change, I will change. That's ok.
3. Women are fewer in this business
I don't talk about feminism much, because I honestly feel like there are enough people out there discussing it for me, and I'm not very good at articulating how I feel when I bring it up.
However - the photography business is SO masculine. Especially the fashion business. I don't know why, I can't explain it, but when you begin to pay attention to who is at the top of the chain, it's most often men. That can be hard, and it can feel discouraging. I just wish that I'd known sooner that I might have to be up against a lot of male energy.
4. It's hard to make money, but it's also not
There are times when, as a photographer, money feels like it's so far out of reach, that you'll never be able to earn a proper living. There's so much doom and gloom out there about "being a starving artist." The amount of times I've spoken to photographers and they've been negative about the business because "it's so hard to get paid."
I honestly believe that a good income can be made from photography! You just have to be willing to work really hard to make that happen.... just like you do in any other career, really. I think for a really long time I was telling myself that as a photographer, I'd never have much money and that if I wanted to do something creative for a living, I'd have to be broke.
I don't believe that anymore, and I'm so glad that I managed to push that limiting belief away.
5. You Don't Need To Go To University To Be A Photographer
This is a controversial one, and a topic that I'm actually going to write a whole blog post about, but the reality is that you don't NEED to go to university to be a photographer. You can learn and do it all without a degree. I didn't know that when I was at school. In fact, I was never really even told about any option OTHER than university.
I don't regret going to uni one bit. It brought with it many other benefits. Did I learn the business of being a photographer from it? No. No I didn't. I've learnt more about the business of photography in the last 6 months than I did in three years of study. What I did learn was the technical side, which does have it's benefits, but I could certainly have learnt that on my own.
There you have it! Check back in another 10 years, and I’m sure that I’ll have a host of other lessons I’ve learnt to share with you ;)