A few useful tips for beginner photographers: How people perceive a photographer
Good morning DT, in this short blog I am going to talk about my personal experience as a photographer and offer some tips for people that are starting or thinking about starting a career in photography. Now if you are a pro, it is very probable that you already know this stuff, so you could skip the article, but if you are a newbie, it is possible that you could find something useful.
So let's not hesitate and begin with the first tip:
So to say that it is very important how you look and present yourself would be a bit of an understatement. I started out as an artist (painter), so clothing and fashion was not really my thing, but when I made the transition from artist to photographer I found out that if you put on a nice suit and tie, you get a lot more respect and you just look more professional (even if you are not). People would be more inclined to hire you and most notably, they will be more inclined to give you a higher wage for your gig. My work opportunities have been much greater since losing my scruffy art look and just dressing a little better. There is though something that you would also want to consider – OVERDRESSING. Just know that being dressed nice and overdressed are two different things, you NEVER WANT TO BE OVERDRESSED, the reason – you will just be too noticeable and will not be able to take those natural, relaxed shots of people during events, gatherings or in the nightclub. Just asses beforehand in what situation you are going to be and dress appropriately.
One of the most important lessons you have to learn before you start working as a photographer is how much you should charge and also how to negotiate. Most people who want to hire a photographer don’t really know how much your services will cost them, simply put there is no international, national or even any local charging standard. At the end of the day you are giving them a service and that is hard to put a price on (a general concession is that the pros charge more, newbies – less). So when you sit down and start negotiating, they will want to know from the start what you would charge them. Before you say a number, inform yourself what you are getting into, that means how many hours will you have to work, how many photographs they would want (important for post-processing), location of the event (gas isn’t cheap), how much time you will have to edit the photos (express services usually also have a higher price), is it a onetime gig or a number of events (if somebody offers you some extra steady work you could cut them a deal) and of course the date of the event (if you are working on New Years that also has a special price). Now when you know all of this information put into consideration the eventual taxes you will have to pay + the amount of time you will have to spend on post-processing and you can now give them a price. The amount must not be too low nor to high, if you lowball them, people will think that you are not good enough and have their doubts, never do that, I lost some gigs in the beginning because of that. Normally the mentality of the public is: higher price – better quality, not always true but it’s something you will have to watch out for. Some people will try to negotiate the price I usually don’t partake because I am not very good at that, so when I say a number that means I want that number not more nor less. If you find yourself often in such situations, consider offering an initial higher price, because during the negation you will have some wiggle room, but don’t exaggerate.
So what to wear and what to bring, how many lenses, batteries, memory cards, etc. Now this is a fundamental part of being a photographer. If you followed step two you should also know what to bring, preparation is the key to success. When it comes to cameras you don’t actually need the latest most expensive model, often when I shot most exhibitions, book presentation, nightclubs and so on, I found out that you could, more or less, do a decent job using a DX format camera. If you are reading this than probably you are a newbie and don’t have a lot of $$$$ to spent. Just be sure your camera has a second memory card slot, that is essential, better be safe than sorry. Most of the time you would not need a second camera body, especially for nightclubs, so one good, reliable camera with a decent midrange or all-purpose lens will do wonders. Bring also a flash, 2 batteries, extra memory cards, some microfiber tissues for cleaning and if you really want to be prepared maybe a change of wardrobe, accidents happen more often than you think (on occasion I found myself needing a second shirt).
Let's just spend a minute to talk about your camera strap. The straps that are included with all cameras are OK, but if you are going to work for more than a couple of hours, you will need a reliable and comfortable strap that is right for you. I should stress this more: a good quality strap is FUNDAMENTAL for long working days, just invest a couple of bucks and by one, chances are you will use it longer than the camera you put it on. Oh and a second reason for getting yourself a new strap is SAFETY, yeap, safety. Nikon and Canon, not sure why, like to advertise their products on the straps, especially if you have a nice, expensive camera. They show the brand and also the model number, making you a sort of walking advertisement for potential thieves. It doesn’t happen often but better safe than sorry, get yourself a comfortable strap, preferably logo free or with a small one and you will never regret it. Oh and reason number three to change it, well advertisement aint free :).
What do I mean when I say safety? Well two things actually, safety for your gear and also for yourself. A fundamental thing every photographer has to have is a nice camera shoulder bag or backpack. Now if you are serious about this profession I just have to be honest and tell you that you need a nice, reliable and weather resistant bag. The price for such a product goes from 100$ and can even reach 300$, but you are going to need one and it’s better if you buy it right from the start. These things are amazing, they are weather resistant, tough and comfortable and eventually you are going to buy one. Initially I made the mistake of buying a small and cheap shoulder bag, well that was 30$ down the tube, then I bought a slightly bigger and better one, it went obsolete when I got a descent telephoto lens. After that, I got a bigger but not weather resistant shoulder bag, again bad purchase. Finally I decided to put some cash aside and get a decent, good quality photo backpack and honestly this was one of my best decisions ever, never looked back and you won’t also. So do not make my mistake and get yourself a nice reliable bag!
Safety for yourself, well here I am going to give you a couple of tips that may seem obvious to many but still are worth mentioning, here we go:
- if you are doing night photography in the city, always bring a buddy, you are carrying a small fortune around and better be on the lookout.
- never go out to shoot and then have a drink, always leave your equipment at home and then you can do whatever you want.
- get yourself (if needed) a pepper spray and carry it around with your gear, as mentioned before there are a lot of thieves in the city and having a large heavy backpack is a disadvantage.
- when you eventually get enough work to afford a descend gear setup it is time to think about some extra home security, you just need one guy to come in and puff years of hard work gone. The city where I live has a very low crime rate but during the New Year festivities you start to hear those terrible stories. Remember your equipment is your livelihood!
Well these are my safety tips, as life goes on I will probably have more to add but if somebody else has some other ideas, please share them in the comments. It’s almost impossible to prepare yourself for everything but some accidents could be avoided.
Well this will be the final section of the blog, so let's start. Attitude is not something you can really teach but here I will just talk about the things I have learned through experience:
-Confidence. You need to be confident, you may be a good photographer, but if you are not confident in the work you do your clients are going to pick up on that, so prepare yourself, confidence is a key feature for a good photographer.
-Positivity. You are going to need a lot of it, nobody likes a grumpy photographer, when working remember that you will most likely be working with people, nobody cares if you’ve had a bad day, week or month, so buck up and smile :).
-Serious. If you are working in nightclubs or other alcohol related events you will need to be positive but also serious, remember keep the drunk people at a distance, nobody wants a beer soaked camera.
-Professionalism. If you agree to do a gig you need to do that gig, even if you are sick or have a huge pimple right on your nose, there is no excuse, once you burn a bridge you burn it forever. Also always respect your deadlines, nobody likes delays.
Well, combine all of these key features add some personal charm and charisma and you are well on your way to being a successful photographer.
Well that is it from me, at least for now, I know that there are many things that I didn’t write about but I think this is a good beginning point, if you have something to add, the comment section is always opened or you could just write a small blog entry yourself. Keep on the great work and keep your moral high, nobody likes a grumpy photographer :).
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