In the grand scheme of pixels, the difference between an amateur and a pro photographer should be pretty clear. The distinction is that pros, by simple definition, are paid for what they do.
Does that mean if you’re paid $50 to do a portrait shoot for your neighbour, then you’re suddenly a pro? In the eyes of some photographers, yes, maybe. In others, no, not quite, and no way. The belief among the “real” pros is that unless you’re making a living at it, and it is considered your profession, you’re not a pro.
Pros who have worked to perfect their craft for decades and who make a real living with their trusty camera would argue that anyone with a camera in hand who charges a fee to photograph a wedding or portraits or whatever else are not automatically categorised as a pro. Just like writers and other artists, when you break away from being a “starving” artist and support yourself through your art, then you can hang the “Pro” sign on your door.
This discussion is about what makes someone a photographer…does that mean they do it as a serious hobby, part-time career, or full-time career. There are so many grey areas, and I like to break it down to more of a photographer’s ability to understand and utilise their craft. This is really more about commitment, genres, and methodologies.
Think of it this way, did you know that 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook EVERY DAY! Does that mean there are 250 million photographers out there? No. The images uploaded are a blend of professionals posting shots from their latest gig to their fan page right down to people taking iPhone pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror. So, how do we separate the real photographers in the crowd?
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To start with, just having an expensive camera and kick-ass lenses to go with doesn’t constitute being a photographer. It knows how to use that equipment. It’s the underlying, fundamental understanding of the craft. It knows where to compose your subject to convey the correct emotion in the photo—knowing what aperture to shoot at in order to gain less or more depth of field. It knows what minimum shutter speed you want to shoot race cars at in order to freeze the action. And so much more.
Skills You Need to Be a Photographer
You don’t need a special degree to become a professional photographer, though an art degree can certainly help you hone your skills. Many photographers develop skills using professional equipment and then begin taking pictures. Many of the top-selling photographers in the world taught themselves.
However, competition can be fierce. The very fact that anyone with a camera can take pictures means you’ll have to be exceptional in some way or another to be noticed.
What are photographer skills?
Photographer skills are those skills needed to create high-quality pictures, including artistic vision and technical knowledge of camera equipment and the art of photography.
Soft skills are also needed to communicate with clients, effectively network with other professionals and market and promote your talent or business. There’s a lot of research, networking, preparation, set-up, break-down and post-production elements that make up the field of photography.
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Also, skill sets can change depending on a photographer’s area of specialisation. Working as a photographer in fashion will look different from working as a photographer for a corporation. Some photographer duties and skills are interchangeable.
Types of Photography Skills
Hardware and Software
To be a successful photographer, you need to know the latest technologies. This includes developments in both hardware and software.
Hardware, in this case, refers to cameras, lenses, tripods, lights, and all the other physical equipment a photographer might use. Some of that equipment is extremely complicated to use until mastered. Just as an aspiring poet must first be fluent in the language he or she uses for composition, so must you become fluent in the tools you use. Professional cameras have unique pros and cons, as well as variations in which optics are best used with a specific camera or location.
It is possible to create great pictures by pointing and shooting, but you will have more control and more options the more you know about manual camera settings.
Additionally, you must be familiar with visual editing software. Now that digital photography has become standard, the work that used to be done in the darkroom is typically accomplished on the computer. There are many different software packages to choose from. Learn enough to pick your favourite, and then master its options.
- Digital Imaging
- Editing Software
- DSLR Cameras
- Electronic Image Handling
- Film Development
- High-resolution imaging
- Image manipulation
- ISO Speeds
- Shooting Film
Composition is the artistic dimension of photography—knowing how you want the image to look. Although one aspect of composition is simply the photographer’s taste and creativity, you do have to learn how to think deliberately and intelligently about what looks good in a frame and why. There are certain universal principles that you should learn, rather than having to reinvent them through trial and error.
- Artistic Ability
- Good Eyesight
Attention to Detail
Photographers need to have good attention to detail when taking photographs – they need to be able to capture light and colour and think carefully about all components of each image. However, they also need to be detailed in post-production. They must identify and fix any small issues in each photograph.
Photographers must also be organised. They must be able to manage thousands of photographs digitally and/or in print and maintain digital albums for each client.
Photography is very detailed work. You need to be able to easily dissect a photo and notice details others would ordinarily miss. To be a successful photographer, you should be dedicated to the vision and artistic process and have the patience to keep trying until you get it right.
A good photographer must have a very keen eye for detail to ensure that all elements within the photo—the lighting, the composition, the subject, and everything else in between—work together harmoniously to convey the right vision or message.
Even the tiniest detail can make or break a photograph. Having an eye for detail and being meticulous when scrutinising every element to ensure cohesiveness is very important in producing the perfect photograph.
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To excel as a photographer, you need to be artsy or creative. You at least need to have an eye for composition and exposure control, which means knowing how the placement or arrangement of visual elements and the lightness and darkness of an image will affect overall photographic quality.
Other things to consider when evaluating your artistic talent behind the lens are how well you can determine visually appealing poses, angles, colouring and still images. What you can capture on film should accurately depict the subjects’ personalities, the landmarks’ significance and nature’s beauty and evoke any emotions a viewer can feel within the context of the photograph.
More Photography Skills
- Close Reading
- Critical Thinking
- Understanding of Intellectual Property
- Disclosure Agreements
- Entity Establishment
- Social Media Management
- Website Development
- Computer Skills
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Flash Photography
- Lifestyle Photography
- Portrait Photography
- Wedding Photography
- Studio Design
- Customer Service
- Creating and Managing Expectations
- Problem Sensitivity
- Physical Endurance
- Written Communication
- Oral Communication
- Price Setting
Why become a photographer?
So what makes a good photographer? It depends on what photography niche you’re in. Every niche demands different desirable qualities—pet photographers need to know how to properly interact and connect with animals; sports photographers need to be quick, strong, and agile to get the best shots; and so on.
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Creativity and Imagination
Becoming a photographer can give you an entirely new perspective on everyday life. You can use photography to turn almost anything you find beautiful into a work of art. You can use your photographic skills to creatively capture various subjects that range from children’s emotions to family gatherings. Photography can allow you to express yourself, share your perspective and tell a story through your creative approach.
Photography is a form of art. Therefore, it requires a creative mind—and plenty of imagination. A good photographer must be able to look at something ordinary, or even extraordinary, and find a million different ways to interpret what he’s seeing and convey those interpretations in beautiful and meaningful photos.
As you may have already heard, composition is everything in photography. Even if you aren’t concerned about the artistic side of your craft, composition is still key in producing good photographs. Sure, some basic composition rules can guide you, but at the end of the day, creativity and imagination are the best guides for stellar compositions.
Photographers typically get to use very sophisticated and high-end technology. Though inexpensive digital cameras are readily available, and many photographers own at least one point-and-shoot model, professionals typically invest in high-end digital single-lens reflex, or DSLR, models that can cost thousands of dollars. In addition, photographers often use photo-editing software suites with a wide array of capabilities and many own advanced computers capable of supporting the complex editing software. For those who enjoy technology, becoming a photographer can help to justify investments inexpensive electronic equipment.
Good People Skills
Being a professional photographer means working with people—whether it’s a client, a model, or even a fellow photographer. Thus, being a good photographer requires good people skills — it’s one of the essential photographer qualities. You’ll also need to network to obtain clients and partnerships, so knowing how to connect and communicate effectively with others is imperative.
When you’re photographing people, knowing how to take a good photo simply isn’t enough. You also have to know how to interact with your subjects to make them feel at ease, get them to cooperate, or draw all the right emotions out of them.
Artistic and technical skills are known as hard skills, while good communication skills are known as soft skills. Soft skills include your ability to communicate effectively and other personality traits that make you successful in business. These traits might include positivity, perseverance, patience and understanding. These skills are often just as important as hard skills.
Communication is a must when creating and building relationships with potential clients. Beyond having the skills to start up a conversation, though, really listening to and empathising with others is what will set you apart in the photography industry.
Examples of effective communication and useful personality traits for skilled photographers might include:
- Asking the right questions
- Listening to and understanding your client’s wants or needs
- Remaining positive about the vision and outcome
- Persevering through changes or setbacks
- Working well under pressure or meeting tight deadlines
- Showing patience in your work and with those you are working with
- Staying dedicated to the project, even when long hours are required
If you get into photography as a career or as a side business, ongoing high demand can lead to considerable paychecks. With just an initial investment in equipment and a little creativity, you can start a small photography business and begin serving clients. Talented photographers can earn hundreds of dollars in a single day. If you prefer not to work directly with clients, numerous websites allow you to list your images for sale to their visitors. In addition, widespread demand means clients are readily available; since client needs can vary considerably from person to person, even photographers who specialise in a specific genre can generate income. And, your photography business may allow you to claim a tax deduction for your equipment, supplies and photography-related travel expenses.
If you become a photographer as a side business or as a career, working for yourself can be very liberating. Setting your own hours, making your own rules, and establishing your own dress code are a few benefits that you may enjoy as a photography business owner. In addition, the level of attention required to capture the perfect shot means that some photographers become completely immersed in their work; if you are the type to become immersed, you can use photography as an escape from your worries.
Patience and Flexibility
No matter how much you try to control every variable, things just won’t go your way at times. There will be days when the lighting won’t cooperate, when your models or clients will be exceptionally difficult, or when your camera just won’t give you the desired results.
And of course, there will be times when you’ll have to take a billion photos just to get one perfect photo.
Whatever photography field you may be in, patience (lots of it) is always an essential quality to have. You need to be patient enough to wait for the perfect lighting. You need to be patient enough to deal with crying babies, hyperactive animals, and difficult clients. And most of all, you need to be patient enough to keep trying when you simply can’t get the right shot.
In addition to patience, you also need to be flexible. The two qualities go hand in hand—you need to be patient enough to deal with whatever comes your way, and you need to be flexible enough to make the best of undesirable conditions. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.
What sets a good photographer apart from the rest? Passion.
When you’re passionate about what you do, it will always shine through in your work. It takes a lot of time and effort to make it as a professional photographer, and the ones who do succeed and manage to make a name for themselves are those who are truly passionate about their craft.
Passion makes the photographer—it will always make your work a little harder, push a little farther, and strive to be better than you were the day before.
How to improve photographer skills
Photographers often acquire and perfect skills on the job. The more experience you get, the more likely you will be noticed. It’s a good idea for those hoping to improve their photography-related talents to recruit several “model” subjects or experiment with some sample shots. You should test different lighting techniques or various editing methods as well.
Here are some more ways to improve your photography skills:
Full-time skills training
College or technical school courses can help acquire and advance photographer skills. Degrees in photography, film, digital imaging, fine art, art and design, graphics or media studies can be beneficial in leading up to your career as a skilled photographer.
It’s also important to consider specialised areas of photography, such as fashion or photojournalism. These employment avenues might require additional training or degrees. Internships obtained via educational opportunities are a great way to identify your skills and specialty or interest within the industry. Additionally, this is a great way to secure potential future job prospects post-graduation.
Part-time skills training
Community colleges or other local academic and continuing education-supportive venues often host part-time photography classes or programs. Options might include:
- Online exhibitions
Freelance or independent business owner skills training
You might want to consider taking some business courses if you’re thinking of freelancing as a photographer or starting your own photography business. There’s a lot more to running a business than simply having the skills, equipment and clientele.
You will want to know how to effectively manage your business in the areas of:
- Marketing and promotion
- Contracts and copyright laws
- Licensing and business maintenance
- Employee management and payroll
- Basic bookkeeping and financial management, including tracking your profitability and paying taxes
Photographer skills can help you advance in your career, find new career opportunities, take on more responsibilities or start your own business. Photographer skills include hard skills, like artistic and technical skills, and soft skills, like communication and interpersonal skills. Effectively highlighting these skills on your resume, cover letter, and at the interview can give you an advantage over your competition. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.