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7 Things I Have Learnt in 2014 About Being A Photographer

2014 was a great year for me as I managed to do a lot of super cool stuff such as shoot posters for the Birmingham Clothes Show 2014, get an editorial published in Like A Lion Magazine and even managed to do a test shoot for a modelling agency, which was actually one of my goals for this year!

Although these are just some of the best bits of last year, it goes without saying that doing things and getting such opportunities has not been easy. Also, as a photographer, there’s so much to learn, so here are 7 things I’ve learnt so far in my journey towards becoming a photographer and the best pieces of advice I can give in my current position:

7. Update Your Portfolio

This one sounds like a no-brainer right?

You would think that people who label themselves as photographers would surely be running around doing nothing else, but you would be surprised! I feel that in our current age, with so many photographers, there’s nothing more important than updating your portfolio regularly. I’m not saying that you should do a photo shoot every week (it gets pretty exhausting!) but you must be aiming to update your portfolio at least every month to 2 months depending on the type of images you shoot.

Think about it: when was the last time you did a photo shoot that you were proud to attach your name to?

It’s also pretty important to shoot some stuff that isn’t portfolio material only if you are testing a new technique out but if not, you should consider the difference between the percentage of images you shoot vs the percentage that you show.

6. Get Technical

I think that it’s extremely important for a photographer to have a thorough knowledge of how work both in the studio and outside  on location. It super fun to do either and they both provide you with different range of challenges and effects.

A year ago, I was scared of shooting in the studio. I thought that it looked way too technical and that I’d never understand how to use all of the different equipment but once I learnt how to use it I realised that it is actually really easy to use. It’s no different for you!

Also, don’t just get technical with the knowing how to use the studio; get used to all of the equipment. Do you know what quality of light you get from a beauty dish as opposed to a softbox? What situations would you use them in? Would you use them together? How would that work?

What about the sun? How would you utilise the light from such a large source if you had to shoot a model on a blindingly sunny day? What equipment would you use to get the best possible images?

Remember, you can achieve countless effects with even the most basic equipment, but it is how you use the equipment to shape available light that is the key to a successful image! It is not about having the most expensive equipment; you can be a great photographer without ever having to step foot in a studio; but just the possibilities that learning that could open up!

Furthermore, don’t just stop at the physical technicalities. Learn about colour theory, retouching, light balance, make up, composition etc. All of things will add to your overall knowledge of photography.

Are you a fashion photographer? Then read about fashion! What is the difference between bohemian  and hippie styles? How has fashion evolved in recent years?

The more you learn, the more you are informed about what you are shooting, which will help you to define what makes a good image and, ultimately, a good portfolio.

5. Spend your time on the internet wisely

It is no doubt that the internet is a great tool for a lot of things, but it is also a major distraction. As cool as it is to watch cat videos on youtube or to spend time browsing pinterest, ultimately, they are not helping your business to flourish. When you’re on the internet, you should ask yourself how much you are helping further yourself and your business. Instead of watching a video about cats, why not watch a video about lighting setups or a BTS video of a shoot by your favourite photographer and note down what makes the video interesting for when you make your next BTS video?

Rather than browse pinterest just to browse the internet, why not look for models to photograph (if you shoot people) or start a pinterest board with ideas for your next photoshoot?

There are probably 100,000,000,000,000 things you could be doing on the internet, and whilst it is great to browse the internet occasionally as a way of relaxing, really consider how you could be utilising it to help yourself.

Where are the best places to find models? If I was a client and asked you to arrange a shoot within a week, where would you go to get a MUA, model, stylist, assistant, the equipment? Where would you go to get all of these components from?

Being a photographer is not just about taking awesome images, you have to spend time researching/ learning techniques, meeting clients & collaborators, location scouting, doing admin for your business, archiving/printing images, post and pre production. That’s not considering the fact that you may have a full time job to focus on as well!

4. Patience is a virtue

You need patience to be a photographer. That’s a must. You need patience to wait on replies from models/companies/collaborators, whilst bearing in mind that you are not everyone’s priority and some people may never contact you back.

As a side note, you should acknowledge that a photoshoot is never set in stone, even when you are actually at the shooting stage. During a shoot, the model or assistant may offer up an idea that is completely different to that pinterest board you made a month back but you should roll with it. Just make sure that you are still in control. After all, you need images out of a shoot as much as anyone else (if not, perhaps more if you’ve planned the shoot and are going to edit them yourself. Further more if you are looking to get them published with your name attached to them!) so make sure that you’ve still got portfolio enhancing stuff! Also, if you are planning on getting images published, just be aware that you may have to wait around 3 months (and possibly longer!) for you to be able to release the images online.

You need patience to plan a photo shoot, which is not the easiest or hardest thing to do ever (depending on the amount of people involved and the scale of preproduction). There’s no set way to do this and you have to make sure that everyone you are working with is on the same page and that everyone is clear as to what they shall receive from after the shoot is done. Are you doing a TFP shoot? Or is it a test?

Lastly, you have to be patient when finding an audience for your work. There is no magic formula for attracting a large audience that all want to pay you for your work and there’ll be days where nothing happens, but you shouldn’t worry and stress that no one’s looking at your work. Just double your efforts to market yourself or use this time to learn a new technique. People who are interested in your work will engage with you.

3. Be Practical

This is probably my most vital piece of advice. Being practical is essential. Knowing your own (often physical) limitations is super important. I’m very sure you’d love to shoot that high end clothing editorial in that abandoned location. So would I, but practically, are you really able to do that? Do you have the funds to get everyone together (having fully paid everyone’s travel costs of course!) to that location? Sure it is great to have goals and ambitions but really, look around you and see what you can do right now to further yourself.

Maybe you are a sports photographer in need of some new portfolio images. Why not go down to your local sports centre and ask them if you can shoot some images of their sports classes? Tell them that they can have a few images for advertising purposes (as long as you are fully credited of course) so that way you both win! Or maybe you are a landscape photographer who lives in the city. Why not switch it up and shoot some cityscapes and then alter the colour in photoshop? What if you overlayed your previous landscape images onto the cityscape image and look at the degradation of the rural environment?

I think that no matter what you do, there is always a way, not necessarily clear cut, to do what you want to. It’s up to you to use your photographic vision to find opportunities where it looks like there are none!

2. Study Images

Right, this is a piece of advice I am guilty of doing a lot of and I could probably write up a whole blog post about it so i’ll keep this pretty short. No matter what area of photography you are shooting, look at other photographer’s images to do 2 things:

  1. i. To get an idea of how people are selling this particular area of photography and how “professionals” /create/compose their images.
  2. ii. To know what not to do! Why would you want to copy another photographer’s work? Use what you see as the foundation for you to build upon. Consider what this person’s photo has that your photo doesn’t. Is it the colour? The composition? The lighting? Consider how you improve that area in your own images rather than copy what you see!

1. Re-contextualise Your Genre

This is quite a controversial piece of advice because photography is notorious for their industry standard, particularly if you are shooting fashion or beauty where you “have” to follow the rules that define such genres. I’m not saying that you ignore the rules. You should totally learn and create by them, but just be aware that they aren’t the end all and be all of an image; what looks good to one person will always look bad to someone else.

Also, consider what you are shooting. Are you just shooting the same images as everyone else? Other than you shooting it, how is your work different? What are you saying with your work? What is the bigger picture? Remember, as photographers, we are creating the images that will aspire the next generation in the same way we look at the work of other’s!

So, that was a pretty long post but I hope it was helpful in someway to you and your practice!

If you think that someone else could benefit from this blog post, please share it! Also, please leave a comment with your social media info so everyone who reads this can connect!

Here are mine:

www.facebook.com/AaronSehmarPhotography

www.aaronsehmarphotography.co.uk

www.twitter.com/aaronsehmar

Location, Location, Location

 

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Today I went location scouting for an upcoming shoot I have yet to schedule and it really got me thinking: What do I look for in a location?

No matter the genre, I think that location is one of the main components of any shoot and I’m really trying to experiment more with shooting outside, particularly in my fashion work. I love using the studio, and have a few shoot ideas planned, but right now, I prefer the interactivity outside locations provide.

Most of the locations I shot are either of wide expansive spaces or of geometric, colourful buildings. I’ve realised that I love to shoot in places that have a lot of character. Here are a list of things that I look for in a location:

Geometry

Because it’s cool and great to experiment with!

 

Space

Width and depth for both portrait and landscape shots. Or establishing shots and mid shots, as directors would refer to them as!

The space is very important as if you are shooting an editorial, you have to consider where the text is going to be, so you’ll need to make space for that. Also, you have to consider how far the model is going to be from the camera and, ultimately, how much detail of the clothes you’ll be able to see.

 

Shapes

The shapes that the building/locations make and how I can contrast that with shapes the model/clothes make.

 

Colour

Which is an integral part of my work as I most often think about what the post processing is going to be like when I visit the location. I try and finding buildings that are either vibrant and will look amazing with a model wearing neutral clothes or building that are neutral that will look cool with models who are wearing vibrant clothes. I most likely will have a certain colour in mind for my shoots that will be the ‘main’ colour upon which I shall base the colour scheme around.

As you can tell, I take colour very seriously! 🙂

Light

Which is probably an obvious thing to think about but it is something I constantly aware of. When I’m at a location I ask myself:

How much natural light will this location give an image I shoot here?

Will this mean i’ll need to bring external lighting?

How can I bounce/diffuse/change the light to create a variety of images in the same spot?

I would totally suggest for everyone to go and shoot in the sun. I used to be afraid of doing that and I would wait for days when it was overcast (quite often here in Great Britain!) but i’ve realised that as a photographer, you able to control the light through your camera settings.

It’s such an obvious thing to say but how many times have you shot an overexposed image (in raw) when it was sunny and thought that you’ll fix it later in post production only to find that the overexposed areas go a weird dark beige colour….

Anyway, that’s enough about me, tell me, what do YOU look for in a location and how important do you think that it is to an image?

 

 

Stop Shooting, Start Thinking

I’ve been coming up with a lot of new concepts over the past few weeks and as excited as I am to go out and shoot them, I decided that it would be in my best interests to do the complete opposite. This is because I don’t want to start shooting any random image that springs to mind; I want to create image that are both considered and I want to make sure that the images fit into the themes I explore through my photography.

Also, as I have a lot of different images floating around my mind, I was unsure of which image to shoot first and how I should go about deciding upon which idea would fit, both visually and aesthetically with the images I have already shot. The last thing I want to do is to shoot an image that is practically the same as the last one I shot. By considering what to shoot next, it means that when my images are placed side by side in chronological order, they will all differ but retain similar qualities and attributes. To figure out what to shoot next, I decided to analyze my work:

imagesanalysis

As you can see, I have made comparison between my images and wrote down key words that describe what I see within my work. By doing this, i have came to the conclusions that I need to shoot images at a more of a ¾ angle as well as use a range of camera angles. I feel that by doing this, it will really diversify my work.

I also decided to type up a small statement about my work and what it means to me as the creator. I feel that this was something that was long overdue. I’ve been shooting a lot without thinking about what I am saying with my work. Now that I know exactly what my work means, I can start tailoring my ideas towards my themes and making them more polished. As well as considering the themes within my work, I’m also trying to create my own visual style, more within editing and through colour choice. My work is influenced heavily by cinematography and cinematic grading but I feel that the ‘colour palette’ for my work is still a work in progress. The only thing I can really see in my work at the minute is that I shoot and use a lot of blue clothes in my images. This is actually something I like as I feel that my work is both blue in colour and in mood, so it works.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 10.14.19

Looking at your work as a collection and making notes on how they fit together is something that I would recommend to all photographers and creative to do. What better way for you to define your work by looking at the actual work itself in context with one another. I’d also suggest that you should really think about what your work is saying and how you can make it distinguishable from others. You don’t have to be fully original (I don’t believe originality exists) but you should want people to recognize your work when they come across it.

A great way to do this is to think of a photographer that you like. Picture their work in your mind and write down all of the associations you apply to that photographer. Now think about your own work. What associations do you want other people to make with your work? Write down a list of associations and then look at your work collectively. Do your work and your associations match? If they don’t, how can you change your work so that they do fit together? If they do fit together, think about how you can build upon your associations so that you can create new and exciting images.

Once you figure out what themes are within your work, you can then go out and shoot, knowing that your images fit together cohesively and collectively. That way, when someone asks you what makes your work different from other photographer’s, you can confidently tell them exactly what makes you different.

Stop Shooting, Start Thinking

I’ve been coming up with a lot of new concepts over the past few weeks and as excited as I am to go out and shoot them, I decided that it would be in my best interests to do the complete opposite. This is because I don’t want to start shooting any random image that springs to mind; I want to create image that are both considered and I want to make sure that the images fit into the themes I explore through my photography.

Also, as I have a lot of different images floating around my mind, I was unsure of which image to shoot first and how I should go about deciding upon which idea would fit, both visually and aesthetically with the images I have already shot. The last thing I want to do is to shoot an image that is practically the same as the last one I shot. By considering what to shoot next, it means that when my images are placed side by side in chronological order, they will all differ but retain similar qualities and attributes. To figure out what to shoot next, I decided to analyze my work:

imagesanalysis

As you can see, I have made comparison between my images and wrote down key words that describe what I see within my work. By doing this, i have came to the conclusions that I need to shoot images at a more of a ¾ angle as well as use a range of camera angles. I feel that by doing this, it will really diversify my work.

I also decided to type up a small statement about my work and what it means to me as the creator. I feel that this was something that was long overdue. I’ve been shooting a lot without thinking about what I am saying with my work. Now that I know exactly what my work means, I can start tailoring my ideas towards my themes and making them more polished. As well as considering the themes within my work, I’m also trying to create my own visual style, more within editing and through colour choice. My work is influenced heavily by cinematography and cinematic grading but I feel that the ‘colour palette’ for my work is still a work in progress. The only thing I can really see in my work at the minute is that I shoot and use a lot of blue clothes in my images. This is actually something I like as I feel that my work is both blue in colour and in mood, so it works.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 10.14.19

Looking at your work as a collection and making notes on how they fit together is something that I would recommend to all photographers and creative to do. What better way for you to define your work by looking at the actual work itself in context with one another. I’d also suggest that you should really think about what your work is saying and how you can make it distinguishable from others. You don’t have to be fully original (I don’t believe originality exists) but you should want people to recognize your work when they come across it.

A great way to do this is to think of a photographer that you like. Picture their work in your mind and write down all of the associations you apply to that photographer. Now think about your own work. What associations do you want other people to make with your work? Write down a list of associations and then look at your work collectively. Do your work and your associations match? If they don’t, how can you change your work so that they do fit together? If they do fit together, think about how you can build upon your associations so that you can create new and exciting images.

Once you figure out what themes are within your work, you can then go out and shoot, knowing that your images fit together cohesively and collectively. That way, when someone asks you what makes your work different from other photographer’s, you can confidently tell them exactly what makes you different.

The Pressure To Be Popular

It is no secret that in order to sell photographs and to make money as a photographer, you need an audience who are willing to buy your work and clients who are willing to pay you to shoot for them.

The problem is, there is no set formula for how you achieve this level of widespread attention and ‘popularity’ to get those paying clients or that print buying audience.

Sure, you may have 2,000 likes on your Facebook page or 500 followers on Flickr, Twitter and 500px, but they mean nothing if no one is going to pay you for your work. The next problem is that there is no way of knowing how many of your followers will really buy your work until you announce a print sale, that is assuming that all of the people who follow you/like your page actually see the print sale announcement. Furthermore, that is assuming that the people who follow your work have the money to buy your prints in the first place.

I would love to start selling limited edition prints of my work but I don’t want to start selling if no one wants to buy and I would love to teach workshops but I can’t if people don’t know me or my work. This is why I feel the pressure to be popular. Surely, if I have 50,000 followers then I should be able to easily sell an edition of 45 prints or find 10 people who are willing to pay me to teach them about photography?

Sadly, it just doesn’t work out like that.

I fully understand that it really doesn’t make a difference if your Facebook page has 50,000 likes or 500 but that doesn’t stop me checking how many people like my page and it certainly doesn’t stop me feeling down if I’ve uploaded an image and only a few people have seen it on the various social media sites I’ve uploaded it to.

So how exactly do you become ‘popular’?

A good friend once told me that the best thing to do was to share your work. Everywhere and anywhere. Whilst this is good advice, you can only put your images on social media and wait for people to discover you for so long, You could find other photographers who create work within the same genre of you (which is a good way to see what others are doing and it will give you an insight into how to tailor your work so you are creating work that is different) but this comes with the problem that other photographers, just like you and I, want to attract people that will buy their work and not just look at it on an uncalibrated monitor.

I may look at other (wildly) popular photographers and pretend that their growing fan base doesn’t make me feel as if though I’m doing something wrong, but it really does. But I have to remember that most of the photographers I’m referring to have been photographing constantly for at least 4 years, not to mention all of the online and offline press they have received about their work.

My advice to anyone else who is feeling the pressure of being popular is to just get on with creating work that you are proud of and are happy to call your own.

I would love to say that you should keep continuing to create work and your audience will eventually flock to you but that may never be the case.

Maybe my friend was right. Maybe sharing is the best way.

 

How Busy is Busy?

The other day, I messaged a friend to compliment them on their work and how cool it looks. Even though we’re at the same university, I haven’t seen her for quite awhile. Her reply to me was that my work looked good to and that it seems that I am keeping myself busy with it.

I found this statement to be quite funny, as I don’t think I am anywhere near busy with my work. I am the kind of person who would happily doing photo shoots every day of the week and I often get annoyed with myself if I haven’t done anything photography related within a day.

My friend’s response led me to think about the question: How busy is busy?

I know people who are busy; they update their social media sites almost every day and are working on several projects, meeting and shooting models as well as getting on with their work for university. I also know people on the complete opposite end of the scale; people who have not updated their portfolios for at least a year. This really makes me question where I fit in onto the ‘busy scale’.

It also makes me think about what it means to be busy. I am I busy with my photography when I am out shooting client and personal work? Or am I busy when I’m browsing the never-ending realms of Pinterest and saving images for inspiration?

I think being ‘busy’ means a different thing to everyone, and I know that I won’t be classing myself as busy until I am shooting at least 3-4 images a week.

What do you class as being busy?

Free Work VS No Work

Out of the last 15+ photo shoots I have done, I have only been paid for one. This is both a good and a bad thing.

It’s a bad thing because of the obvious reason is that I’m not making any money. This is super annoying, as photography is my profession, not a hobby. At the same time, the last 15 photo shoot have really changed my view on photography and really thrown me into confusion about what kind of photographer I want to become.

In the last few months I have shot a look book for my university, had two of my images put into two different course prospectuses, shot for some amazing people, shot images for a printed magazine and tried shooting beauty photography for the first time. I definitely would not have had any of these experiences had I asked for £50-£200 per photo shoot.

So where does this leave me?

Well, I feel like I have got the start of a portfolio out of the way. As well as shooting fine art work, I now have experience shooting beauty and fashion photography, genres which I have long admired but never really got into. I feel that I am now confident enough to go to a client and say “I can photograph A B & C for you, and I charge £50-£500 per shoot.” I feel that I have the ability, confidence and knowledge to shoot the images that clients will be happy with.

Because of this, I have decided that I am not going to do any free work for other people UNLESS:

A. I definitely get images out of it for my portfolio. I have way too any images sitting on my hard drive that just do not need to be there.

B. I do tests with models. One of the things my work really needs is models, so I am more than happy to shoot images for models for free, provided I get images for my portfolio.

It may seem somewhat harsh, but I’ve come to realise that I really need every shoot I do to go towards my portfolio.

Online, it looks like the last time I shot an image was at the start of March, but I’ve done at least 6 shoots since then. It may be a case of me being super critical of my own work, but I will not put an image online just to upload something. I want every image I upload to really reflect my artistic vision and ultimately, my brand.

 

Doing Something Different: My Foray Into Beauty Photography

Beauty photography is something that has fascinated me. Because my fine art images see me running around forests and other remote locations, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with using a photography studio. This is something that I want to change. Not because I have to, or even because it will benefit me particularly. It’s just that I want to try something different.

Why beauty photography?

There are two really simple answers for this question:

  1. I’ve been seeing a lot of beauty photographs on Pinterest, which have captured my interest and make me want to try it.
  2. I have a few (awesome) friends and make up artists who are enthusiastic about collaborating with me.

Because I have a bit of spare time, I’ve decided to utilize this and jump into the studio and take some photographs. Currently, I have two very different beauty inspired photo shoots planned and another two taking form in my mind, which I am super excited about.

I think that it is really important for people to challenge themselves and to do something you wouldn’t normally do. I’m not going to suddenly switch and become a beauty photographer but I do feel that by doing a bit of beauty photography, it will give me an insight into using the studio in a different way which will ultimately give me a different outlook on my images.

Also, doing something different doesn’t just apply to photography, you could go and take another route to work, listen to some new music or visit a new city. Anything goes….

What will new things will you try?

 

Fine Art Vs Fashion: Finding My Way In Photography & How I Probably Never Will

Now that I am almost three months into my second year photography degree, I think that it is now time to consider (or semi consider) my future within photography. The problem I find with this is that I do not know what I want to do. I know what I like and don’t like and I know what I enjoy shooting (and what I don’t) but how can I forge myself a career where I do something that I both enjoy and get paid (respectably) for it?

I first started photography alongside a fine art course whilst I was studying for my A Levels, and at no time in the 2 years whilst doing it did I even consider a career in photography. It was when I was attending a foundation course at university that I decided that I enjoyed photography a lot more than fine art. (I had planned to become a art teacher) and decided to peruse a career in it.

Fine art photography is the “genre” of photography that really inspired me to become a photographer. In fact, it is due to photographer Brooke Shaden, who through looking at her portfolios of her work, made me realise that photography is about more than taking pretty pictures of trees and people.

The idea that you can create stories through images in which you could arrange every aspect (such as costume, location, props, styling, post production) in whichever way you wanted to portray whatever mood, thoughts or idea that you wanted is so amazing and is something that I want to do photographically for the rest of my life. But there is a problem with this. I am currently doing a photography degree in which commercial photography is the main focus. What I want to do is not exactly commercial. Taking self-portraits and creating contrived images is not (necessarily) commercial to my tutors that are marking my work, these images would be seen more as personal work rather than work that makes money. This has led me to plenty of hours and days spent worrying about the work I’m going to produce whilst at university. Do I stick to creating images that I enjoy or do I create images that will get me a good degree?

Recently I have been trying to decide how I can utilize my time at university, particularly how I can get around to using the photography studios. When I do fine art photography, I normally go out on location to shoot images with natural light so I have little to no use for the studio, but I can’t help feeling that if I spend 3 years at university never having used the studio, would it be a wasted opportunity?

To combat this, I have decided that I am going to try and experiment with some fashion & beauty based images, which will get me using the studios and trying something different but, if I’m honest, I’m worried that I may enjoy it a little bit too much and decide that I want to be a fashion/beauty photographer. This itself leads to many worrying questions: What if I change my mind again and decide that I want to go back to being a fine art photographer? What if I’ve managed to build up a fan base around fashion related images? Will my audience be accepting of my seemingly random switch? Will I be able to sustain my career being a fashion photographer? How much of my creativity will I have to sacrifice for client demands? The problem is that these questions will be relevant to any genre of photography that I pursue. So what do I do?

I have decided that I am going to take as many images as I can, whether they are contrived self-portraits or fashion related and client based photographs. As for deciding which direction to go in, I’m not even going to think about it. (which is a lot easier said than done). I will let my images decide for me.

I will probably never know what I really want to do, even in 50 years from now, but you know what? That’s ok with me.