One of the most popular questions I get asked is about my start in photography. I also often ask people the same. I find it very natural, cause we need to identify ourselves with the people we admire and see if achieving the same results is possible for us. There’s also a need to understand what practical steps can be taken to achieving those results. That’s why success stories are so popular: you want to learn from other people’s actions and apply them to your own life.
I decided to share my story extracting takeaways that you can find useful, if you’re also in the very beginning.
Get curious and explore
Photography was never an option for a future career for me when I was growing up. I didn’t realize I was interested in it until 12 years ago when I moved to St. Petersburg from a relatively small town in middle Russia. I was fascinated by the city and wanted to explore it, to know it better and taking pictures as a tourist felt kind of natural. So at the very beginning, the main reason for taking pictures for me was to capture the moment and all the details of my new home city. I also tried to express my mood through those details. Slowly taking pictures became one of my hobbies, as St. Petersburg is a big city and you can feel like a tourist there long after you settle.
Takeaway: If you have already started with photography, you probably know what you are curious about. It may be capturing the first moments of your child’s life, or observing the nature in its different states or something else. Get more and more curious about this thing and continue to explore it, taking pictures and finding the works that you want you photographs to look like.
Whatever form of art you’re practicing mastering your craft (i.e. the technical part) is crucial. You might have the greatest and most unique vision, but if you don’t know the basic rules of producing a quality work the vision will not reach your audience.
Learn the basics
At some point, I realized that my images were not technically perfect, (to say the least) and I I felt very limited by my skills. So I decided to take a short course in photography for beginners (since I was too lazy to read the manual my camera). This course allowed me to make a huge leap in the quality of my images, but of course still, I was mostly concentrated on objects, not people.
Takeaway: Whatever form of art you’re practicing mastering your craft (i.e. the technical part) is crucial. You might have the greatest and most unique vision, but if you don’t know the basic rules of producing a quality work the vision will not reach your audience. There’s no need to take a course even in most cases, today there's plenty of information online that is available for free.
Find your gear
My focus in photography changed radically when I got my first 50mm. The product description said it was a portrait lens 😆, so I started shooting portraits of my friends. After a while, I noticed that most of my friends had my pics of them as social media avatars. So gradually I started losing interest in photographing objects and became more and involved in shooting people.
Takeaway: The choice of gear might help you realize what kind of images you want to create. Try different lenses and see what works for you.
Understanding yourself, choosing your subject, learning tricks and coming up with your own unique ideas takes time. Don’t expect to have amazing photos in a couple of months after having picked up a camera.
Take your time and practice
Nevertheless, I kept trying many things: street and travel photography, studio portraits, family and wedding photography, shooting interiors and objects too. I took on any photography job that presented itself to me. As I did that, I became more and more familiar with my camera and understood different aspects of each particular type of photography.
Takeaway: Understanding yourself, choosing your subject, learning tricks and coming up with your own unique ideas takes time. Don’t expect to have amazing photos in a couple of months after having picked up a camera. There is a rule that you need to dedicate at least 10 000 hours of your time to something to become a master in it. I’m not there yet) Are you?
Check out an example of my progress below. I feel proud, seeing those two images together. The left one is my very first levitation experiment. The right one was done a few years later and was published on a book cover.
Never stop experimenting and having fun with your art. Especially, if and when you start getting paying clients. This is essential for loving what you do.
Experiment and have fun!
While trying various gear and genres of photography, I found that taking portraits gave me much more creative freedom as I started experimenting with staged images. My first “conceptual” images were taken just for fun with a couple of friends, who were willing to search for props and vintage wardrobe items to get some unusual portraits. There was no huge idea behind them, maybe that’s why it was easier to bring them to life.
It took me a loooong while 🐌 to figure out what kind of people and how I wanted to shoot. If it for those experiments, I would never have found that I’m no longer interested in plain reality around me and want to create my own.🧚🏻🤪
Takeway: never stop experimenting and having fun with your art. Especially, if and when you start getting paying clients. This is essential for loving what you do. If you keep having fun with your photography, you won’t ever have to motivate yourself to go on. It will go without question.
Now tell me at which stage are you now? Did you have similar path if you found your passion already?