When any photographer starts out, they have a vast journey ahead of them. Photography has so many different paths and intertwining roads that it can be tough to navigate on the path to either becoming a professional, semi-professional, or hobbyist. It takes refinement and what you’ll find is that you’re going to shed skin in order to keep growing and changing like an animal sheds an exoskeleton.
Here’s some advice that we have for the folks who are on the journey to finding their own photographic style.
Don’t Worry About Gear…Yet
It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of gear hounding talking about focal lengths, apertures and more technical stuff. But in this day and age when people are shooting incredible photos with their phone, the gear matters so much less. There are folks who use their phones who get their work into galleries and get paid sponsorships from brands that want to work with them. These days, not a single company is making a bad camera.
With that in mind, try gear based on whether or not you think it will help you achieve your specific creative vision. What we always personally encourage is worrying about lighting, but even that has its limits. The biggest differences these days with lights are the features that they provide.
Go Out There and Make Mistakes
While that photo you just shot may look great on the back of the LCD screen, it’s probably hiding the fact that you’ve got some terrible camera shake. You’ll need to figure out your mistakes and rectify them on your journey. You can surely be a big critic of your own work, but you’ll also need to be the harshest critic–consistently trying to find ways that you can make it better.
Our biggest recommendation: realize that no photo is ever complete. You can always crop it differently, change the colors a bit, etc.
Put your photos online in Flickr groups or 500px groups and also look for the input from photographers that you trust and follow. Listen to these critiques and internalize them without making them affect what the image is supposed to be. However, always respect someone else’s opinion because they can always have some sort of feedback for you.
Find Multiple Mentors
On the journey of finding yourself creatively, we recommend that you look at the work of various photographers and try to become their assistants or learn from them in certain ways. If you know the genre that you want to shoot, then learn from specific people in that field. But if you’re still looking to find yourself overall, you should look at the work of photographers from various genres and get into trying things and experiencing them.
However, don’t give up after one bad experience because one mentor shouldn’t be the single factor that destroys your creativity.
Realize That the Company You Keep May Not Be Into What You Are
If you work and collaborate with a bunch of landscape or long exposure photographers, you may realize that they’re not really shooting what you’re into. Instead, you may like portraits or surreal stuff. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t feed off of one another’s creative energies. You can surely take some sort of inspiration from them, internalize it and re-use it in your own way.
Shoot What Feels Right to You
In the end, your photographic journey isn’t about what you feel will always make you stand out, but what feels right to you. You can figure this out by looking at your own work after a while and consulting with mentors and getting ideas.