The question “how long does it take to learn photography?” is one I’ve gotten in different forms several times over the last few years; usually by people who are feeling so frustrated because they’ve spent months learning all they can but still don’t feel like they have reached their goal.
Learning photography really can be overwhelming and frustrating, and sometimes we feel like we might not ever get there, or we’d love to skip forward on the learning part and get the photos we want NOW.
So, just how long does it take to get good at photography, or at least good enough to take decent photographs?
I lied; I can’t tell you exactly how long it will take you.
But I can give you an idea, based on my own experience and those of my students, and from the people who have read and commented on this very blog over the last five years. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
Rather than give you a definite timescale, it will be a rough guideline, as the truth is we are all different both in terms of how quickly we pick things up, whether we invest in learning or try to wing it ourselves, and even how much time we have to practice.
Here’s the significant bit:
A 3-year mark is consistent with people who try to go it alone – I’ve known some who have done it in two, and others who took longer, more like four years, but the average is around three years.
However, it has taken just around 3-6 months to get to that same stage for other people. So, what makes them different – how did they manage to get past the “beginner” stage before me?
Well, unlike me, they invested in their learning right from the beginning and didn’t wait until they couldn’t figure it out on their own.
This meant instead of spending months trying to chase down random information and even more months trying to patch it together, they skipped straight ahead to the practice part, and as a result, got better much, much quicker.
Know you will always be learning.
One more thing I want to say is that in photography, you will probably never feel you have “arrived”, and you will always be learning! That’s because taking good photographs is a meeting of the artistic and the technical.
Once you have the technical side down, it leaves you free space in your head to get on with being more creative, trying out new things, and taking chances. This is when we start to get more WOW photos because we can explore our creativity, and most importantly, know how to manipulate the technical side to achieve it.
We always want to try out something new:
- A new style of photography like macro
- Shooting in a new location, like underwater
- Trying out more advanced composition tools
That’s what makes photography so fascinating – because you will always have something new to learn or try out! Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?
Learning photography will take as long as it takes you.
Invest in your learning by taking a course and put in a few hours a week practising your craft. You are going to get better much, much quicker than someone who tries to piece everything together via the internet or only picks up their camera for an hour or two at the weekend.
That’s why you cannot measure your growth against anyone else’s development, since you may very well have taken different paths. It’s unfair and leads to unhelpful comparisons and frustration. Focus on your journey and on what you need to do to reach your goal.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Good Photographer?
There’s a so-called “10,000-hour rule,” implying that you need to do something for 10,000 hours to get good at it. But can it be applied to photography? No, it cannot. With photography, you need 10,000 hours to master lighting, 10,000 more for composition, and the same goes for other significant aspects of photography. Also, there are 10,000 hours of learning the theory, not just about taking photos. In other words, there are many thousands of hours and many years to become a good photographer. But how many exactly?
Well, we believe that it should take probably ten years to become a good photographer, assuming that you’re dedicated to it 5-7 hours a day, almost every day in a week. You may now think, “but I’m awesome after six months!” Well… You might want to read this.
But just because it could take you ten or so years to become great at photography, it doesn’t mean you can’t start earning money from it sooner. I don’t know many photographers who spent a decade perfecting their skill and then started making a living out of it. This is more about reaching a very high stage of your work.
At this stage, you should know what you don’t know. If you’re still not entirely pleased with your work, you should know precisely what you need to learn to improve it. And it would help if you always thought about when was the last time you did and learned something new. Constantly learning and improving is what we should aim for, and it goes for all stages of our progress, not just after ten years.
Have you reached the stage where you’re almost entirely pleased with your work? How long has it taken you to become great at photography?
How Long Does It Take To Learn Photography?
The million-dollar question that we get asked all of the time. The truth is there is no definitive answer to how long it takes to learn photography. Anyone who tells you otherwise will be lying. Everyone knows in different ways and absorbs information at various speeds.
Whereas it could take one person a few months to become a proficient photographer, it could take another person years and years.
Ways Of Learning Photography
Another thing to consider is there are a few different ways in which a person can learn photography. Maybe you like reading books and can absorb information in that way? Or perhaps you prefer watching online tutorials on Youtube? Maybe an online photography course with a free certificate is a better option for you?
Whichever way you choose, you need to make sure that it works for you and your learning style. There is also no point in simply absorbing the information either; you will need to put it into practice to learn photography truly. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here.
Experience Counts For A Lot
Gaining experience in a variety of situations will speed up your learning process. Take wedding photography as an example. You can’t simply read about being a wedding photographer and expect to be a pro at your first wedding.
There are not only photography settings to consider to get the right shots but also intuitively knowing where to stand to get the best captures. Good wedding photography also relies on your communication skills and your ability to ensure the couple are happy and content on the day. These skills will be learnt over time by actually shooting weddings, and eventually, it will become second nature. However, you shouldn’t think that this can happen overnight.
The same can be said for many photography genres; whether it’s portrait or wildlife photography, it will take time to build a level of experience. Even then, there will be new things to learn.
Cameras Don’t Take Pictures.
One important thing to remember is that the camera’s quality will always come second to a photographer’s ability and skill. The best photographer in the world will take good pictures with a point and shoot camera. On the other hand, an amateur photographer will still take poor photos with the best gear on the market.
There is a commonly held belief that to be a photographer, all you need to do is have a good camera, point it at something nice, and you’re a pro. If that were the case, then we’d all be buying the best guitars and writing music like John Lennon. It’s simply not the case.
We’re trying to say that if you think buying a fancy camera or lens will speed up the process, you are wrong. Yes, some camera features will allow you to shoot at higher ISO’s; for example, or a lens might allow you to plug in lower light. But getting the best out of the equipment you have first will be the best way to learn. It will also increase your photography problem-solving level, which is essential to being a well-rounded professional photographer. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.
What You Know About Photography Is Equal To What You Don’t
The truth is you will never truly “learn photography”. The reason for that is that there is so much to learn that it is nearly impossible. Let’s say, for example, that you are a sports photographer. You know exactly where to stand to get the right shots at the correct shutter speed and aperture. This is your job, you’re a photographer, and you’re very good at it.
However, that doesn’t mean to say you could now be a fashion photographer. You might technically know how to take photos with your camera, but do you know how to arrange a model for a shoot? Do you know how to pose the model? To use studio lighting? And to communicate your ideas to them? Probably not.
Learning To Be Creative Isn’t The Same As Learning Photography.
It can be tough to teach someone how to be creative. Good photography relies on the photographer’s ability to make split-second decisions that will impact their images.
Learning the technical aspects of photography, such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, becomes a little more straightforward in that regard. But telling someone how to make a future image better without knowing the circumstances is somewhat impossible. However, there is good news. If you are proficient with the technical side of photography, it can be beneficial. Using your camera and getting the exact results you are after every time will allow you to experiment more.
As you experiment with different compositions, lighting situations and general scenarios, you can’t help but learn to be more creative. The reason for that is that you will learn from your mistakes. This is one of the things we talk about a lot when you are learning photography. You should encourage experimentation and make as many mistakes as possible.
The only thing we stress is that you critique and evaluate your work constantly. By doing this, you will begin to see correlations between what works and what doesn’t. Over time you then start to develop your instinct to solve creatively in the heat of the moment.
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It’s Down To You
Ultimately the speed at which you learn photography is down to you as an individual.
Ask yourself who is going to learn quicker. The person who gets their camera out once a month when they go on a walk with their family? Or, the person who is out there pushing themselves every day to be the best photographer they can? Equally, is a person who is always happy with their photos producing good work? Or, is the person who is constantly critiquing and developing their photography approach to be a much better photographer? Your destiny as a photographer is in your own hands. Photography isn’t just something you learn overnight, so there can’t be a set amount of time that it takes to learn.
As long as you are taking action to be a better photographer, you will undoubtedly increase the speed you learn. Dedicating yourself to getting out there and practising what you’ve learnt will be far more effective than taking on board the information and thinking, ‘yeh, I will put that into practice one day.
The Three Stages of Becoming a Prosperous Photographer
Stage One – Learning
Estimated time: Five years.
Whether or not you made it to where you want to be sooner than what I’m about to throw out there, I think this stage is arguably the least understood and least accepted. I consider this first stage to be all about learning. During these five years, you’ll make mistakes, your style will change like the mood of a bipolar teenager, and you’ll begin to hone in on the genre or niche that you ultimately belong to. During this period, it’s okay to doubt yourself. You should. It’s okay to admit that others are better and more experienced than you. Because they are, it’s OK to be a second shooter because you’ll learn this way.
Egos aside, understanding that you have a lot to gain through observation, trial, and error during the first five years of your journey will help set you up for the next stage – The building stage.
Stage Two – Building
Estimated time: Five years.
Assuming that you’ve spent roughly the last five years honing your craft and finding your place in the market, it’s now time to begin stage two, the building stage. Like a King that’s spent years developing a legion of loyal followers, it’s time to start constructing your proverbial castle and the wall around it that will secure all of your hard work.
During this second stage, expect to work. A lot. It isn’t easy to build a strong photography business, so the next five years will be spent marketing like crazy, working as much as possible, trading time spent with friends for time spent with clients, and putting all of that hard-earned knowledge and experience into practice. This is how you’ll build a castle. The scale of the said castle is ultimately up to you.
Stage Three – Enjoyment
Estimated time: Remainder of your career.
You’ve been hard at work in the photography industry for a solid ten years now. That’s a long time. You’ve spent years learning about your craft (which never really stops at stage one), building a solid business that you’re proud of, and you didn’t give up. Now it’s time to reflect on your work and enjoy the fruits of your labour, maybe write a book, treat yourself to the keys to a new studio or office… or home. The point is, it takes many years to reach a point in this industry at which you can indeed be comfortable. The harsh reality is, many never reach this final stage. I’m still hard at work, going for it myself.
You read it right. I’m suggesting that, on average, it takes ten years of the photographer’s equivalent of blood, sweat, and tears before you’ll reach that comfortable level of achievement that so many of us observe every day through our favourite photographers.
Photography isn’t dead. It’s booming. As much as we’d all like to have a fast-pass right to the front of the line, the reality is, there are very few of those in circulation. The other fact is that many other photographers have completed stage one and stage two and deserve stage three more than you right now.
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With due time, hard work, and a good head on your shoulders, you have just as much chance of reaching that enjoyment stage as the next guy. So, hang in there. I’m expecting great things from you.