Becoming a Photographer: starting out {personal}


This post has spent a bit of time in draft and a lot of time without a title. I read this blog post by the hugely inspiring Cathertine Connor with the title ‘Becoming a Photographer’ I hope Catherine won’t mind if I borrow the title for this series of personal posts about my photography journey.

I spent a lot of last year building my business and, if I’m honest, learning as I went along. The fact that I was new to the wedding industry, in my head, meant that I had to project an air of being much more experienced than I was, in order to ensure that my clients trusted me to do a good job for them.

Because of that I didn’t really document my journey so much and I really wish I had done so and, with this in mind, I’ll be writing a lot more this year, including looking back at how I got to where I am and forward to how I intend to develop. I’ll be doing that through a regular (hopefully!) post about photography and what it means to me.

I should include a little disclaimer, I guess, and say that this post might be completely wrong in the opinion of more experienced (or even less experienced) photographers but all we ever have are our own experiences and opinions and that’s what I’ll be sharing.

If you don’t agree, or if you do, please do leave a comment. I really believe that having your views challenged is also important for own personal development so bring it on!

When I first started photographing weddings it didn’t seem as though there was any information available to tell me how to be a wedding photographer. Or if there was, I didn’t know where to find it.

I bought some books. One of them had ghastly spot-colour pictures in it. They taught me about traditional wedding photography and traditional wedding photography poses. I threw them away because that type of wedding photography; the type of wedding photography (staid, formulaic, unimaginative) that causes other sectors of the photographic industry to look down upon wedding photography, wasn’t of interest to me. I wanted to be inspired by inspiring people and I wanted to see innovation.

Things have changed a bit now and I have found places that enable me to learn. I’ve also found online groups where photographers can ask questions and share experiences; they’ve been a useful resource. I’ve found blogs that showcase innovative approaches to wedding photography and I’ve also made some new photographer friends, so I now have people to talk to.

I could have done with those resources before the very first wedding that I photographed, that’s for sure. But they’re there now and they’re hugely helpful. I’ll be putting together a list of resources that I’ve found helpful in coming weeks, so do check back, won’t you?

You know I still feel like a bit of a fraud when I call myself a photographer. Prior to starting my photography journey I’ve always existed in the realms of the quantifiable – my previous jobs have been defined by fixed parameters – but photography is more subjective.

There is no set process that takes you from buying a camera to being a fully fledged photographer.

There’s no fixed definition of a good photograph. There are photographs that are beautiful because of their technically perfect precision, there are photographs that are beautiful because of their imperfections and there are awe inspiring photographs that are the antithesis of beauty.

So how do you get to be a photographer amid the confusion and contradictions that are photography as an art form?

Personally I believe that to call yourself a photographer, you need to fulfil the following:

– own a camera
– take pictures with some degree of control or;
– abandon control in favour of serendipitous happy accidents and abstraction
– be committed to producing the best photographs that you can
– have some idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing

I believe the difference between a photographer and a camera owner is partly based on the work they produce and partly based on intention. Of course calling yourself a photographer and calling yourself a professional photographer are very different things. And what it means to be a professional is a post for another day.

You might not be a working, professional photographer but it is your intention to make photographic art, you are already a photographer, even if you’re not quite yet where you want to be in terms of the standard of your work.

The work you produce will never, ever be your best work because there is always something new to learn or some new way to be inspired. The important thing is that you keep trying, keep looking, keep learning and keep taking photographs.

Becoming the best photographer you can be is an ongoing process and one that you should aim never to finish. If you have already become the best photographer you can be, it means you have stopped soaking up inspiration from the world around you.

Are you just starting out on your photography journey? Perhaps you’re further along the road? What are you doing or what did you do to become a photographer? Let me know in the comments. And read this; one of the most inspirational quotes I came across last year.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work … It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions … It’s gonna take awhile … You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

– Ira Glass

12 thoughts on “Becoming a Photographer: starting out {personal}

  1. Hi Laura

    a very interesting & well written piece.
    I think what you said about keep going and pushing yourself is the most important thing- to have a goal and know why you are doing rather than going with the flow will make you good at what you do and also will keep you loving what you do.
    It’s was only last year that by doing things my way & for me that allowed me to realise my own potential and enjoy it!
    Doing a job you love & knowing you made it happen through bloody hard work and determination is the best feeling in the world.
    Looking forward to continuing the journey witn you!
    That quote is so true!

    Laura xxx

  2. Loved your post, Laura. I think you’re absolutely right: we have to keep learning, keep looking, keep on doing it and we will get better, and better. I went through a frustrating stage last year where I knew enough to be aware of the things I was doing wrong, but seemed unable to be able to do any better; but then suddenly I found I’d made a leap and am now producing better images, that more reflect what I see in my mind’s eye … that’s how the process of learning works, I think. How incredibly exciting! I’m currently trying to become the best I can be – one step at a time – as I begin my journey into becoming a “photographer”.

  3. Lovely article! For sure, I will follow your next posts because my resolution for 2012 is to have more work in Asian weddings where I do want to specialize myself on this creative art.
    Your path, your network and your sources will be very interesting as my starting point.
    I have been doing some stuff… check it at and my facebook page.
    All the best.
    N Dhiren

  4. What a great post! I hear you re: the quantifiable vs subjective job choice as I am trying to transition to travel writing from the corporate world myself. You’ve got a great attitude so i am sure you’ll succeed. Just one thing re: wedding photography -when i was looking for a photographer for our Sydney wedding, all the way from NYC, we chose Antony Schuster based on the photos on his website. We had never met him (I did later, when I was doing the bookings a few months prior) though my now-husband was adamant that we choose Schuster, simply based on his style that we saw on the website. So I encourage you to document your style as someone, maybe in Australia, may love it and book you for a wedding where you are based! Good luck – you’re going to be great!

  5. Hi Laura yeah totally loved this and related a lot! Really was inspired (and relieved) by the whole ‘closing the gap’ thought so thanks for posting this. Someone once said it’s 1% inspiration and 99%perspiration ha! (or words to that effect) Keep going for it and keep growing and thanks for always being so open and kind in sharing.

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