how to become a photographer

i remember one day i decided i wanted to become a photographer. it sounded simple enough. i had a nice camera. i could take pretty pictures. i could use photoshop. that's it, right? notsomuch. as i started to read and ask around and learn i found that there was all these things i didn't even know existed. and every time i thought i was mastering photography someone would point something out like "your white balance is way off" and i'd be like "thank you, WTH IS WHITEBALANCE??!!" there were things i needed to know that i didn't even know existed. and i wasted a lot of time learning things in the wrong order. thinking that photoshop could fix every mistake, rather than learning how to not make mistakes. i have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are tinkering with photography and wondering where to even begin. so i wrote a list. the 5 basic steps to becoming a photographer. obviously there is a lot more involved than just five steps, but its a good start. remember that each step will take time. you cant just read an article about shooting in full sun and be like "oh yeah, i could do that... next!" you need to practice, fail, learn, practice more, practice in different scenarios, get to the point where you can not only consistently master each technique yourself, but you could teach someone else how to do it as well.

obviously there are different types of photography and everyone has different goals. so take these tips with a grain of salt... a rough general outline to give you some direction.

here goes.

how to become a photographer

1. read your camera manual. it will make ZERO sense the first time. but read it anyway.

2. master composition. read every tutorial you can find on composition. practice. you want to get to the point where you almost don't even have to THINK about comp - it just comes naturally. nothing worse than an image with perfect focus and exposure with a chopped a limb. make comp second nature.

3. focus, exposure and white balance are your friends. read a bunch more tutorials. practice. read your manual again. it will make a little more sense this time. ask stupid questions, ask for critique from people who are better than you. critique might leave you feeling like you suck. you do. everyone does at some point. don't make excuses... "well i know its totally blurry and his skin is orange, but *i* like it"... that's great if your goal is to have blurry orange images, but quite likely its not. so focus on the goal, listen to critique and make a change. master the technique, then you can have an opinion. once you have the basics of white balance focus and exposure, learn about LIGHT. how to shoot in full sun, backlighting, sunflares, silhouettes. read all the tutorials one more time. and while you're at it, read your camera manual again. know what every button and menu option does. practice!

4. learn how to proof your images in a program like photoshop. again, read a boat load of tutorials. find an image you like online or in a book. look at it. what is it about that image that you like? what makes it different from the way that your images look? play around in photoshop to achieve that look. ask for more critique. people will probably tell you that you "overdid it". you did. everyone does at some point. find the happy medium. know that there will be images you are so proud of, that 6 months from now you'll cringe at. learning to proof is a roller coaster of ups and downs. trying new things, overdoing it, underdoing it... find your balance. experiment with different styles.

5. you can consistently nail comp focus exposure white balance and proof beautifully. break some rules (what blown sky?), know when its ok to break them. find your style, know how to describe it. practice saying "i'm a photographer". :)

katie davies

los angeles child photographer