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Becoming a photographer today is not an uphill task as it was some years ago. With almost everyone having access to a camera and high-level editing software, it has become easier for anyone to master photography. And that is why we are witnessing a new generation of amateur photographers that is growing each day.
With a huge percentage of modern photographers not gaining formal training and still excelling, you may want to ask yourself, is it worth it to join a photography school? Not forgetting that, today, many career photographers are struggling to get paid to work. With this in mind and considering enrolling to study is not cheap, you may want to weigh between enrolling to study and learning on your own.
Enroll or study on your own?
Which option is most suitable? It is simple to answer this question. Just ask yourself, “why you want the skills?” To start a career in photography or to take your hobby to another level? If looking to start a career, it is worth joining a photography school. But if you want to add photography to your list of hobbies, it not worth splashing a lot of money in a photography school.
Luckily, today you can develop your skills without stepping into any photography class. How? We will get to that in a jiffy. But first, let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of photography school.
The advantages and disadvantages of photography school
- A better understanding of the art
- Refine your skills naturally and learn from the best
- Build connections as you learn that could help in future
- Gain a detailed understanding of lighting and composition techniques
- High tuition fee and yearly salary on average is low. This means you need more time to pay back your debt or recover the tuition fee
- Employment not guaranteed
- Photography tools are very pricey
- You may be required to go back to school to advance your photography if your career fails to flourish
Teach yourself photography
Ready to become a professional photographer without the formality of the classroom? You are not alone. Even successful photographers like Chris Ozer did not step in any photography class. He has some pretty impressive clients like Target, The New York Times, and Apple and currently living a comfortable life. You can also be like Chris and other self-taught photographers if you do the following:
- Get familiar with your camera
If you don’t have a camera, get one. Fortunately, there are many excellent brands out there to consider. Once you have your camera, you need to know about every aspect of it. This includes going through its manual several times.
- Watch online tutorials
There are many platforms with great tutorials you can use to advance your skills. Thanks to platforms like YouTube that has millions of reliable tutorials. You can also check out popular channels like Peter McKinnon and Mango Street for easy to follow videos. Once you watch, remember to put what you have learned into action.
- Hit the books and online portfolios
Reading books and portfolios will significantly help improve your photography skills. You will get inspired by reading great photo books and portfolios like (Nicholas Evariste Photography, Cassandra Klos Photography, and North Landscapes.)
Reading portfolios is an excellent idea as it helps you discover what other self-taught photographers went through to be where there are today.
- Practice, practice, and practice!
Watching tutorials, reading books, and combing portfolios is not enough to make you a skilled photographer. But practicing often will do. To build your experience, make sure to bring your camera wherever you go and take as many photos as possible. That way, it will be possible to know what to improve and what is working for you. Never get tired of practicing, even professional photographers still hone their skills.
- Expand your network
Networking is another thing you need to leverage to grow as a self-taught photographer. Networking helps you meet new people, take your brand to another level, get repeat customers, and build long term relationships. The good thing is that networking is cheap compared to other marketing strategies.
- Get a mentor or apprenticeship
Want to master photography fast and in the right way? Mentors and apprenticeships will help you learn the ropes very fast. Most self-taught photographers have excelled in photography after spending valuable time in internships. You can also benefit if you choose well.
A big tip though-for the best experience with your mentor, make sure to choose one who is ready to share his or her knowledge with you. If you do research well, you have a guarantee to find a fit mentor.
- Join a photography forum
Joining a photography forum is another step that will really take your photography to another level. By joining a photography forum, you can get honest feedback on your work, gain fresh insights, and so on. Just make sure you don’t take everything said on forums as gospel without researching. Some of the forums you can join include:
- Attend workshops
Every year hundreds of photography workshops take place in different places. You can start by attending those near you (they are cheaper to attend) before considering to attend those miles away. Workshops are great for finding internships, making connections, and for discovering niches or styles you love.
- Set goals
What do you want to achieve? It is satisfying to accomplish something you have set. You will find yourself motivated to get out and shoot if you set goals. Just list those goals and work on them, one at a time till none is left.
- Enter a photography competition
Another way to get some honest feedback on your work is by entering photography competitions. Search for the best competition, join, and participate. With some competitions awarding hefty prizes such as money, you may get extra cash to support your photography journey.
- Learn how to use post-editing tools
To take your images to another level after shooting, you need to edit them well. Editing tools come in handy in post-production. Learning how to use these tools is a big plus in photography. You can use tutorials and other resources to learn how to editing tools.
- Make an online photography portfolio
An online portfolio is a useful tool you will need once you get started. With one, you will be able to not only catalog your work but also showcase your expertise to potential clients. Additionally, your portfolio will come in handy when marketing your brand.
Here is how to build a portfolio
- Organize your work into themes
- Show your best work. This makes it easier for people to see your work
- Get your head around SEO. This will boost your visibility online
- Use a website builder to design your layout
- Present your photos to your friends
Your friends are a great resource when trying to learn. Send them some of your pictures and ask them for feedback. They may not have any knowledge about photography, but their feedback on which photos they love can help you make positive progress. If you have friends with excellent experience in photography, the more reliable they will be on your journey.
- Follow photographers on social media
Many renowned photographers on social media today can really inspire you in many ways. Theron Humphrey, Scott Schuman, Simone Bramante, Adam Senatori, and Jussi Ulkuniemi are some of the photographers you can look up to in your photography journey to keep your creative juice flowing.
- Put your heart into it
Your photography journey is not going to be smooth, but if you put your heart into it, even when things are not working, you will always have to energy to press on. Let it come from you that you want to be a self-taught photographer, and you will be surprised how fast you will master everything.
- Find your own style
At first, finding your own style will feel like a daunting task. It is ok to feel so, but if you are determined, soon you will figure out which style suits you best. In the initial stages, try to see what other photographers are doing, but don’t copy everything. If you keep on practicing, soon you will find and develop your own style.
Good things will not come your way if you don’t hustle. Put yourself out there, take risks, learn how to brand, and so on. That way, you will keep on winning as a photographer. Photographers like Eric Kim has proved that hustling does pay, you will also reap if you do everything right.
- Experiment and make mistakes
Don’t be afraid to take as many photos as possible from different angles. Your memory card allows you to take a hundred of duds. So, keep on experimenting until you feel that you have mastered it. When starting out, you may find it a bit challenging, but after a few mistakes, things will start to follow well.
- Shoot what excites you
It is more satisfying to photograph what interests you. If you love photographing animals, go ahead, if you love shooting unique scenery, go ahead and capture the best of the best images. Photographing what excites motivates and that will give you the energy to press on.
Last but not the least, you can always come to our photography blog to learn more as you start your photography journey!