Recently I posted a few words of wisdom to give some guidance for people who take pictures. What I mean by that is everyone has to start somewhere. If you really love taking pictures, and you have the passion to not only take them, but sit for hours on end to sort and edit, maybe you are thinking you could become a photographer. And good luck to you if that is the case. But here are a few words of wisdom that you need to seriously think about before you take the jump of accepting money to take pictures for people.
1. Take a lot, and I mean A LOT of pictures. Learn the difference between ISO, F-Stop and Aperture, use them on your camera and learn how they work together. Learn to take pictures in manual. Get off auto and study, learn, apply.
2. Do not limit yourself to natural light. You need to learn lighting. Fill lights are used even on the brightest of days. You should be able to know what to do if you have to take a picture in the brightest of sunlight.
3. Respect. Oh boy, I could write a dissertation on this on. Make sure you know where you are. Is it public, private? ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask to take pictures at a location (here's a simple rule: if somebody owns, rents it, runs it you ask) in which you are shooting. If a sign says to not sit on something, don't. If a sign says please don't use the stairs, don't. It's very simple. Don't skirt the rules. If you are shooting for any other purpose than for personal experience, you need to get permission. Remember, using certain venues as a photo backdrop may sound like a good idea, but any attempt to use it commercially could land you in big trouble.
4. Do not take your camera to an event/gathering/party and assume you are going to take pictures of people you don't know, or even people you do know. It's tacky and bad etiquette. And do not, DO NOT, ever get in the way of the paid/contracted photographer at ANYTHING. Even if you happen to be smart and ask ahead because you want to build your portfolio, you still don't have the right to be in their way. Ask the host and understand what the host has in place with the person/company they did hire. Don't take pictures at a venue when you are trying to build your portfolio, even if you have permission, and then use them in any purpose other than a personal portfolio. These opportunities are to help you learn what you can do to improve, they are not a business strategy.
5. Close friends and family are always, ALWAYS going to tell you that you are great and that your pictures are better than others they have seen. And that may be the case. However, using that praise to merit your decision to become a photographer can also be your downfall. Find an industry professional who is willing to review your portfolio. Someone who doesn't know you, someone who isn't a friend of a friend. They are out there, and they are willing to help new talent when they see it. They can give you the criticism that you won't hear from friends and family. Also, listen to what they have to say, even if it is hurtful because they don't like your work. And then go out and prove them wrong.
6. Learn to edit. And learn to edit correctly. Actions serve their purpose but there are many photographers who use only a specific set or two and every one of their pictures look the same. Editing is not to be used as a way to cover up a bad shot. That is why #1 is SO important. You can't just sit down, open Lightroom, apply the same action to every single picture and expect to earn money for your work. Editing is probably 75% of being a professional photographer. Don't take the next step until you can edit. And remember to shoot in raw. When you have your portfolio reviewed, they will look at both raw and edited files. Raw will tell them how you can improve your photography, edited will help them tell you what you need to learn to finish a picture.
7. Be willing to read and apply the tips you have learned today and read elsewhere from professionals in the know. None of this matters if you already assume you already know all there is to know. The world of digital photography is always changing, always updating and always upgrading. Learn to adapt and apply. And if you don't want to, then you really need to.