In 1999 Rick Wenner purchased his first digital SLR, a Canon 20D. After 6 years of shooting as a hobbyist, creating mainly landscapes and abstract images, he found that creating portraits was what he wanted for a career. Since that time Rick has been developing his skills as a photographer while continuing to work as a graphic designer. His future plans are to soon leave his graphic design job and go full time with his true creative passion in photography. Rick is specializing his work in entertainment and portrait photography on Long Island, NY.
Read his blog. This is his first guest blog post on Tiffinbox. Please be sure to comment below after you have read his article. Thank you!
How do I make the career change to become a full time photographer? Where do I start? Who do I work with and how do I get in touch with them? How much do I charge? Do I need a studio? What do I do?
These are some (definitely not all) of the questions I’ve asked myself in the past few years. I am currently a full time graphic designer who wants … no … who NEEDS to make a career change to what I really love, photography.
This used to be just a hobby to me 10 years ago. Every now and then I’d go out with camera in hand and create a few landscapes and abstract images, process the crap out of them in Photoshop and post it on Facebook and Myspace. Then I started photographing people and loved the connections I was making with my subjects.
After a few years I had two photos on display in a museum in the Hamptons. Got an editorial job from that exhibit. From that point on I knew that this is what I need to be doing with my life. Since then I’ve been working hard to make it happen and am FINALLY seeing some results from my efforts. More and more people are noticing my work and I’m getting meetings with potential clients and agencies. I know that there is still a lot more work to be done before I can drop the design gig and go full time with my photography though. It’s worth it.
So, how do I go about dropping graphic design and moving ahead with photography? I get inspired. I recently attended workshops that Zack Arias hosts (Photo 101 and OneLight) and left with my brain in a frenzy. Not only did I learn technical aspects of lighting, composition, gear, and business, I also had a fire lit under my ass that has got me heading in the right direction. Since Zack has been working with the same kind of clients that I would like to eventually be working with, I took his advice and ran with it as hard as I could.
People need to know that you are a photographer. They won’t have a clue of what you do if you’re just sitting in front of a computer reading blogs all day. Get in front of the people you want to be working with, show them what you do and build a relationship with them. If you want to be working with musicians, go to their shows. You’ll see that even the small “no name” bands are selling T-shirts, stickers, and CD’s. So, obviously they are willing to invest in themselves.
People won’t know who you are and what you do unless you put it in front of their faces. Use social media to get your work seen by friends and family. When you are creating high quality photos, people will talk about you when someone asks if they know a good photographer. Word-of-mouth is the best advertising for your photography business. The kind of work that I want is in the entertainment industry. Musicians, bands, actors, etc. I have always loved the portraits that I’ve seen by photographers such as Mark Seliger, Platon, Nigel Parry and David LaChapelle.
So, how do I create images that will one day be seen in the big magazines that are read by thousands? Practice, practice, practice and keep practicing. Ask any pro the same question and they’ll tell you the same. Photography is a learned skill with many aspects that need to be mastered. You can read hundreds of blogs, tutorials and magazines about photography but you won’t really learn a single thing without that camera in your hand. It’s great to get tips and tricks from all those resources but you’re not going to get better at creating images by sitting in front of a computer. When you’re done reading this blog post, go take a few pictures of something … anything! You are not gaining experience by reading what I have to say.
If this is what you really love, then go after it and don’t give up. You will make mistakes. Tons of them. But you will learn from those mistakes and become a better photographer from them. Go to workshops and learn from the masters of our craft. Read David duChemin's book, VisionMongers, and if you're not inspired by that book, then this probably isn't for you.
My advice: Step away from the blogs and pick up that camera!