Ok so there are all the very inspiring and useful advice from some of the greatest photographers of all times in this article from the Magnum photographers, this piece of advice from Sebastiao Salgado, now one of my favorite artists and probably countless others so I hear you asking already; who is this not so experienced and young photographer to start giving advice? Well I’ll admit that you’re right and I do ask you not to think about comparing me to these masters but I have one advantage compared to them regarding advice to young photographers of our generation; I am a young photographer of our generation.
That being said, I’m far from having achieved the 1/10th of what I’d like but I still think I could give some advice from what I’ve done and haven’t done and if you don’t trust me well the links to the Magnum photographers are up there.
- Passion is all, money is nothing
Photography is an art and like all types of art you must do it for the good reason if you ever want your work to be good; the passion. You must not only love what you do but you must NEED to do it. It’s not a matter of “do I like taking pictures?” it’s just a realization that it’s what you need to do. If you do it to earn a living and just thinking about making money, you could well succeed in making money but never in becoming a great artist with truly inspired pictures. Do not think about money.
Even if you do not want to do travel photography and the have passion to document only what is happening on your own street (and that’s OK if you like it), travel. Learn about yourself and the world and live. This is a simple non-avoidable advice; travel.
- Live abroad
Do a student exchange program abroad if there is still time in your studies, if not well start a new program just to do an exchange and drop it after. No but seriously, living abroad teaches so much on the world and on yourself. It brings much more in an inexplicable way than just traveling through a place. It’s not an advice directly related to photography but rather to life skills I would say. Just watch The Spanish Appartment (L’Auberge Espagnole) before, during and after exchange. Try not to cry also.
- Broader view
As Salgado said, you need to have other interests than just photography if you want to be able to convey a message and a story. I like the idea in studying something different (I have a degree in International Business and sustainable development) but just being very aware and informed of the world issues is already a lot. Try to understand what is really happening in the world, the different actors and issues, problems, past and present and future. Get some notions of international politics, human rights, environmental issues, finance and so on. Watch some documentary, read some books about those issues and also read other stuff, classic literature, history, fantasy, spirituality, religion. Also watch movies, good movies (if you don’t know where to start: IMDB Top 250).
- Say something
Good pictures are technically correct and pretty. Great pictures tell a message and create emotions from the viewer. Aim for greatness. Have a message to tell, something to say. Before starting a photo project, ask yourself what you want to say before starting. Start some specific projects, do not wander around aimlessly in life trying to take pretty pictures of what is in front of you. Search and find what you want to photograph.
- Criticize yourself
Be your harshest constructive critics. If you think that you’re the best all the time and have your friends and family say the same, you will not evolve. Look at your past and present work and see your flaws and weaknesses and how you can improve them and build on your strengths.
- Photograph a lot
This does not mean, take a lot of pictures all the time. It means, do a lot of projects, try a lot of different things, always be ready to photograph when your photographer mode is switched on. Each field of photography has its own differences and hardships. Even if you do not like concerts photography, trying it a couple of times will teach you loads of stuff you’ll use in other areas. Try and learn.
- Print your work
In our digitalized work, we only see our images on screens. It’s good if you have a nice one but it will never be as impressive as seeing your work on good old prints. Just try, at least once, to have a large print of your favorite picture and you’ll be prouder than you’ve ever been looking at it on your phone.
- Make some back ups
Even while you are traveling, do not make that mistake. Nothing is more precious than your pictures, forget about the cameras, protect your work.
I have a lot more advice in mind (ranging from forget about the gear to drink at least four coffees a day) but I think I’ve said enough already. I’m trying to keep things short and easy to read. Most of these do not even apply to photography you’ll say (and you’re right) but I honestly think that the most important thing to work on is yourself before anything. I know I’m still fairly young and a younger photographer and who am I to give advice but I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing, rather a different, insider point of view at the start of a career in photography. If you like this and/or want more, please do tell me or comment! Your comments allow me to improve my posts and to know if someone else than my parents read what I'm writing.
ps. Still not sure if advice is plural or not. Two advice? Two adviceS? Corrector prefers two advice but it does not look good. Help me out here.