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15 Pieces of Advice for Emerging Photographers

Rob_Brulinski

© Rob Brulinski

Rob Brulinski: Photograph like it’s your job. Press the shutter button until your eyeballs hurt. Hang out with other photographers, look at each others work, and argue ’til sunrise about it. Drop out of art school and save the money for travel and books. Don’t worry so much about “camera specs,” but know how to use your camera in any scenario you might find yourself in. Learn how to crop and stop counting Instagram likes.

Carli Davidson: Climb that ladder with people you feel supported by. Work hard. Take responsibility for everything. Shoot something every day, even if it’s on your phone. Don’t make excuses for not having the best gear; I’ve known photographers that shoot on 10 year old digital point and shoot cameras and still make brilliant work.

Ricky Rhodes: Keep shooting, keep experimenting. Never settle and always do the best work that you can do. Shoot for yourself and always work to push the boundaries. Stay out of your comfort zone.

Joan Lobis Brown: Keep on taking images. Practice your craft. Sometimes you know immediately when you click the shutter that you have captured something special – I get a kind of rush. It’s that feeling that I strive for over and over again. And then sometimes, I just get lucky and the photography gods give me a gift. In either event, I’m grateful. Have fun. When it stops being fun and you don’t get nervous anymore that you aren’t going to get something good, that’s when I think it’s time to look for something else to do.

Michael Lewis: Don’t doubt your abilities. That’s the kiss of death. Know what you are good at, and (sometimes more importantly) where your strengths don’t shine as bright. Chasing trends will weaken your work. Have your own voice, and express it with conviction. I left art school with a pocket full of confidence. Back then I thought, as long as I can get someone to look at my work. . . why wouldn’t they hire me? Have that swagger when you show people your photographs, and they’ll know you’re the real deal.

Brooke Frederick: Don’t stop making photos! Small or big personal projects have been really important to me psychologically, and they have also gotten me a lot of jobs. Don’t be scared to show people what you are working on! Send your stuff out to people/companies you admire constantly (even if you don’t hear back from them). People are not going to “find” you unless you help them by showing your work. Oh and most importantly… HAVE FUN.

Thomas Alleman: Thirty years ago, when I was getting started on this road, there were some fairly clear maps and signposts. One could go to college in a photography program, and get internships and become a newspaper staffer, or stay on campus and get a Masters, and then teach. One could go to the Big City and work as an assistant to established photographers, and learn a lot of technical, practical and business skills in a short period, and they might begin their own careers from that period of immersion.

None of that is nearly as possible in 2015. In the realm of photography and communications, much has gone by the wayside. Newspapers are dying and photo staffs are being decimated; the magazines and corporate clients that used to fund big city fashion shooters or editorial portraitists, or globe-trotting photojournalists, are but a shell of their former vigorous selves, with severely reduced budgets.

So, this sounds pretty dire. Surely, it does! But, however it might seem, these current truisms don’t mark the death of photography careers or the photography business. The world itself needs and uses and exploits and thrives on photographic images more than ever, and this new digital environment will generate new routes and opportunities for smart, flexible, forward-thinking photographers. After every revolution there are losers in the rubble and winners who struggle up over the ramparts. Our digital revolution—perhaps the biggest upheaval in hundreds of years—has already produced its share of losers, including all those age-old routes and recipes for photo success. But the winners will certainly emerge, too. Young photographers need build the new roads that people like me once travelled on so easily; your success will be had when you’ve figured out a brand new route through the jungle, and you’re the first one to reach Shangri-La.

Jamie Diamond: Just make the work, everything else is secondary.

Chris Arnade: Take risks, either emotionally, physically, economically, or logistically. My best pictures have come when I am slightly outside of my comfort zone- either in a crack house at 3 am, or in a place I have been told I shouldn’t be. Take pictures for you, not for anyone else. If you don’t enjoy it and respect the people you are working with, then it will show in your photos. Not sure how, but it just does.

Henry Horenstein: Work hard; be original.

Lucas Foglia: Photograph what you feel is urgent, and what you are excited to talk about. Then go out and talk about it.

Eirik Johnson: My advice is fairly simple. Be persistent. Rejection is a fairly commonplace occurrence; however, you have to be able to shake it off. I have a nice stack of letters of rejection from over the past 20 years or so. Whenever I receive a rejection (for a grant I’d applied for or from a photo editor I’d met), I like to immediately turn my attention to what’s next: a new project, a new opportunity.

Amy Lombard: Every single thing you do in life matters. Be aware of that, and more importantly, be proactive about it. It could be something as simple as seeing a certain film, making a new friend, or taking a job you would never expect yourself to do. It’s sort of the mentality that your life is a movie and in the grand scheme of things, these little moments affect your vision and career in ways you might not realize at the time. For me personally, I can tie specific projects or photographs I had taken that were ultimately a response to one of these instances.

Chloe Aftel: This is a hard business, and it demands all you have to develop a style and figure out how to make that work. No matter what, find your own look, don’t what what other people are doing, don’t just what you think will sell. Figure out what matters to you, and then find a way to make that commercially viable.

Julia Fullerton-Batten: As an emerging photographer, it is important for you to enter competitions. Without at least some success in these, you will need to work harder at your skill development to ensure that you have the ability to become dependent on your photography to earn a living. The next stage is to constantly update your portfolio with your best work, concentrating its content to the areas where you think you want to work. Keep your eyes open and on other photographers’ work, not to copy it, but to get ideas and to evaluate it critically in comparison with your own efforts. Do not neglect the business aspects. Prepare a business plan and review your financial situation, especially keep your overheads low – do not think that you will make your fortune by buying the latest technology. It is your own talent and work ethic that counts most. Finally, keep believing in yourself and your passion – there is no point in just having the idea if are not going to shoot it.

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