Being a beginner photographer is exciting, empowering and daunting all at the same time. It's hard to know what to do next, where to learn from and what you should be focusing on. Whether you're looking to go from a beginner to an amazing hobbyist or to make photography your career it truly is a journey to hone in on your skills and creativity. Sometimes the best way to learn is to talk to those who have been through it and learn by example, so that's why I'm sharing The Top 5 Mistakes I Made as a Beginner Photographer - so that you don't have to do the same!
1. Being too Scared to Learn Manual Mode
Once you have your camera in hand it is so easy to get over excited and to just start shooting. You get caught up in eagerness and want to bypass learning altogether. After all, you're a creative person and have great composition naturally, so what's left to learn when the camera can do everything else for you? *ahem* Gently give your head a shake.
Yes, you may have natural talent, but if you don't know how to shoot on manual mode you are denying yourself SO MUCH more creative freedom and control. The hardest part is simply starting. I started photography at age 13, and get this, I didn't learn how to shoot fluently on manual mode until I was 18! That's a whole 5 years I know I could have been doing so much better with. What forced me to take the jump was when I was in college working towards my Professional Photography Diploma and our teachers wouldn't allow us to shoot on anything but complete manual mode. Through not only theory education but practice, practice and more practice, within weeks I had a complete understanding. Once you dedicate yourself to learning manual mode, it's important you hold yourself accountable.
I'm not saying you need a professional education to become an amazing photographer, there are so many online resources, books and mentors out there that can get you started. In fact, we've created our own FREE Beginners Guide just for you.
2. Valuing Gear Over Education
When you're a beginner photographer it's easy to get caught up in the "best of the best" gear, with the mindset that if you just had a better camera or a bigger lens your photos will improve. Although it's true that investing in a good lens can improve the quality of your photos, if you don't have the education and knowledge to back that lens with nothing is going to change. In fact, at the end of the day it really does come down to your composition, ability to control light and your skills that elevate your photography - not the gear in your hand. That's the reason phoneography exists!
3. Comparing Myself to Others
Just like life in general, it is only natural to compare yourself to others - but it's also highly toxic. If you are constantly comparing yourself to photographers that are more "successful", popular or creative than you, you are only going to bring yourself down. It doesn't matter how many likes you get on Instagram, how many people leave you comments on Facebook or what the person next to you is getting featured for; that is their journey and their place, not yours. If you learn to embrace and accept where your abilities are now and strive to do nothing but your best you will create a rhythm for yourself and continue to improve daily, and at the end of the day that's all that matters.
Being schooled in professional photography with 30 other students it created a massive sense of competition with grades, rewards and job opportunities always being discussed. Although a little competition is healthy, trying to be like others and worry about them more than myself would have done serious damage. When I decided to focus on me, my own style and develop a niche is when my work took off.
4. Trying to Copy Other's Styles
Similar to comparing yourself to others, trying to copy another photographers style of shooting or editing instead of creating your own is also a recipe for disaster. This is the easiest way to get in a rut, blend into the crowd and feel like a fraud. There is no point in trying to be like someone else - there is already one of them and we simply don't need another. By being true to you, experimenting and trusting your instincts you will develop your own style which will get you noticed by the right people who will be dying to work with you.
Sure, looking at others work can be inspiring and helpful - in fact, we had entire assignments based around trying to replicate someone else's work, but there is also a line and at the end of the day you need to have your own way of doing things. Try to avoid buying presets and using them as is. If you do buy them make sure you use them in your own way and tweak them to suit your own work.
5. Thinking the Learning Stops
I like to compare being a beginner photographer to being a teenager. At first, you may think you know it all, don't need anyone else's help and that you've got it all figured out. You may also be extremely reluctant to receive criticism. However, once you start to educate yourself and move further into your journey you will realise just how much there is to learn and that it never stops. Asking for criticism from other photographers is the most effective way to learn, and although it can hurt, if you really listen with an open mind it will be extremely helpful. The world of photography is always evolving and if you continue to stay dedicated to learning you will be well on your way to being a fab photographer.