Becoming a Photographer is something that takes some time to achieve; and the whole process can take many many years to evolve, but never to conclude.
Since it belongs to the arts, for me the title is something that relies more in the hands of the people in the context than personally entitlement. Many great Photographers and many of us as well, have been learning by juxtaposing academic teaching and empirical learning. This is about practice, and I highly recommend the words from John Free when it comes to Photography Schools: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHKa6GB5nS8
It is difficult to entitle yourselves as Photographers, so let your passion speaking for you, and the title will become a great appendix of your vision and believes.
Let's make a distinction, or explanation between what is to be a Passionate Photographer and to be a Professional Photographer. Both are the result of a great commitment to the discipline, but the great difference relies on the income. When a person is getting the majority of their regular income thanks to Photography, then it can be recognized as a Professional Photographer. This is because the person is doing things in a Professional manner, is the way they earn their lives. On the other hand, a Passionate Photographer has more to do with a very disciplined and rigorous hobby in life. Let's not speak of quality, and let's assume that we have both great quality Photographers in the same table; one is Professional Photographer and the other a Passionate Photographer. They'll both be sharing the same level of excitement, because they love what they do. Without further ado, let's not distract ourselves more on the topic of defining ourselves as Professionals or not. It is just a title; the important thing is to do everything with deep Passion and Discipline.
These are my personal tips for anybody that wants to evolve in becoming a more Committed Photographer
Learn About Composition
Composition is known to be one of the most important elements in Photography; it is the most tangible characteristic of Photography if you like. Composition is demanded by the readers' eyes, and is the Photographer who decides how and which of the elements is inside one shot. I recommend this website to set a start point on learning about Composition: http://compositionstudy.com/. It is a simple yet powerful summary of great topics in relation to Composition. This is for getting your mind beyond the Rule of Thirds, which is a great starting point when learning about Photography and Composition, but if we feel that we need to enhance our commitment, we need to get beyond The Rule of Thirds.
Watch Photographers with certain Legacy
The great Masters may be loved or hated, but their legacy is something that we should constantly embrace as our best source of learning. Invest in books instead of gear, because many images of the Great Masters are just found on Photo Books, and even if they can be all found, there is a great sense of Contemplation when looking images in a physical way instead of the monitor’s screen.
Take your time in defining the Photographers that will build your personal collection of favorite and admired photographers; almost like a top 15 perhaps, and stick to that list of great Photographers as your personal guide and masters. Study their work and read why their works is still recognized until these days as a great achievement in Photography. Try even watching documentary movies about your most beloved Photographers. In recent years there has been one Documentary on Sebastião Salgado and one about Vivian Maier, just to give you a few. When you learn about the context and the intimate life of admired photographers, you really learn about their vision and philosophical motives towards Photography.
If you are lacking of knowledge, you can refer to Magnum for great Social Documentary Photographers: https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographers/
If you are willing to include modern day’s photographers, this blog is great: http://www.cadadiaunfotografo.com/
And if you like Landscapes, you can start with Ansel Adams.
The great thing about names is the recommendations that come in relation to those names. Google has been doing a splendid job in recommendations, just search a name, and they'll give you some recommendations at the right pane:
Learn About other arts
There is nothing wrong to be pleased by other arts when forming yourselves as Photographers. Learn about rhythm, cadence, syncopation and structure thanks to music (especially jazz). Read, so you can imagine more vividly the scenes that are very obscured for you. Many writers have a great way of using words into creating intangible images. Take true advantage of literature and poetry to imagine the scenes that will eventually be part of your Photographic Vision. Learn about Painting so you can contemplate the rendition of light in accordance to the painters. Remember that Photography is the result of a transition from Painting into something else, and the Great Link was Pictorialism, in which the image was both created by several techniques and the aid of photographic recordings.
Define a Workflow
Workflow is something you’ll eventually hear when walking the road of Photography. There is no recipe for this, and you must define its scope for yourselves. Even though it is indeed something really important, it is simple to define. You just need to contemplate the whole amount of tasks you do on average from the moment you plan a photo, to the final deployment of the image that pleases you the most at the moment of defining the final moment of an image.
This means that you need to standardize some things, and a brief checklist may help you when planning a photo-shoot for example. This action is really important, and it should be pinned in the first steps of the flow. A checklist can include:
- Empty SD cards
- Lenses to use in the field
- Permissions or Credentials
But, don’t be afraid of standardizing a few things. This will give you great control over the tasks that really doesn’t need more of your creativity, and focus your mind on being creative on the crucial tasks that really require it.
Have a camera always with you
This should be your mantra; you cannot become a good photographer, if you don’t practice. And for practicing, you should have a camera always with you. Take my advice, and you’ll never regret it. With today's marvel's, you don’t need a chunky and heavy equipment with you to be able to capture an image. Don’t let the photo of your life passes through your eyes, and become just a vivid memory you’ll regret your entire life of not being able to record it into a Photograph. Trust me, because it happened to me, and I’m still haunted by that vivid memory, which is just there, living inside my head, tormenting me, for being lazy enough to not carry a camera with me at that day. Since that day, a camera is always with me.
Defining a style
Alright, this is something that really bothers a lot of people on the first years or even decades of their career. I truly believe that a style is the result of the collection of ideas, visions, and contemplations one photographer has filtered and saved on their subconscious. A style is the mixture of the elements that one particular individual has considered as valuable, and have made certain impact in their mind. Another great element of Style, is the definition of the branch of Photography anyone feels most passion for.
Some of the genres in Photography are these:
- Aerial Photography
- Architectural Photography
- Candid Photography
- Close-Up/Macro Photography
- Conceptual/Fine Art Photography
- Documentary Photography
- Fashion Photography
- Food Photography
- Landscape Photography
- Night/Long Exposure Photography
- Sport Photography
- Street Photography
- War Photography
Engage with other Photographers
This has a very positive impact when it comes to Photography, because by surrounding yourselves with people that feel the same passion as you do for Photography, you’ll be moved to keep going, and being more disciplined about the great Passion you have for Photography. It is normal to have some lack of inspiration and even some droughts, but thanks to the social quality of engaging with other Photographers, this negative normal aspects of every photographer's life, will be eventually diminished by the warm and friendship other Photographers may produce.
Stay away from the Gear Freaks
It is hard not to be fanatic about Gear, but remember, the gear is just a tool for achieving the result we want, and we want to tell a story with our images. Don’t you ever lose focus on this fact.
Becoming a Photographer has very little to do with the technical knowledge, but the Passion and the Practice. If you are lacking of these elements, you are not late, you just need to practice and practice. Passion is something that will appear almost by osmosis when practicing your Photography every day. Challenge yourselves too, try working for six months with just one lens, and try getting in contact with film photography, watch movies so your eye will develop a cinematographic view. Don’t be worried about the definition that only Passion and Practice can truly define.