I wish someone gave me these 17 tips for beginner photographers when I was starting out. As a successful photographer, I know they will work for you.
By AJ Paris
More often than not, tips for beginner photographers focus on technical stuff.
That is because these new creatives think they need to own expensive cameras or have huge customer list to become successful.
That is absolutely not the case.
Photography is like anything else that grows naturally. You need to give it time. It will not happen overnight.
In the meantime, here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
Personally, I consider myself a travel photographer, but this applies to all!
Tips for Beginner Photographers
Tips for beginner photographers in this article include believing in yourself, focusing on your particular field, practicing your craft, being ready for the moment, finding the right partners, competing with yourself, enjoying your success, and more!
As you will see, one could argue these are tips for life in general.
But that is only because I believe in us, as species. I believe we are capable of living lives that are healthy, happy, and successful.
Photography for me is not just a “thing” I do, it is one of the ways I express my self. For sure, it is one of the ways I connect to others.
In other words, these tips can make you successful as a photographer, but don’t be surprised if they help you to live a better life, too!
So, let’s get into it…
Believe in Yourself
You must believe in yourself.
To really believe in yourself, you need a reason. In other words, you need a why. You need something that will say to you, “YES!” when you feel like “No!”.
“My journey was hard and full of nights where I just wanted to give up,” says US-based photographer LaJoy Cox. “However I’m happy I believed in myself enough to want to push forward and achieve my goals so that I could be the mom I needed to be to make my children proud and have my mother smile when she looks down at me from heaven.”
Cox went from zero to a six-figure income as a photographer.
I have always known that there are enough people interested in the global market.
As a global person, who feels at home anywhere, I knew there is something that someone, somewhere could find useful.
Over the years, I have been hired to photograph cool places.
For example, a region in southern Germany, an old city in India, and even an island off of Tanzania, as well as countless other cool global things.
The only reason that happened is that I believed in myself.
So, what’s your why?
Choose a Niche
No, we are not talking about the technical aspect of a camera. We are talking about your photography in general.
What is the focus of your photography?
Lithuania-based Zaneta Pau focuses on photographing women. “I photograph everyday Women. Each of them is so unique and exclusive,” she once said. Look at her Instagram, and you will see she is right!
I, on the other hand, focus on men (see the images above).
In many cultures in the east, such as cultures like Zanzibar, Lebanon, or India, it’s not really easy to photograph everyday women.
So, I learned early on that I should focus on men.
That’s how I ended up with “Men Around the World,” which is now available in over 100 countries.
Your photography needs to have a central focus. Even though you’re a beginner, it will shape your career.
Practice Your Craft
You ever hear the phrase, “practice makes perfect”?
That really applies to photography!
The more you practice your skill regularly, the better you get.
“I photograph every single day,” Canada-based Lynda Mallett told the Eastern Shore Cooperator.
Personally, there is not a day that goes by without photography.
Photograph something or someone every single day!
Be Ready for the Moment
Life is full of beautiful moments. A photographer needs to be ready for such moments. Your entire job is to capture a moment.
So, be ready by having your camera on you. You’re leaving the house? Bring it along! Bring it even if you think you’re not going to get an opportunity.
“I photograph moments,” says US-based Ivan Piedra. He is an events photographer, and you can see he is all about those moments.
Piedra is hired to shoot those moments, but the beginner in you needs to cultivate understanding the importance of the moments.
Some of my favorite photos are ones that I took when I wasn’t planning on it. Sure, I always have a plan, but I’m definitely ready for the moment.
So, be on the lookout!
Wait for Your Chance
Sometimes, it is all about patience.
If you give life enough of a chance, it will provide you with incredible results.
“I photograph everyday,” says Australia-based Ali Stewart, continuing, “the most powerful images come in the simplest form, the magic happens naturally when you watch & wait.”
While shooting in India, a model and I waited for hours for the light to turn just the right way. He was complaining about, but I knew better. To this day, he tells me it is his favorite photo.
So, don’t be in a hurry.
It’s OK to Work for Free
You’re a beginner, and you have been honing your skill for a while.
Get an internship and be ready to work for free!
“I worked for free when I was interning,” UK-based Amelia Allen told Cosmopolitan.
For many years before I started publishing my books, I didn’t make money from my photography. I had to continuously invest my time and energy, but I knew they were worth something.
So, don’t listen to the naysayers. Work for free until you prove yourself to others. You already believe in yours, but don’t expect everyone else to believe in you without seeing that you indeed are worth it!
Work Harder Than The Rest
If you really want to see success, you can’t rely on “luck.”
You have to work hard, harder, hardest.
“People sometimes ask me how I got my lucky break, but I think it was just that I worked harder than everybody else,” Australia-based Jez Smith told Camera House.
Bit by bit, people will notice your hard work.
And you only need one decision-maker to really notice.
Make It About the Work
A couple of years ago, someone contacted me from Spain and said he wanted me to photograph a historical site there. I felt honored, but I was so surprised.
I was surprised because there are so many amazing photographers in Spain and in Europe in general.
“But why me?” I asked him.
“Because I have been following you on Instagram and I love it that it is not about you,” he said.
I never posted a picture of myself or silly things I’m doing on Instagram, it was always subjects and stories.
However, it doesn’t mean it’s the same for you. It could be the case that your work is about you, for example. Maybe you’re an influencer.
The point is to make your work about the work.
Have Fun Doing It
I really could edit my own photos; I know the technical ability to do so. Nevertheless, I always try to work with editors.
That is because I don’t like editing.
Don’t get me wrong, I know what I want my photos to look like at the end. For example, some of the biggest fights I have had with editors have been about not making the images look too “commercial.”
Similarly, I don’t shoot like a lot of photographers—I have my own style, including not doing things the “right” way technically.
In other words, try to focus on the elements you love.
Don’t Compete with Anyone
You remember that viral photo from the 2016 Rio Olympics where the America swimmer goes past the Brazilian swimmer only because the Brazilian took time to look over to the American?
Yeah, that is for real.
There is enough for all of us.
Now, wait a minute, didn’t the quote in #7 advice to work harder than anyone?
Yes and no.
For example, there is a difference between working hard and competing. This is about your photography, not being a young assistant at a magazine like Smith.
When it comes to your photography, don’t compete with anyone.
As such, just be the best you that you can be.
That is definitely more than enough!
Start a Blog Immediately
You live in the digital age, and having a blog will make your life easier.
First of all, you can use your blog to showcase your photography.
This is important because clients will want to see your photography.
Second, having a blog makes you “discoverable.”
If you live in New York City and I type “a New York city photographer,” will I find you?
If you have a fantastic blog, I sure will!
Don’t waste your time on fleeing social media networks.
Spend your time blogging!
Sell Your Photography
You have to start selling your photography immediately.
It doesn’t mean you will sell, but you should be in the habit.
You can use online partners like ArtPal or sell it from your own blog.
Selling your photography tells the world, including your subjects, that you’re professional.
So, show that you mean business!
Tell Your Story
Remember how #8 said not to make the work about you?
Well, your story is different.
Unless you have a specific vision for your photography (for example, I want to control 100% of my photography), you will probably want to use your story to showcase your photos and find partners.
For example, are you a photographer of Norwegian background?
Find yourself a gallery that focuses on Scandinavian Art and tell your story.
Learn to Collaborate
Remember, the photography industry is there to serve you.
The industry doesn’t work without photographers.
So, don’t sell yourself short, but don’t be a pain in the you know where.
As such, respect yourself and respect the others in your industry.
Trust me, the professionals in the field will love you if you’re easy to work with, produce great content, and are ready to support your work with your time and energy.
Don’t Get Distracted
The photography industry is filled with tons of shiny objects.
For instance, your business partners will want you to go to events, parties, and entertain your shows.
That is great.
You must support your work.
However, don’t get sidetracked by the rest of the stuff.
Don’t get on drugs, don’t fall in love with the models, and, please, for Pete’s sake, don’t get drunk at your shows.
That doesn’t mean you should be a bore.
But don’t go crazy.
Set Goals for Your Career
Each December, I invite you to look back on your year. Did you accomplish what you wanted to achieve?
If not, make concrete goals for the coming year.
Likewise, if you have already achieved those goals, there will be more goals in front of you.
That is how life works.
So, make sure to make room in your coming year for those goals.
Celebrate Your Successes
You must celebrate your successes.
Each time you reach a goal, celebrate it.
Not in an egotistical kind of way, no.
But, make sure you celebrate.
As you celebrate, the experience will inform your subconscious that you’re on the right path.
In turn, that subconscious messaging will help you stick to future goals.
Bonus: Your Own Tips for Beginner Photographers
Are you a successful photographer? What are some tips for beginner photographers you could share?
Write them in the comments, so that those beginners reading this can benefit.
If you don’t feel comfortable, just go to my social media (@ajparisphotos) and just tag me or send me a private message.
Pay it forward!
As a successful photographer, when I think back, these are the tips I wish someone would have given me when I started.
Therefore, I’m glad I’m able to pay it forward.
Congratulations on being a photographer, it is such an incredible life!
AJ Paris is a travel photographer based in New York. He is the editor of Caravanzers.