Advice to a young photographer:
We’re approached pretty regularly these days for shadowing, advice, portfolio reviews, etc by beginning photographers. They want to know how to get started in the photography business and how to make money. We really appreciate being involved in other people’s start and some of their lives. But, be warned… I’m tough. Here’s a pretty common bit of info I pass along. Maybe it’ll help answer a few early questions you might have. A quick caveat. I’m a corporate/business Public Relations photographer in the Durham NC area. I’ve also done 22+ seasons in theatre (and lived in Rochester NY & do shoots in Boston, Chicago, FL, etc), so I can speak to those areas. If your goal is to be a band photographer in NYC, that’s not what I’m talking about… although I think this core stuff is the same. This is how to get the right skills to show you can do a PR or editorial assignment.
In your portfolio to get real work (second shooting, small assignments, etc) is to prove you can go into a variety of situations and use a flash and get pleasant images.
I think for many young photographers, this is the missing link— prioritizing cool shots over ones that show you can do solid, actual, client-needed WORK.
It’s fine if publication/event work isn’t your passion—skim my tips and move on… but to get PR work, good lighting in normal situations is the mother skill. Even shooting bands, etc… I tell people, what will you do when you’re in a crappy location with crappy light? You have to have the skills to add light.
In the photo world, really anyone can do cool effects and nice photos under natural light. But for every 100 people who have a portfolio of ‘cool’/instagrammy images, I see 1 with some lighting chops… and that’s where the assignments are. You have to prove in the work you show that you can go into crappy/average/normal situations and come out with a solid publication image.
Sorry if that’s too blunt, YMMV. It might help to look at my portfolio to see what PR/event work we show, and there are so many amazing photographers to check out these days. One advantage of checking out my work is that it’s very real. This is what normal clients assign in mid-sized cities in the US. You can scoot over to the client and editing areas even and see what a full shoot looks like.
Check out people like Zack Arias to see someone who’s much cooler than I am, but note how he shows good use of light:
and get his book on Amazon. GREAT advice for a young photog. Pay attention to what real working pros like Joe Mcnally does. Top of his game for 30 years. This is the real PR working photographer— not the hip flavor/style of the month guy. This kind of work will always get you hired.
Read Strobist.com for info on getting good with small lights. Buy their DVD set for education. Sign up for KelbyOne for a month and suck it dry. I’ve been pretty convinced I’m the worst photographer on the planet for 25 years… and that has driven me to work and learn more than anyone I know.
Don’t be afraid to ask to shadow normal working pros. Just don’t be mean when they are too busy. And first do some research to find someone really in sync with your goals, and learn all about them. Add value by offering to carry bags for free at a shoot, just so you can observe. Act on their advice, and get back to them showing results. Out of all the folks I’ve helped, only a handful have actually done some of what I advised (like reading Zack’s book or working on lighting) and even fewer have gotten back to me with results or follow up questions. Makes you think, eh?
And most of all, keep shooting and enjoying it. Always have a camera with you and be obsessive. If you aren’t passionate like that, don’t do this— just take snaps for fun and share them with your friends. There’s a reason this is called a ‘profession’. Join us.
Have great work or questions? From the Durham Area?
Don’t be shy about giving me a shout (@HuthPhoto) to see your work or ask a quick question. I do what I can to reply. If you are in the Raleigh/Durham area, and your work is solid… get in touch. I’m getting to know the local photo talent for when I need a larger team on a job, or when I’m booked and a client needs help. Just happen last week in fact…
(Note: the photos of the young photographer above is the guy that’s listened to me best over the last five years of so and has a great business of his own— it’s my son Colin. PhotoC4.com is where he proves he can shoot for clients & then this is his photo-art blog for passion)