A new year for photographers

Photographers have many obstacles not normally realized. It is assumed that owning a fancy camera and the best equipment makes a professional. Yet in reality, there are many photographers who’ve earned a generous amount of fine art sales and booked clients only to find they still run into someone who finds out their gear isn’t the latest fancy DSLR and they use the assumption as judgment to choose another photographer.

Society already provides the knowledge that word of mouth and judgments can either launch a career or destroy it. Ironically, despite the realities of society, there is one toxic disease infecting photographers today of even greater intensity. It is the photographers themselves.

Despite issues with society, the greatest obstacle for photographers resides within their own minds. With the introduction of digital photography, the art of photography has greatly changed. It’s easier for people to experiment and create and so the market is diluted. High prices and fees are no longer justified unless your reputation precedes you. Everyone has a friend or relative with a DSLR.

Many times, a photographer with fabulous skills and even exactly what the client wants is passed over in favor of the quick and cheap “shoot and burn” photographer. They take the pictures and either edits them or not. They then load them on a CD with complete printing rights and walk away. There is no artistry or long-term service involved and it cheapens the business. With a new year starting, a top issue among photographers is how to stand out among the crowd despite a diluted market. Many have been doing well and just wish to update their skills. Others have been doing poorly and can’t determine why. There are even more with no interest in photography as a business, yet can’t decide why their photography has gotten stale, boring or lifeless.

Primarily the issue lies with inside the creative mind. It’s not that the creativity is lacking, rather that it is being held captive by fear and insecurity. Lack of confidence in your skills and art is the quickest way to kill your photography. Never hold back or change what drives you or speaks to your soul just because someone else tells you to. Avoid being so critical of your work that you blow out your own flame.

Experimenting with your own style and finding your niche is the key to success as a hobby or business. If you need inspiration, take the time to develop friendships with other photographers. Consider joining a photography club or online forum. You must challenge yourself and practice in order to improve. Never assume that without the best you can’t be your best. There are photographers who are earning regular profitable income just using their cellphone cameras or even an outdated tiny megapixel DSLR. It’s all due to their confidence and skills with the gear they have, along with post-processing ability.

Avoiding social media is also something to reconsider due to the ability to form a following. This following can assist to inspire you to keep going and not give up. A website is a great way to display your photography and gather opinions from friends and family. You may eventually wish to sell your work so a website is a great investment and there are many free options available. You also don’t want to allow your work to go stale on a hard drive without ever being displayed or enjoyed so a website can help prevent this by encouraging you to stay organized.

Be mindful to the reality that there will be an occasional critic to burst your bubble. As long as you are critical enough of yourself, that your work consistently improves, then stick with who you are, not who they want you to be. Above all, never let the lure for financial gain dilute your art or your vision. Greed can ruin any career. Even unintentional or unrealized desire for additional profit can be the end of your business or stop a new one from ever finding growth. It can hold you back from being who you are because of unjustified fear that you will scare away followers because your work is a deviation from the current normality present among your peers or local competition.

If your photography has had the disease of similarity take over, then consider photographing from new angles. Many photographers always shoot standing up. They miss out on some of the beautiful options at new angles. Some subjects, such as children, look best if photographed from their height – in their little world. Even consider stepping back a few feet before you purchase an expensive wide-angle lens unless you are positive it will further your vision more or in cases such as realty photography, where a wide-angle lens could improve sales by capturing more of the room in one shot. Alternately consider investing in editing software. There is no shame in helping images pop as long as they are not so edited as to turn the photo into something entirely over-processed and unrecognizable (unless that is your desire for artistic purposes).

Improving your lighting before improving your equipment can also assist you with creating fresh masterpieces. All cameras rely on light to capture your image. The more adequate the light, the better you can create. Practice with different light strengths, heights and sources. Window light and natural light, such as sunlight, should always be mastered before attempting to purchase external lighting.

Once you feel comfortable with purchasing lighting, consider how it will most be used to avoid being tempted to purchase an expensive light “kit.” which can cost several hundred dollars more than what you actually need. Save your money and begin with fill lighting or Strobist lighting and go from there to find your style. Beware of unflattering shadows!

Lastly, a common flaw among photographers is to capture too many photos of a subject. The main issue is unless the photographer has been a working professional for many years, it becomes difficult to maximize the workflow in such a way that a large amount of images doesn’t require days of time to edit. It’s also harder to choose and narrow down the images.

The key is to practice until you can get the best image possible of your subject in around three shots. You need variety, but not an overwhelming amount of images. The client also will not wish to delve though page after page of choices to determine the images to purchase. This results in more work for you and less profit from lost sales. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your clients.

The same holds true for nature and landscape photographers. Capture and share nature, but not in such a way as every image in your portfolio is nearly identical. Variety is the key.

With each New Year, a fresh start is provided for any hobby or profession. Now is the time for photographers to capture a new start and make 2013 the year with no obstacles or regrets.

Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013 11:00 am

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Amber Flowers