Simply Make the Decision
Becoming a photography expert is considerably easier than one might imagine. You simply decide.
If that one line were the extent of this article – and you pondered it long enough – you’d understand the weight of the advice. It is that simple.
It’s been said before many times; using available FREE information, some determination and a little “stick-to-itiveness” you can become an expert on anything in six months. I’ll include a caveat if you’re a left-brained-tunnel-vision-engineer; you can become an expert on any topic.
Certainly becoming an expert brain surgeon takes longer than six months. You might be able to perform brain surgery after reading about it for six months, but you’d probably have a heck of a time finding patients to practice on.
Becoming an accomplished attorney will also take a smidge longer than six months. Then again, if you’re already blessed with an inflated ego you’re well on your way.
Photography Knowledge and Skill – Two Different Things
Much of the knowledge you need to be a photography expert can be learned in six months – or less. The skills you need to create beautiful portraits – consistently – are developed over a lifetime. I’ve been a professional photographer for more than 18 years and I’m still learning new photography tips and techniques. Every day.
Learning about f/stops and shutter speeds, depth of field, how ISO affects exposure, color balancing, image manipulation and retouching, learning about Photoshop and Lightroom and file storage is all knowledge that can be gained from reading.
Image composition, color harmony, artful posing, controlling the light – both ambient and flash, getting a baby to cooperate, a high school senior guy to smile and a family group of 20 to all look at the camera at the same time – with their eyes open – are skills you’ll acquire by doing.
Make no mistake, if you make the decision to be a photography expert – a combination – of both knowledge and skill are required to become successful.
Find What Trips Your Trigger about Photography
Potential careers in photography are wide and varied. Simply saying, “I want to be a photographer” is not going to get you where you want to go.
Author of the book, The Peter Principle, Lawrence J. Peter once wrote;
“If you don’t know where you are going you will probably end up somewhere else.”
If you have not yet decided where you want to go in photography, now is the time to decide, to explore, to find out what it is that trips your trigger about photography.
There are photographers who make a fine living doing nothing but headshots for models, actors and executives. There are still others who make careers out of forensic photography, pet photography, architectural photography, or sports action photography. I have a friend who makes in excess of $100,000 a year doing nothing but youth team sports photography.
Learn a Trade to Pay the Bills
No, I don’t mean becoming an electrician or a carpenter or a plumber. Although believe me, I have many friends in a variety of trades and while their work may not sound “creatively fulfilling” to you, not a one of them is making anything less than a comfortable living.
There’s nothing that says you need to concentrate on one particular area of photography. However, you will find the path to success much smoother, your quest to be a photography expert more attainable, if you hone your skills and become known as the go-to photographer in a smaller niche.
Similar to learning a trade, developing a strong niche can provide income security over the long haul of your photographic career.
As example, for years we’ve offered a variety of themed children’s promotions in our studio – the most successful of which has always been “Babies and Bunnies.” Live baby bunnies and kids are a perfect mixture for beautiful images.
While we don’t do this promotion any longer, for years we’d be booked solid for the four-day event – with very minimal marketing. The word spread and people would call months ahead of time to schedule their bunny pictures.
Could I make a living photographing only “Babies and Bunnies” sessions? No. But it did provide consistent, dependable, predictable revenue at that time of year. Just think what you could do if you developed an entire calendar of themed portrait events like this!
Be a Photography Expert in the High School Senior Market
If your photography research leads you in the direction of specializing in people portraiture, then I would highly recommend making high school seniors a part – or the focus – of your career.
A primary key to the success of any business is a market of potential clients ready, willing and able to buy – with the motivation to do so. Consider the difference between the family portrait market and the high school senior portrait market.
Every family knows they should have a beautiful family portrait created. But there’s very little to motivate them to act. There’s no outside force, no impending event, no sense of urgency to have a family portrait done now. Sadly, I’ve been asked – on four different occasions – to create family portraits where one of the spouses was dying. On two of those occasions the spouse didn’t live long enough to even see the finished portrait.
Contrast that to the high school senior portrait market. Seniors across the country graduate from high school at the same time each year providing a built-in sense of urgency. And graduation from high school is a significant event many families wish to remember with formal portraits.
A career in professional photography is an aspiration well worth pursuing. You will not be successful overnight – but then anything worth pursuing takes time. You can start gaining the required knowledge immediately – there’s nothing that says you can’t.
Simply make the decision – to be a photography expert.
About the Author:
David Meir has been a professional portrait photographer and photographer educator since 1993. His portrait business; d. holmes meir – the portable pro, specializes in on-location studio style portraiture of families, high school seniors, executives and team sports. His educational website; http://www.the-portrait-expert.com provides helpful business building information for new and veteran photographers.
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