Learn to be a Photographer

One of the better advice/technique ideas we've come across is on the Web site of Andre Gunther, a professional who is a leading fine art/travel photographer.

He has a tutorial with the intriguing title Be an Expert With a Beginner's Mind.

Why would anyone who wants to be an expert photographer try to maintain a beginner's mind?

Gunther's answer is best expressed in this sentence from his Web site:

Once we've found out what works, we tend to be stuck repeating the same procedure. We replicate, reiterate and duplicate our success but we are not creative anymore.

What a great thought to hold onto when we want to learn to be a photographer. We need to constantly remind ourselves that success in any field is not about arriving.

It's about the journey. We need to constantly assess where we are and where we want to go, maintaining the energy and creativity we had as beginners.

Here are some basic ideas from Gunther that we're sure many other professionals follow:

  • Try something new

  • Focus on different details of the same image

  • Remember that photography is both science and art

  • Don't be afraid of imperfection - learn from it

  • Focus on composition again

  • Try new ways to compose a photo

  • See through the eyes of a child

  • Ask: What will the viewer see when he or she looks at this image?

  • What does horizontal cropping do?

  • What does vertical cropping do?

Above all, leave something to the imagination of the viewer. That's one of the strengths of black-and-white photography - there is a slight feeling of separation.

There is no rule written in stone that says you have to present absolute reality and nothing else.

Female photographer making shot Female photographer making shot

Practical Matters

With all of this theory and creativity firmly in mind we should be able to focus on the practical matter: How do I learn to be a photographer? Many professionals are asked about how to "become a photographer."

Unfortunately, a huge number of these questions are about what type of camera to use or what photography jobs are available.

These are not necessarily the right questions to ask. In fact, many times they are the wrong questions. It's best to start with this advice: Don't quit your day job yet! We may want to dream big dreams and travel the world, camera in hand, but remember that you have to eat. It would also be nice to have a roof over your head most of the time.

So, to avoid some of the problems that come with learning to be a photographer you may want to start part-time. Make it your serious hobby. Volunteer to take photos for family members and friends, studying and learning as you go. Buy a good camera and flash unit.

Basic, quality equipment will do for now. Unless you have a huge bank account, it's probably not wise to rush out and spend a couple of thousand on the best of the best.

Please, be realistic

Above all, be realistic. You are probably not going to get a lucrative and exciting travel project as soon as you put the word out that you are a photographer.

The percentages are against you.

If 1,000 people start today and learn to be a photographer, one or two might find themselves making a great deal of money, traveling to exotic places.

If studio work and portraits seem like the best idea for your location and your situation, make sure you focus on the business side of this career. Learning photography and being an expert in staging and lighting will only take you so far.

You will have to know about marketing your business, effective advertising, referrals and money management.

Here's a great bit of advice: Don't rush out and buy expensive equipment just because you have decided to be a photographer. The camera is just an inanimate piece of equipment. What you see and what you do with the camera will determine if you are a photographer or not.

In this discussion about "learn to be a photographer" we haven't talked much about schools and photography courses. That's because photography is, in the long run, a self-taught career. Get what you can from home-study, workshops or traditional schools, of course. But when it comes to being a photographer, only time will tell.