Thursday, June 17, 2010

11 things I did to get started in photography

11 ways to get started into digital photography. not necessarily in order but some happen after each other

1.Gobble it up. Start shooting

Shoot any and everything, equipment doesn't count here. This way you can begin learning your eye and find your style. When you're shooting everything its like getting eating at a buffet. You get a taste of everything and then you come back for seconds to the dishes you like. By doing this you can find what you like to shoot and develop a niche.

I shot behind the scenes on films sets, sports, products, events, babies, music artist, nature and fashion.

2. "Keep it tight" Find your niche

What did you find you liked to shoot? When you decide this you can begin building your portfolio with a consistency. This is a great way to define yourself as a photographer, and market yourself to clients.

I found that I liked music and fashion the best. It was a personal preference of mine and now that's the majority of what I shoot. Now, don't get me wrong if someones asks me to shoot their wedding and they're willing to pay I'm not going to reject them. Wedding photography is a service I offer, its just not a service I advertise. Now, it sounds as if I'm just doing it for the money and I'm compromising my love for a check, but that's not true. If I shoot a wedding I would add my fashion flare to it and stick to my style. Now there's no way you can make mountains and landscapes "fashiony" so I wouldn't shoot that, unless it was for fun.

It looks better when you can say "I shoot this style" instead of "I shoot everything", you'll be taken more seriously.

3. Be open to sub categories

Music and fashion is very broad within itself, so always do the research to find whats deeper within these categories. For instance, with music photography I shoot  promotional materials like album covers, posters, photos for websites, magazine spreads things of that nature. This would be for musical acts like a solo artists/groups, bands, or DJs. I don't do much of live performance shooting for concerts but I offer those services too. I'm also open to all genres of music.

For fashion's sub categories I shoot commercial, high fashion, beauty, and glamour. I also shoot promotional materials for clothing companies or boutiques like ad campaigns, fashion spreads for magazines, or for the company's personal website and flyers.

4. Now, that you're serious get some serious gear.

Your point-and-shoot isn't going to get you where you need to be. It may be great to start out with for learning composition, but it's not going to give you depth of field and the controls you'll get with a DSLR. I would suggest you invest in a 10 megapixel or higher dslr. Choose your glass wisely.

Personally when I purchased my camera body I didn't buy the kit lens. By this time I knew I wanted to shoot fashion and music. I also knew that I wanted to use my camera to shoot video so I wanted fast lenses for shallow depth of field. So, what I bought was a new 50mm f1/8 and a used 75-300mm f4-5.6 . I wanted a long lens for the fashion and beauty close ups and the 50mm was better for group shots for bands. Now a little over a year later, I know what I'm doing and I have a style I want to go wider with my focal length.

If you want to shoot landscapes initially go wider with your focal length. But if you really still don't know by this point stick with the kit lens. But ALWAYS do your research before purchasing. Ask people who own the camera what they think of it, what they're using it for. Go on discussion boards and read reviews. If you want to test it out 1st hand then rent one. I'll get to renting later in this post but keep it in mind.

5. Play with your food. Learn your equipment

Read that manual but mostly and play around with it! Find out what this button does and how to change your settings with that switch.

I'm a kinesthetic learner so I have to touch things to learn about them [insert inappropriate joke here] but what-eves. Its the best way to learn. Plus a lot of happy accident happen this way.

6. Read, shoot, discuss, ask questions

There are tons of great resources on the web to learn about photography if you didn't go to school for it.

I went to film school so we learned the basics of black and white photography, developing film in the dark room and the logistics of focal length, ISO, apertures, shutters etc. Like I said we learned the basics, but I learned the majority of what I know from the web. I read discussion boards, asked questions on them and a lot of times you'll find people have the same questions as you do and the answers are already there. I also shot a lot of random stuff to figure out how to use my camera and the difference one setting made in a photo.

But one of my favorite websites to get started with is DPS (digital photography school). You can sign up for their newsletter and each week they have an assignment for you to challenge yourself with. It's not a real school as in you have to enroll and pay its just a really good resource for photographers of all genres and all levels of expertise.


If you can't afford to spend $800 or more on a camera then rent one. There are many websites that rent DSLRs and lenses. You can rent for fixed periods of time like 1 week up to 4 weeks. But this gives you chance to try before you buy. Also, if you did purchase a camera but you want to experiment with different lenses this is a great way to do it. Lets face it lenses are CRAZY EXPENSIVE so rent them. There are two website that I found that rent lenses. I haven't tried them but they seem legit. They are and

On these website you can also rent to test out accessories like flashes and other equipment. If you want to rent other materials like strobes then search for rental houses in your area.

8. Build portfolio and network

Now that you have equipment and a niche begin shooting for it. You're going to be working for free in the beginning and you may also get some paid gigs. But you want to get some practice in before you commit to delivering high quality product to a client. Shoot some of your pretty friends or friends that want to model if you want to do fashion. Go out into nature and shoot animals and plants if nature photography is your thing. Ask people with cool looking cars to shoot their cars is automobile photography is your niche. Work towards defining your niche and style.

Social networks - Nowadays there's a social network for any and everything. So join a social network for your photography genre. For fashion there is Model Mayhem . Research the ones that fit you. On these networks you can network with people who have the same interests as you. You can potentially gain a crew to work with and build great relationships. Also, use facebook and twitter to your advantage. Once you have a good amount of really good pictures make a fan page, get people to see what you're doing. On Twitter you can search keywords to see what people are talking about on that subject and build connections.

Also, on these networking sites you can have your own portfolio page if you can't afford a website. But there are some really good portfolio sites for really good prices like

9. Editing

Always shoot RAW if you can. You have more editing power with RAW files. You don't need to be a photoshop wizard but I believe every photographer should know how to do the basics. Learn to color correct, readjust exposure, fix little blemishes here and there. You'll be amazed of what you can learn from You Tube. They have free tutorials on there all the time. Some, I've used myself.

You don't have to know everything, that's where your crew comes in. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and have skills that you lack. Offer trade offs for people when you can't pay them. TFP (time for print) TFCD (time for CD)are ways to offer people their time in exchange for using the work in their portfolios (either in print form or on a CD). Make win-win situations whenever possible.

Great editing software is Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

10. Eatin'good. Make money

Make money from your work. You can either solicit yourself to clients like magazines or sell your photos on stock photography sites like iStock photo . This would be a great place to sell those random photos you took when you were trying to figure yourself out. If the quality is good enough they'll take them and you can receive royalties from your work. CHA CHING!

11. Wear a bib to protect yourself. Law

Now that your intellectual property is floating around cyber space you want to protect it. Actually you want to protect your photos before you publish them on the web. Learn about copyright laws and how to protect yourself. You can even register your works yourself at the US copyright office's website

Try to invest in a lawyer of you can. Caroline Wright, Photo Attorney®, is a photography attorney that has a
blog with lots of great articles about copyright law and issues facing photographers.  

These are the 11 ways I got started I hope they help.
To see some of my work please visit.