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Photo Contest Insider Blog

Why should you invest in yourself as a photographer?

March 29, 2016

Those who are looking to make money from photography might be loath to put any extra money into it. After all, it costs a lot just to get set up: you need to buy your camera, your lenses, any studio equipment you will need, bags to put it in, maybe even the hire of your own studio, professional insurance… the list goes on. For a hobbyist, it’s even more difficult to invest, knowing that you will most likely never see any return on that money.

But there are some very good reasons why you should invest in yourself as a photographer. If you don’t agree, read on – you will see that this might even be the most important thing that you ever spend money on.

How to Invest in Training

First of all, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you could invest in yourself. The main idea of investing is to create a profit or see some other return, and in this case, knowledge is what we are trying to cultivate. Investing in your photography skills means, quite simply, making them better. If you invest correctly, you will become a much better photographer at the end of it.

The first and most obvious thing you could choose is to take a course as a professional photographer. These range from the long term, such as going to university either full or part-time to get a degree in photography, to the short term – you might only spend a few weeks learning. These also, necessarily, vary greatly in cost. You might pay only a small amount to go on a short course, but will most likely need to take out a loan in order to go back to university. These courses can also range in value based on who is taking them. Studying with a famous and well-established photographer who is considered to be a master in their field will cost you more than studying with a local portrait studio.

If you do not want to commit to a full course, then you can try a workshop. Typically, this is just a one or two-day experience which allows you to get some hands-on training. You will normally be shooting a model or your chosen subject during the course of the workshop, so that you can get feedback on your photographs and how to improve them. Workshops can also centre around different aspects of the photographic process, such as post-production or putting together a portfolio.

The next tier is online courses, where you do not need to go out of the house at all and can usually do things at your own speed. These may include feedback and may not. They can differ greatly in terms of their usefulness, their cost, their duration, and other factors. Webinars can also fall under this category, allowing you to listen to an expert and see what they are doing or displaying on a screen for you.

Lastly, if you feel that you need very in-depth tuition, you can find yourself a mentor. This is likely to cost a lot, but will give you hands-on training on a one-to-one basis, perfect for really bringing out those skills and helping you reach the next level fast.

How to Invest in Tools

There are other ways to learn, of course, and you can equip yourself with the right tools to make this happen. First of all, consider what you can buy in order to teach yourself more about photography. You could purchase books to start with. These include textbooks intended to teach photography in a school or university environment, as well as how-to guides which will walk you through different process in a step-by-step fashion. You can also purchase theory texts, such as those written by Susan Sontag, which explore more philosophical themes: why we take photographs, why we like looking at photographs, what makes a good photograph special, and so on.

You can also subscribe to podcasts which are run by photographers. These can tell you a lot of information in just an hour or two, and you may have the option to only purchase the ones that you need. You can then load these up onto an MP3 player, your phone, tablet, or laptop, and listen to them whenever you have the time. Though these will not be as visual as other forms of learning, they may be able to teach you a lot about the non-visual aspects of photography – such as marketing, etiquette, casting, finding work, and so on.

Why Train Your Photography?

If your learning materials are focused around the ways that you take pictures, then they can be a huge benefit to you. You will find that there are ways of framing, composing, and tricking the camera that you had no idea about before. Many things can be learned through experience, but if you can figure out a great technique now instead of in five years, the benefit to you is obvious! You will have a much stronger portfolio once you are able to shoot in this way, particularly if your chosen course or workshop includes photographic sessions.

Learning how to take pictures better also enables you to earn more money, in two ways: first by attracting more and better quality clients, and secondly by being able to raise your rates. With the benefit of experience and knowledge under your belt, you can really ramp up the development of your personal style, creating a professional look that is sought after by clients. When it really matters, photographic quality is not something that can be created by accident. Knowing how to get it right every time is the difference between an amateur and a professional.

It’s also always a really good idea to gain tips from someone who is at the forefront of your field. You may not wish to copy them exactly, but you can pick up from them what the market demands and how to meet that demand. You can accelerate your position in the market very quickly by being able to meet that standard. If your chosen teacher is well-known enough, you will even be able to show your quality by stating that you trained under them.

Why Train Other Aspects?

Of course, as we all know, being a photographer is not just about taking pictures – at least, not anymore. There is a lot more to think about now: you must be able to do your own marketing, particularly on social media; you need to know how to find, communicate with, and retain clients; you must learn how to maintain your kit, and what kind of legal issues you might come across while you shoot; the etiquette of working with models or other subjects; where to find your subjects and locations; and so on and so forth. You may also take care of your own accounting and be your own studio manager.

So with all of this information to cover, it’s clear that you can benefit greatly by getting that information from another professional. Someone who has been there and done it all, and can tell you what major pitfalls to avoid, is really going to help you out. You can’t be naturally good at all of the things listed above, especially not without experience: training yourself will help you to cover off the angles where you are not so gifted.

Learning about marketing could help you to find more work, as well as getting your existing work seen and admired by more people. Social media could increase your opportunities and give you more exposure. Learning how to communicate with clients might help you to gain more repeat sales, see each sale through to the maximum potential, and minimise any potential issues. Legal issues may arise for anyone, so knowing how to prevent them or deal with them is very important for saving money and time in the long run. Figuring out how to work with and find your subjects will increase your working rate and give you a higher degree of success. You can see how all of this information quickly piles up, giving you a lot of new knowledge even in a few short courses or webinars!

How it All Helps

The idea of investment, as we said before, is to see a greater return. So what kind of return can you expect if you invest in your photography as described above?

Simply put, it’s not possible to survive as a photographer in the current market if you do not know what you are doing in at least a few areas. You need to be very good at getting work and then delivering when you are asked to. This is something that is absolutely essential – and if you do not have it, then you will find your reputation suffering. If you have had that training, however, your reputation will only grow.

So, let’s look at it from a perspective of money. You invest a small amount into training, perhaps getting your photography skills to a high level and then finding out how to get and deal with new clients. Great – so now you will be able to find more clients than before, which might double or triple your earnings. When you have them, you might be able to convince them to spend more or book multiple shoots, which increases your earnings again. Then you will create great work which is shared amongst your network and the networks of your clients: this brings more exposure to you as a photographer, resulting in more attention and more new bookings thanks to your highly skilled output. Do you see how this works? You can increase your potential earnings many times over just by making a small investment!

How to Train Effectively

The first step you need to take if you are going to invest in yourself is to decide how to train yourself. You should choose a number of examples from the lists above, as this will help you to learn in different ways and pick up different things at the same time. You should be ravenously hungry for knowledge – devour everything that you can, including free resources.

Choosing a course, book, workshop, or so forth to invest in should be carefully done. Look into what is covered and decide whether the material is right for you. Check out the person behind the information – are they well-respected? Do they create good work? Are they someone you would aspire to be like? If the answer is yes to all of these, then you are off to a good start. It’s not a good idea to invest in a course that seems to cover a few things you don’t need to learn, is led by an amateur, and is not known to be a great course. That route might be fine as a first step for an amateur, but only a professional can impart professional knowledge.

The most important thing to keep in mind as you invest in yourself is that you should never stop learning. You will always have room to develop and enhance some area of your photographic skills further, so you should always take the chance to do so when it arises!

When you think about it, becoming a professional photographer is a bit like climbing Mount Everest: without the right training and preparation, you’ll never make it to the top.