9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers

Photography is an amazing way to express yourself and see the world around you. It’s therefore not surprising that photography is a favorite pass time for young people. Recently I was asked to give my tips for aspiring young photographers (and those of any age!).

It’s such a great subject that sharing it with the dPS community seemed like a great idea. Even if you’re an old hand at photography, it’s always worth remembering the path you took to becoming a great photographer. We were all young and aspiring once!

Let’s look at some tips that will help you succeed whether you’re new to photography or not.

couple's portrait with flash - 9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers

Learning to use off-camera flash is a key lesson for aspiring young photographers who want to take portraits.

1 – Be patient

In today’s world, we all want everything at once. To quote the lyrics from a song “How soon is now?”

As with anything that’s new to you, you’ll need to show patience. Learning a new vocation is a marathon, not a sprint. While it’s true some people will have a natural eye for photography, they also won’t succeed without patience and application.

You also need to figure out what success means to you. There are many who will see that as a large following through social media. While it’s a measure of success to have a large following, it’s certainly not the only measure. In fact, the approval of a huge number of likes through social media can stunt your development, as it may well blind you to some of the mistakes you make when taking photos.

So take your time, accept the fact that you’ll make some mistakes along the way, and allow your photography to grow organically.

musicians in a reflection - 9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers

Photographing with friends is a great way to gain experience. This is of a local music band.

2 – Look for places to get feedback

Feedback is an important part of your development. You can’t always see your blind spots, that’s why seeking out advice from others is a good idea. The type of feedback aspiring young photographers look for is important, it can have a big impact on your growth.

  • Thick skin – You’ll need thick skin, or the ability to accept constructive feedback. Then you need to be able to apply it to your future work which will allow you to grow.
  • Seek feedback – The choice of the word feedback over critique is important here. Critique is a negative word, where feedback is neutral. In addition to being given advice on areas a photo needs improving, the feedback giver should also be telling you the things you have done right. All too often people see the word critique and will then only look for the faults in a photo.
  • Stay true – As a photographer, you will develop your own style, so you need to remain true to this style. Feedback should be fixing technical faults, not seeking to change a photographers style. Photography, after all, a creative pursuit, and the wrong feedback has the potential to stunt the growth of aspiring young photographers.
9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers

It’s always a good idea to get feedback on your work but choose your sources carefully. 

3 – Choose a niche to master

Photography is a broad area, and there are so many different types or genres of photography. The old saying about being a “jack of all trades, and master of none” rings true here.

Every photographer will eventually gravitate to a particular type of photography. Of course, it’s great to try out new genres from time to time, and in the early day’s it’s worth trying out different techniques to see which is the one for you. But sooner or later though you’ll need to decide whether you’re a portrait, landscape or food photographer.

Each of those photography types has many skills you’ll need to master before your photos really stand out from the crowd. There again you may wish to be a travel photographer, in which case, you’ll need to be good at just about everything.

9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers - crystal ball photo

Crystal ball photography is one niche, will you choose this or something different?

4 – Identify a mentor

Every field of photography will have its masters. In most cases, there will be more than one person you can approach as a mentor. Once you have decided on the genre of photography you wish to become good at, find someone who is already good at that, and approach them to be your mentor.

In today’s digital world it’s much easier to do this online. Remember the photographer you approach will be a busy working professional, and you may need to pay a fee for their time. Of course, if you pay a fee you will expect results, so set some clear parameters and goals for your sessions with them.

9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers - pixelstick lighting effect

Your mentor will teach you the ways of The Force. Well okay, the ways of the camera.

5 – Join a photography group

One of the best things aspiring young photographers can do is join a photography group. This can either be online or in person. The majority of photography groups or clubs have a mixture of levels and abilities, and it may well be you’ll find your mentor by joining such a group.

There are so many benefits to hanging out with other photographers. The ability to bounce ideas off others, gain feedback on your work, and grow as a photographer within the group are all positives to joining a group.

9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers - group of photographers and a red building

Joining a group is a great way to learn about photography and make new friends.

6 – Learn your craft in your locality

Now hopefully you’ve joined a photography group, and you know which style of photography you want to pursue. It’s time to really put the time into learning everything there is to know about it.

Now, of course, you might happen to live in an amazing location like New York, or you have easy access to Angkor Wat because you live in Siem Reap. Those living in less glamorous places nevertheless need to learn the techniques and tricks needed to make the best photos they can, and in turn, put the glamour in their local area. Everywhere has its point of interest, and training your photographer’s eye to see that will help you become a better photographer.

  • Landscape photographers – A great technique to learn is digital blending. You can learn how to do this in your local area, and then when you visit one of the world’s iconic landmarks you’ll be ready to make the best photos you can.
  • Portrait photographers – Learning how to use off-camera flash will really lift your game, you can do this with friends and family as your models. Then when the chance for that big photography gig comes along, you’ll be ready.
blue hour coastal photo - 9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers

Practicing your photography skills close to home is a good idea.

7 – Visit locations that will help your photography shine

Having built your knowledge in photography, and picked out a style, it’s now time to pick out a location where your photography will really shine. This will involve some form of investment in you traveling to a specific place that best suits your photography.

This is obviously not something you want to rush into, the key to success here is good planning. As an aspiring young photographer looking to establish yourself, getting some amazing portfolio photos is important. These are some of the steps needed:

  • Location research – Use websites like 500px as a resource to find the locations you’d like to photograph yourself. Time spent on these sites will also give you inspiration for new ideas and directions you could take your photography.
  • Equipment – You’ll need the right equipment to get the best photos, so consider carefully what you’ll purchase.
  • Logistics – Think about the logistics. How much will your trip cost? Are you going at the best time of year for the light and weather? Is where you’re staying going to give you easy access to places you want to photograph?
Petronas tower Kuala Lumpur - 9 Tips for Aspiring Young Photographers

This photo is of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur is iconic. Earlier photos were taken to practice the techniques needed for this photo, such as digital blending.

8 – Invest time learning post-processing

Photography is a two-step process. First, you’ll need to take the photo, but then you’ll need to process it on a computer or perhaps even in a darkroom. There are lots of things that can add to your photography with post-processing, below are just a few areas that you should focus on for landscape or portrait photography.

  • Landscape – Learning how to use digital blending, sharpen your image, and how to remove unwanted elements from your photo.
  • Portraits – Learn how to soften the face, but sharpen the eyes. Learn about compositing your photos, so you can blend studio portraits with other backgrounds.

9 – Set limits

A great way to push yourself, and learn more about photography is to set limits. In the days of film photography, you’d be limited to 24 or 36 photos per roll of film, though you could, of course, carry additional rolls with you.

The point is you were limited to a finite number of photos, so you’d have to consider your shot selection carefully. This is an example of a limit or parameter that can make you grow as a photographer. The following are a few others which you could try:

  • Focal length – Take photos from only one focal length.
  • Aperture – Choose only one aperture for the whole day.
  • One color – Take photos of only one color for the whole day.

What tips do you have for aspiring young photographers?

Are you an aspiring young photographer? Which of these tips will you follow, and have you learned anything new that you can take into your photography?

Have you ever mentored someone else who was new to photography? What was your experience with that? As always we love to hear from the dPS community, so please leave your replies in the comments section below.

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