What I Wish I Knew As a Freelance Photographer In Perth
When I first started out as a freelance photographer here in Perth, I thought it was a simple as turning my camera on, pointing it at the subject I want to capture and hitting the shutter button.
How naive of me.
For a very long time, my growth as a content creator and freelance photographer in the Perth photography scene was stagnant because I didn’t see much change in my skills, work or the photos I took.
It wasn’t until my discomfort in my skills got so unbearable that I then opened up and allowed myself to learn and experience new techniques, try new tools and photographs in different environments that I saw my skills grow in leaps and bounds.
Looking back now on my journey I often say to myself “If I’d only known the things I know now, my first couple of years as a freelance photographer would have been much more productive and much less frustrating”
I’m very positive a lot of freelance photographers in Perth think the same thing…
The reality was though, as a beginner Perth based freelance photographer, I was destined to have extremely frustrating moments, huge photo fails and a lot of regrets as well.
I’ve been photographing for a while now and I think I’ve figured this whole photography thing out.
Well, I’m still learning, I’m always learning, but I think I have enough perspective to share a few tips with you I wish someone would have shared with me when I first picked up a camera.
So, I want to share 6 things I’ve learned from my years of shooting and tips that I think can help you expedite your growth.
In The Middle
It’s an Expensive Hobby
I think the biggest thing I wish someone told me about photography was about how expensive photography is.
When I started, I was under the impression that buying a camera kit was all there was to it.
I severely underestimated how expensive photography was, especially when I had to prioritise buying new equipment and accessories.
After buying my first DSLR camera, I instantly fell into a world of buying new lenses, accessories and props that would help me grow, compliment my style of photography, my brand and the stories I want to tell.
I often bought new gear and accessories with the belief that if I just owned them, I would magically become better.
This mindset was far from true and often my downfall because I would become agitated that even with my new and shiny tools I didn’t improve.
It’s an expensive hobby means not buying into the mindset that acquiring one more piece of gear will make you an amazing photographer, nor will it perfect your work.
There are no magical weapons when it comes to gear, accessories or props.
The best way is to acquire gear, accessories or props is slowly and carefully as your vision changes, as your style changes and as your journey changes.
Horses for courses.
How You See Things Changes
When I started as a freelance photographer in Perth, I wasn’t exactly serious about it, but slowly, slowly as I began to approach photography more seriously, the way I saw things changed, I never saw things the same way again.
I viewed my subjects, environments and the world around me more closely.
I suddenly became a student of every photo and video I consumed which moulded the way I told the stories I wanted to tell.
I analysed photos for how they were lit, leading lines, composition, depth of field and imagining how I could recreate them.
I picked apart how other photographers, videographers and storytellers took their shots, in what conditions, what time of day, the emotions they are trying to evoke and how they edited their photographs to produce a final image.
Then I learned was that once I started the pursuit of producing great images, my lifestyle would change and will continue to change.
There’s something exciting about that.
This meant waking up early to catch a sunrise, wandering the city at 5 pm to watch human traffic or staying out when the sun goes down to find unique lighting.
All this became a routine part of life.
I believe that the process of reverse-engineering the photographs you find powerfully captivating is a fantastic way of developing your skills and growing your work.
Perfection Doesn’t Exist
When I started out in photography and even now, I look at other images for inspiration to fuel my creativity.
But when I first began, my problem was that I spent way too much time looking at images that I thought were absolutely perfect in every way.
You’re probably thinking “What’s wrong with that?”
Well, the problem with that was I then tried to replicate the photos I admired so much. Especially from some of my favourite photographers like Sebastian Tragner (@traegi) and too much of my surprise, I couldn’t capture the same image.
Every time I took a photo that didn’t live up to the expectation of what I saw, I had my excuses lined up and ready to go, but one would always shine through brighter.
The photos I was trying to recreate were perfect and that I just wasn’t skilled enough yet to create a perfect photo just like that.
The truth is that no photo is perfect and no photographer is perfect.
The label of “perfection” I put on the photos I was using as inspiration was an illusion that suffocated my self-esteem, my confidence in my abilities, which made me question my “why” even though I was just starting and learning.
My endless pursuit of perfection left me more and more frustrated because my inspiration set such high expectations that I couldn’t meet.
What I wish I knew at the time is that my photographs would get creatively and technically better with time and patience and that no matter how much I watched YouTube videos or scroll through Instagram, I would never capture the perfect photograph.
What I wish I knew at the time was Instead of pursuing perfection, I should’ve been focusing my time and energy on holding the camera, taking photos so I could improve upon the new skills and knowledge I acquired.
The perfect photo doesn’t exist, therefore, pursuing the perfect photo will only leave you stumbling along your journey.
Just go shoot!
RAW Gives You MORE
When I first turned on my camera, I would just go out and shoot, then put those images into a post on Adobe Lightroom where I would get creative and edit my photographs to my mind’s eye.
Fairly basic process for every photographer.
In my photography adolescence, I had no idea what RAW was, what it did, what I could use it for, or how it was any different or better than the JPEG format I was shooting on.
Was all the same to me.
It wasn’t until I met my very good friend and exceptional photographer Jade Clift (@jade_clift_photo) who guided me, who taught the fundamentals of photography, including the difference between RAW format and JPEG format, and the difference it can make to your final image.
The importance of having friends that help you grow.
If I had I knew about shooting in RAW back when I first started I would switched over from JPEG straight away so I could maximise my photographs potential in post.
So what’s the difference between RAW and JPEG?
Briefly, a RAW format is lossless, which means it retains all the details and information that your camera’s sensor collects.
On the flipside, JPEG is a lossy format, so the chucks out some of the information it collects so that it can compress the file to make it smaller.
This all means that RAW files give you much more freedom and flexibility to edit within post because of all that information that is retained in the image file.
I’ll explain all of the benefits of shooting in RAW in a future blog
If you’re a freelance photographer who shoots in JPEG, words of wisdom from someone who has lost a lot of photograph potential to the evil that is now known as the JPEG monster – shooting in RAW will be one of the best decisions you ever make!
The Nifty Fifty
I would scroll through the feeds of some of my favourite Instagram accounts and Pinterest boards and always wonder how the creative achieved that beautiful “blurred” background which made the subject in the foreground just pop out!
My kit lens just didn’t have that capability no matter how hard I tried or the camera setting I changed.
I went to my local camera shop with a gallery of images that I wanted to achieve the same effect as saved on my phone.
I spoke to the gentleman who served me, I showed him my gallery and asked how on Earth do these artists get such amazing depth of field in their images
To keep this short and which I’ll go more in-depth within another blog, he explained to me, without a flinch about the different lenses that have a low F-stop which gives them the capabilities of capturing photographs with poppy depth of field.
Straight after, he presented me with the one and only Nifty Fifty.
If your current camera is an interchangeable lens type, I can’t recommend a better “second” lens to use than the 50mm.
With the Nifty Fiftys fast aperture, being f/1.8, it will help you to see more clearly in low light situations and also give you complete control of depth of field in a way that the kit lens never can.
For myself and the style of photographs I take, specifically portraits, the greatest creative control is the ability to control depth of field.
If you aren’t familiar with depth of field, it refers to how much of the photograph is in focus.
Wide aperture lenses like the 50mm f/1.8 allow us to isolate down to a focal point within a frame.
Switch to Manual Control
I’m sure, just like with most photographers starting out in this craft, I used the auto function on my camera.
To be honest I didn’t know what the other symbols on the control dial meant.
I did try them all out though, but when I switched it to “M” my images were way overexposed or underexposed, I would freak out in fear of breaking my camera and switch back to trusty auto mode for safety.
After a year or thereabouts, it was my beautiful friend and amazing photographer Jade Clift who saw I was only shooting in auto, smacked some sense into me and spent time teaching me the fundamentals of shooting in manual like Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO, the extra control I would have when using my camera and the higher quality results I would achieve.
If it’s another thing I wish I someone told me earlier, it would be to learn to shoot in manual straight away.
The sooner you begin to control your own exposure, aperture and ISO settings and step outside the safety of automatic control, the sooner you’ll transform from a camera button pusher to a creative artist.
It isn’t an easy process, it takes a lot of time, patience and practice.
You will be heavily frustrated, but just relax, you will want to give up, but don’t quit and you will probably want to destroy your camera, but don’t… Because, well, then you have to spend more money on another camera.
Once you understand and are able to control your manual settings, you can adapt it and create your own personal style of photography and produce images that are so unique to the eye, not easily replicable and branded to just you, so when anyone see’s that style of image, they know exactly who took it.
In The End
As I look back on the 3 years that I’ve been a freelance photographer here in Perth, from when I first picked up a camera to right now, I have experienced a lot, I have learned so much to get me to the level I am at right now.
I can’t help but wonder and wish a little that I learned what I just shared sooner in my journey because I could be even more advanced and skilled as a photographer.
I could be in completely different space, I could be in a different part of the world, surrounded by different people, photographing different moments.
But the journey isn’t about wondering what could have been, it’s about what is.
You can wish and pray that you are somewhere else, more skilled, more technical, better than ever.
But you are exactly where you’re meant to be, heading to where you want to go.
Want to read more? Read more of my photography blogs here.