Field Notes: How to Become a Photographer

When I first started looking through a viewfinder, I thought every frame I was lining up was destined for the pages of National Geographic. Even though I didn’t understand ISO, f-stops, or shutter speed. In my mind it didn’t matter. After all, when it comes to photography, it’s the magician, not the wand right?

 

Photog
Photographer Glen Harris dangling at Metcalfe Rock. Photo: Colin Field

Words: Colin Field

Boy was I wrong. Because if I was the magician in that metaphor, I was a crappy one. My early images are terrible. Out of focus, poor composition and boring subjects being just a few of the major problems. But actually practising was the real issue. In the days of film when every photo (slide film) cost close to a dollar to produce (and I was broke) there was a constant inner conflict between clicking the shutter and/or spending the money. I can’t imagine how much quicker kids in the digital age progress.

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Over the years I’ve improved. I still haven’t produced anything worthy of National Geographic. And I’m quick to see the errors in my own work. I’ve taken a few workshops over the years, and worked as a photo editor for a while, both of which have helped me progress.

Of course I get the insulting comments like, “your camera takes really nice photos.” Or the always awesome, “I wish I had your job. I would love to just take pictures all day.” Me too! I’d really, really love to skip all the postshoot work. And the pre-shoot work too. And the cataloguing, the editing, the hustling, the selling, the pricing.

It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you’re using, find something you love to shoot and shoot the hell out of it. There are people who make a living shooting waves. Or snowflakes. Or model tanks.

But don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s one of the best gigs going. I also get the inevitable questions like—Canon or Nikon? To which I have no response; because it really doesn’t matter. And once in a while I get the question, “How do you become a professional photographer?”

This one requires a bit of thought. If I was in the business of giving people career advice I’d say practise. You can’t be a photographer if you aren’t taking photos. So shoot, shoot and then shoot some more. Learn to use your camera, your computer and everything in between. It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you’re using, find something you love to shoot and shoot the hell out of it. There are people who make a living shooting waves. Or snowflakes. Or model tanks.

I can accredit most of my skill to good old-fashioned practise. Years of getting behind the lens and in front of a computer screen.And there’s only one other piece of advice I’d be qualified to give, and it’s probably the most essential advice for anyone starting any kind of business: never, ever, ever give up.

Because you’ll get better every time you click the shutter. And eventually, if you’re persistent, people will start paying you to do just that.

And that’s the dream isn’t it?

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