Forums > Photography Talk > How do you become a good photographer?

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22606

Salem, Oregon, US

creativelive is another way to see how some photographers do it. some are pretty minimal with their lighting (i was doing that on my first model shoots in the garage) while others get a little more into it. and sometimes it's more the practical advice that's helpful like lindsay adler saying that this is the popular lighting style that people will pay for (regardless of whether you like the style).

the OP used the word art. so the question is when does photography become art? is shooting a swimsuit catalog art? is doing headshots art? is doing a wedding art? what's the difference between a typical mayhem model shoot and one of lindsay's fashion shoots? what can elevate one's work from "met the requirements" to "wow"? lindsay adler talks about planning and preparation as key for her work. it doesn't just happen spontaneously.

Select Models wrote:
Conduct 100's of groupshoot events over a few decades... invite 1000's of amazing photographers far better than you to all your events.  Watch what equipment they use... how they light, pose and direct their models... duplicate or even improve on their actions... and beat them at their own game... borat... lol

Jul 12 13 09:26 am Link

Photographer

Joey

Posts: 453

Orange, California, US

Cut your ear off. Go to India and photograph the bordellos and prostitutes. Go to a Egypt and come back alive with exclusive photos. Tell your story visually and if  you don't have one to tell, go find someone who has a story and make it come alive. Be visually and emotionally involved in your subject(s)

Jul 12 13 10:31 am Link

Photographer

Wayne Cutler

Posts: 634

Los Angeles, California, US

R Michael Walker wrote:
Look at work you like. Try and figure out how they did it. Try to copy it. Just don't lose yourself an become a clone of someone else like so many do. Read books. Read on line. If there are seminars and workshops (Ones that really teach NOT the gan bang shoots so prolifically advertised here on MM) try a couple of those. Talking to a good photographer and picking their brain is #1 on my list. See if you can 'Assist" for a good shooter. Learn Photoshop. NEVER buy Portrait Pro.

You mentioned "Art". Do you have aspirations towards 'real" art photography like Weston, Bullock and Adams? Or more like fashion shooters shooting "fashion nudes" or the T&A shooters who call their work 'art"? THe term IS very subjective. One person's art is another person's porn or crap.

And back to not losing yourself. If you get a good handle on the technical side. If you have or develop a good eye, you STILL have to develop a style. Best way to do that is only shoot what you love, what moves you and hopefully those emotions will add power to your images.

Jul 12 13 11:47 am Link

Photographer

Wayne Cutler

Posts: 634

Los Angeles, California, US

Wayne Cutler wrote:

Jul 12 13 11:48 am Link

Photographer

Francisco Castro

Posts: 1735

Cincinnati, Ohio, US

Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I'm not talking about the business side of photography, right now I don't care about money. I want to make art, I want to make something beautiful.

I want to know what things you did to learn how to make beautiful images. I will not accept the answer to "shoot more", this is obvious as all skills require practice.

Please impart your wisdom.

Anyone can light a subject. The question is, can you shadow a subject? Light shows your model. Shadow shows the mood. Once I understood that, my images make vast improvements.

Jul 12 13 11:51 am Link

Photographer

Wayne Cutler

Posts: 634

Los Angeles, California, US

Sorry about the "non=replies".  Some day I will get the hang of this. 

R. Michael Walker stated the following "Look at work you like. Try and figure out how they did it. Try to copy it. Just don't lose yourself an become a clone of someone else like so many do. Read books. Read on line. If there are seminars and workshops (Ones that really teach NOT the gan bang shoots so prolifically advertised here on MM) try a couple of those. Talking to a good photographer and picking their brain is #1 on my list. See if you can 'Assist" for a good shooter. Learn Photoshop. NEVER buy Portrait Pro.

You mentioned "Art". Do you have aspirations towards 'real" art photography like Weston, Bullock and Adams? Or more like fashion shooters shooting "fashion nudes" or the T&A shooters who call their work 'art"? THe term IS very subjective. One person's art is another person's porn or crap.

And back to not losing yourself. If you get a good handle on the technical side. If you have or develop a good eye, you STILL have to develop a style. Best way to do that is only shoot what you love, what moves you and hopefully those emotions will add power to your images.

"

I know Mike Walker personally and he is one helluva photographer and truly a master printer.  He has work in many galleries.  However, I don't agree with him on not buying Portrait Pro or any other program like that.  Mike doesn't shoot fashion or glamour, he shoots fine art nudes and landscapes, definitely fields of photography where Portrait Pro would not be used.

Just about anything you can do with plug-ins like Portrait Pro or Nik Filters can be done in Photoshop, however, what these programs do is to make long tedious PS procedures shorter and easier.  I just used Port Pro on a beautiful model.  The MUA did a great job but this model had a small skin problem that make-up couldn't fix.  I did use PS Heal and Patch but I finished it off with Portrait Pro which did an outstanding job in giving the model beautiful and realistic magazine fashion skin.  Portrait Pro does a great job in isolating specific parts of the face.  I believe that Fashion, Glamour and even Portrait photography is more fantasy than realistic.  We want the models to look beautiful and glamorous and we want ourselves to look like we wished we looked.  LOL.  PS can do that and Portrait Pro and the like programs can do it even better.  Just remember not to overdo it.  Many years ago, my father told me what one of his college professors told the class, "a little water is good for you, too much water can drown you."

Jul 12 13 12:08 pm Link

Photographer

Philipe

Posts: 5214

Pomona, California, US

The best thing is to understand it and respect photography.
There are no bad cameras and lighting just cheap stuff.
Because anything can work if you make it work.
Learn natural light, learn how to control the sun and don't become a slave to it.
If you practice, try something new, from time to time..

Jul 12 13 12:34 pm Link

Photographer

Jhono Bashian

Posts: 2432

Cleveland, Ohio, US

being visually stimulated is a start and practice, practice, practice...

Jul 12 13 12:51 pm Link

Photographer

me voy

Posts: 1093

Amherst, Massachusetts, US

Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I'm not talking about the business side of photography, right now I don't care about money. I want to make art, I want to make something beautiful.

I want to know what things you did to learn how to make beautiful images. I will not accept the answer to "shoot more", this is obvious as all skills require practice.

Please impart your wisdom.

Go to a good photography school. Learn from critiques that the professors give you. Learn everything the photography school can offer you.

I went to Santa Monica College in Santa Monica California. Their photography program is as good as Brooks and Arts Institute but with the community college tuition. You can't beat that price. Most of the professors there have degrees from Brooks and AI. They are tough when it comes to critiques and grading.

Bottom line is: learn from the best. You can only be as good as your teacher. If your teacher is mediocre then your images would be the same.

There is no such thing as finding a photographer that would take you under their wing and teach you everything they know. Usually, those kind of photographers and mediocre.

Jul 12 13 12:52 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22606

Salem, Oregon, US

there's this idea of learn to see. my eyes don't detect subtle contrast differences very well so it has been hard for me to learn to "see the light" for instance when i'm using a white reflector i often can't tell if it's doing anything unless i wave it around and then i can detect the changes as i move it. maybe some people have eyes that can see things more precisely than mine can and that gives them an advantage.

Jhono Bashian wrote:
being visually stimulated is a start and practice, practice, practice...

Jul 12 13 12:54 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22606

Salem, Oregon, US

if i had it to do over again i would pay to go to seminars with the top guys. fumbling around on your own is just very inefficient (not to mention expensive if you invest in the wrong gear for your style). learn something really good you can start from and then over time you can tweak it and make it your own.

me voy wrote:
Bottom line is: learn from the best. You can only be as good as your teacher. If your teacher is mediocre then your images would be the same.

Jul 12 13 12:55 pm Link

Photographer

WIP

Posts: 15541

Cheltenham, England, United Kingdom

Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I want to make art, I want to make something beautiful.



Please impart your wisdom.

You come to realisation that most photography/images are superficial, lacking in any substance or meaning. Maybe that's why images are viewed for only a few seconds.

Photography has become the art form for the untalented.

Jul 12 13 03:37 pm Link

Photographer

IMAGINERIES

Posts: 692

New York, New York, US

Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I'm not talking about the business side of photography, right now I don't care about money. I want to make art, I want to make something beautiful.

I want to know what things you did to learn how to make beautiful images. I will not accept the answer to "shoot more", this is obvious as all skills require practice.

Please impart your wisdom.

Art=beauty.....Not always related.....All subjective... A pretty girl in a bikini,
yes it is beauty....But if you look at all the images describing the horrors of the world we live in, are they beautiful? Probably not but, because of the subject matter. Yet they have some beauty in a twisted way and make you wonder.
So, define beauty, and go on, and let your camera do the technical stuff and find your artistic groove and shock, surprise, or revolt your audiance.

Jul 12 13 05:19 pm Link

Photographer

Camerosity

Posts: 5316

Saint Louis, Missouri, US

Photography is one of a few areas where the technical and artistic aspects are of more or less equal importance. Try to develop both at the same time.


Technical

Learn your camera (what it does and how to do it). Learn exposure. Learn lighting – one light at a time. Even if you plan to use only ambient light, you’ll use the same principles. Learn to read a photo and figure out how it was made. If you like the photo and the lighting, try to duplicate them. Learn Photoshop – unless you plan to have retouching done by a retoucher.


Artistic (aka the “eye” or the “vision”)

Study good photos and good paintings. Figure out what makes them work. Learn to analyze a photo and figure out how it was made (or the various ways it could have been made). Learn composition. Learn what to include in a photo – and, just as importantly, what to exclude. Get a color wheel and learn color theory.

Plan your shoots in advance. Visualize the photo before you pick up your camera. Learn to analyze your photos. Learn from your mistakes, and figure out what would have made your photos better. Have better photographers critique your work. Set specific goals. Try to get better with every shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot some more.

Jul 12 13 07:12 pm Link

Photographer

ThroughJerrysEyes

Posts: 424

West Des Moines, Iowa, US

as a tool, shoot film

it will slow you down to think about subject and composition

for BW try BW400CN, for example, C41 process....easy to get processed compared to BW film (unless you do it yourself)


Last year on a Kelby podcast, a guest advised all new "photographers" who were  shooting digital to just blast away because the images are "free"..IMO this is poor advice.

I sent them a note suggesting that if the light was bad, if the composition was bad, if the exposure was bad, shooting more of the same thing doesn't seem very worthwhile.


For me, slowing down is the key...put some thought into each image.

Ansel Adams said he knew what each image was gonna look like before he shot it

Jul 12 13 08:02 pm Link

Photographer

Warren Leimbach

Posts: 2682

Tampa, Florida, US

Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

right now I don't care about money.

You are free.  That's good.  Working for other people is problem solving.  Working on your own stuff is creativity and artistic release.




Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I want to make art, I want to make something beautiful.

Don't stop until you make something beautiful.  Be unstoppable.  Don't let your own laziness or other people's indifference get in your way.  So many things in this world will push you to be lame.  It takes real effort to break through the malaise and pick up the phone and make plans and set the alarm clock early and coordinate a team of people toward a goal that only exists in your head.  It could all go south at any minute, and only you can keep the vision alive.  So it's up to you to keep pushing.  The alternative is to sit on the couch and bore your grandkids "Y'know, that would have been cool.  If only.  If only.  I could have been a contender!"  You might not get there the first try.  In fact if you are really swinging for the fences there is an excellent chance you will strike out spectacularly, but thats OK too.  Study your mistakes.  Regroup and shoot it again.  You will get there.




Timothy Bell wrote:
I want to know what things you did to learn how to make beautiful images.

I learn by working for people better than myself.  I have been assisting for 20 years and I still assist any chance I get.  I learn something from every photographer.  A three hour car ride with an old school beverage shooter will blow your mind.




Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I will not accept the answer to "shoot more", this is obvious as all skills require practice.

I know you don't want to hear it, but "keep shooting" is the wisest advice you will get from me.  It's a lifetime process.  Hacks content themselves with routine setups or google a bit of code to cut and paste, and maybe it's enough to fool the rubes into giving them money, so they think they know enough to get by and so they stop growing.  But by coming up with new projects that spark your imagination, and working diligently to make THIS shot in front of you right now the best you possibly can, you will stretch yourself and grow.  So get out there and shoot.

Jul 12 13 08:12 pm Link

Photographer

C h a r l e s D

Posts: 9304

Los Angeles, California, US

Best way is to ask for critiques from as many non friends and relatives as you can.  Listen to what they say, and apply what they say in future shoots. 

Then, try to sell your work.  You'll find out very quickly what sells and why.

Jul 12 13 08:14 pm Link

Photographer

Timothy Bell

Posts: 402

North Richland Hills, Texas, US

ThroughJerrysEyes wrote:
as a tool, shoot film

Last year on a Kelby podcast, a guest advised all new "photographers" who were  shooting digital to just blast away because the images are "free"..IMO this is poor advice.

I think the blast away approach works for getting to know your camera, but it doesn't work for getting to know how to make good images.

I personally shot film for 15 years before picking up a digital camera almost 10 years ago. It wasn't until I got my Nikon D800 that I thought that the quality was as good as film.

Jul 12 13 11:38 pm Link

guide forum

Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6695

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Fuck up a lot.

Learn from those fuckups.

Jul 12 13 11:41 pm Link

guide forum

Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6695

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

That Italian Guy wrote:
Too many photographers get sidetracked into trying to 'develop' a distinctive style through artifices of lighting and post production, when in fact all they really need to do is shoot more and always make the choices that please them the most.

I've always thought the same.

They way to "develop a style" is to shoot whatever the hell you want, how you want it, eff what anyone thinks.

Jul 12 13 11:44 pm Link

guide forum

Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6695

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

My honest answer:

Grab a DSLR and read a ton of books / watch youtube / read other shit.

Learn - see 2 comments above.

Once you "get" everything - grab some film and test yourself, can you do it without hand-holding of instant feedback?

Learn some more.

Shoot what you like.

Jul 12 13 11:47 pm Link

Photographer

WIP

Posts: 15541

Cheltenham, England, United Kingdom

Camerosity wrote:
Photography is one of a few areas where the technical and artistic aspects are of more or less equal importance. Try to develop both at the same time.

It's the only area where anyone can pick up a camera and become an instant photographer without any technical knowledge or artistry unlike being a plumber or musician.

Jul 12 13 11:55 pm Link

Photographer

Drew Smith Photography

Posts: 5210

Nottingham, England, United Kingdom

Stand in front of interesting things.

Photograph them in interesting ways.

Jul 12 13 11:58 pm Link

Photographer

Camerosity

Posts: 5316

Saint Louis, Missouri, US

Camerosity wrote:
Photography is one of a few areas where the technical and artistic aspects are of more or less equal importance. Try to develop both at the same time.

c_h_r_i_s wrote:
It's the only area where anyone can pick up a camera and become an instant photographer without any technical knowledge or artistry unlike being a plumber or musician.

Well, in music, there's Guitar Hero. Before that was the player piano.

In art there's paint by numbers.

Jul 13 13 12:27 am Link

Photographer

Nate C Photography

Posts: 43

Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines

This is Great advice.

Ezhini wrote:
Speificity.

A person with the attitude, "I want to be an artist" has less chance of becoming any type of artist, than the one with the attitude, "I want to be an artist doing story boards for Pixar within the next four years," or "I want to be an artist painting chidren's portrait in oils in the methods of the Flemish masters."

The point is you have to get specific with your goals. Random and generic aiming does not result in anything worthwhile. That's why, "keep shooting," or "shooot a lot" will never be a good advice to become a good photographer - whatever that good means.

In your OP request, two words are crucial: the GOOD in good photographer, and BEAUTIFUL in beautiful photographs.  Because both these terms are too generic and too subjective in that generality.

To make any worthwhile improvement in yourself, you have to set yourself tangible, achievable goals that are specifically subjective to your self, your apptitude, your tendencies and your resources.

As a good example of achieving good and beautiful by being specific, study the life and works of Wayne Thiebaud. He is a painter, but the exmaple still holds.

Repetition makes you better. But not mere random repetitiveness. Instead, targeted and systematic repetition of result-oriented practices surely will take you better at whatever you do.

My suggestion is, get sepcific (for yourself, not to prove to anyone else) about what are the qualities of a good photographer and what makes a photograph beautiful. Once you have those understandings clear, then it is a matter of seeking means and methods to get there.

Because there are NO GENERIC rules, methods and path ways to take to become a good photographer or to make beautiful photographs.

Jul 13 13 12:59 am Link

Photographer

Camerosity

Posts: 5316

Saint Louis, Missouri, US

dp

Jul 13 13 01:02 am Link

Photographer

name removed3

Posts: 264

Boston, Massachusetts, US

Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I'm not talking about the business side of photography, right now I don't care about money. I want to make art, I want to make something beautiful.

I want to know what things you did to learn how to make beautiful images. I will not accept the answer to "shoot more", this is obvious as all skills require practice.

Please impart your wisdom.

sorry but its all practice, and working with your mistakes and keep pushing on the days when you dont want to take pictures.  You cant learn to find beauty, sorry.

Jul 13 13 05:30 am Link

Photographer

T A R I K

Posts: 1245

BRONX, New York, US

Practice makes perfect.............sometimes. Also study the work from photographers with whom you admire for inspiration and seek out a good mentor.

Jul 13 13 05:36 am Link

Photographer

Christian Nyback

Posts: 987

West Palm Beach, Florida, US

Look at my work - and then do the EXACT OPPOSITE!  big_smile

Jul 13 13 05:51 am Link

Photographer

Amul La La

Posts: 828

Plymouth, England, United Kingdom

"Listen to whatever advice you want to, see it if helps"

Jul 13 13 06:41 am Link

Photographer

PhillipPhotography

Posts: 2490

San Leandro, California, US

c_h_r_i_s wrote:

You come to realisation that most photography/images are superficial, lacking in any substance or meaning. Maybe that's why images are viewed for only a few seconds.

Photography has become the art form for the untalented.

I agree.  I mean photography's so readily available that not only "the untalented" but also the a$$holes can enjoy.

Jul 13 13 10:25 am Link

Photographer

PhillipPhotography

Posts: 2490

San Leandro, California, US

Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I'm not talking about the business side of photography, right now I don't care about money. I want to make art, I want to make something beautiful.

I want to know what things you did to learn how to make beautiful images. I will not accept the answer to "shoot more", this is obvious as all skills require practice.

Please impart your wisdom.

Too many things that only you can define, but my journey starts with me wanting to capture memories.  I am not to make a statement or shock or do some kinda art; I just capture memories for me, and I think this is the foundation of good photographer: you shoot what you're honestly passionate about, and your passion would drive you to become a better photographer.

Another thing to consider is if you're passionate about this subject, why photographing it?  Why not write, paint or whatever about it?  Billions people walking the earth with camera, why only a few photographers' names are mentioned repeatedly?  Regardless of genres, these photographers express themselves well not only as visual art but also as photographic art.  In other words, their work are intimately linked to medium.

Lastly, I think you have to live.  Photography is an expression and if you don't have anything to say, well, it's hard to express.  Avedon walked in the room to photograph this young woman whose heart just had been broken, and instead of trying to get something out of his sitter as usual, he just took  the image because he lived and recognized looks on her face.

Jul 13 13 10:42 am Link

Photographer

WIP

Posts: 15541

Cheltenham, England, United Kingdom

T A R I K wrote:
Practice makes perfect.............sometimes. Also study the work from photographers with whom you admire for inspiration

I've managed to get mine down to three;

Irving Penn.
Don Mccullin.
Rolph Gobits.

Jul 13 13 01:02 pm Link

Photographer

C h a r l e s D

Posts: 9304

Los Angeles, California, US

Drew Smith Photography wrote:
Stand in front of interesting things.

Photograph them in interesting ways.

Hehe.  This is the best answer yet!

Jul 13 13 01:08 pm Link

Photographer

Barry Kidd Photography

Posts: 2521

Red Lion, Pennsylvania, US

I'm still trying to figure out the very same thing but sadly the only answer I have is the one you have said you don't want.

I have found that when I' don't get out there and shoot I digress.  when I do shoot I continue to improve, I see things differently and frame my subject matter better.

Jul 13 13 09:09 pm Link

Photographer

Timothy Bell

Posts: 402

North Richland Hills, Texas, US

Barry Kidd Photography wrote:
I'm still trying to figure out the very same thing but sadly the only answer I have is the one you have said you don't want.

I have found that when I' don't get out there and shoot I digress.  when I do shoot I continue to improve, I see things differently and frame my subject matter better.

Keep shooting is probably the best advice, I just didn't want that answer because I already know it to be true. I'm looking for answers that teach me something new or help me find a path.

Jul 13 13 09:47 pm Link

Photographer

T A R I K

Posts: 1245

BRONX, New York, US

c_h_r_i_s wrote:

I've managed to get mine down to three;

Irving Penn.
Don Mccullin.
Rolph Gobits.

Irving Penn's work is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery 
http://www.npg.org.uk/irvingpenn/visit.htm

Jul 13 13 09:55 pm Link

Photographer

WIP

Posts: 15541

Cheltenham, England, United Kingdom

National Portrait Gallery on my list, it also has one of my favorite W. Turner painting "Rain, steam and speed".

Jul 14 13 06:22 am Link

Photographer

varton

Posts: 2370

New York, New York, US

Timothy Bell wrote:
How do you become a good photographer?

I'm not talking about the business side of photography, right now I don't care about money. I want to make art, I want to make something beautiful.

I want to know what things you did to learn how to make beautiful images. I will not accept the answer to "shoot more", this is obvious as all skills require practice.

Please impart your wisdom.

Art is a subjective matter. Everyone might perceive your work differently You will not become an "artist" just asking others what "did they learn to make beautiful images" just to quote you.
If you are not conscientious about your own artistic abilities you will never succeed in becoming an "artist".
It' s either you have it or not, if not, you will be just another failure in the bunch who think they are up to something.
It's better to show your work to competent people in the field of art and ask them why they like or don't like it. It is the best way to carve your own direction in an unpretentious humility.
You will be recognized in due time. And even then, if they hang your work upside down on the wall, don't get offended. big_smile

Jul 14 13 06:42 am Link

Photographer

Image Magik

Posts: 1068

New Orleans, Louisiana, US

Practice practice practice
Fail fail fail
Study study study.
Repeat...

Jul 14 13 06:46 am Link