Letter from a young photographer

David,

Thanks for sparing time for me …

What i wanted to ask you basically was that how do you get somewhere in photography ?
Cause ive been a huge fan of photography ever since i was young and have done a few experiments of my own as well …
Im 18 years old and about to finish my Advanced Levels, 12th grade in other words so i was looking for universities abroad
and have applied to some as well … I was wondering whether if theres any that would have me on the bases of my work or if
theres any other way i could get somewhere in photography and eventually have a good career in it …

Ive taken all sorts of photographs by the way. My cousin owns a boutique so i took some fashion photographs for her,
i was the photographer at my cousin’s wedding as well, ive done landscape but what ive done mostly is art related or something,
because im not like professionally in it, (which i want to be by the way), so most of the photographs ive taken are of ordinary things
around my house photographed creatively …

Also i never had an SLR of my own so most of the photograph’s are from a cell phone camera. At other times i would borrow an automatic
or a DSLR from a friend…

If you have time you can check out what ive done at my facebook page … (redacted)

Daniel

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your email. I see you are in Pakistan. I’ve spent some time there, only a couple of weeks, but it was a very interesting place.

Making money at photography is a difficult thing to do. I don’t want to discourage you from your dreams, you should always pursue whatever it is that you love doing. The fact is that in the last three years the business has changed considerably. It has gone from being hard, to being very very hard. Success requires considerable luck, a vision that is relevant to the market, business sense and most of all perseverance. There is a certain Darwinian element to it, those who try the longest and the hardest survive.

I would suggest that rather than study only photography, you study at a school that would teach you film, photography, motion graphics and graphic design. I say this because by the time you are ready to enter the work force, there is a very good chance that singular photography jobs as we know them now will not exist, they will become something that is done as part of another discipline. I may be completely wrong on my forecast, but it can’t hurt to have a background in these other mediums as well as photography.

In looking for a school, look for one with the most modern most forward thinking course of study. So if the college wants you to study B+W darkroom techniques, you shouldn’t go there, because that just isn’t used anymore. If they offer classes in Final Cut, and Maya, then that is probably a better place. Look for a school that has as many working professionals on the staff as possible. You want to learn from people who are actually doing work.

Until you get into school, take lots and lots of photographs with whatever camera you can get you hands on. Phones are fine. Don’t just take photos, study them. The hard thing is learning to see, the easy part is learning to work a camera. It can take decades of concentrated study to learn how to see. It has been said that it takes about 10 years to be an ok photographer, and it takes another 10 years to get really good. Start now. See what interests you in your world. Is it seeing things as they are? Or is it seeing things as you think they should be? Are you attracted to the shapes on graphics of an image, or is it the content? When you look at a photo do you first study the light, the expression, the cloths, the environment, the angles or the movement? Keep these things in mind and then steer your work towards what interests you.

When I gave up engineering school to become a photographer I was told by everyone I knew that I would fail and starve. My friends were genuinely concerned for my future, not to mention my mental health. However, my bit of insanity has turned out surprisingly well. Photography has provided me with a wonderfully fullfilling life and I would not trade it for anything. I have no idea if I repeated the same track today if it would work out as well, so I can’t really advise you, other than to say, you only live once, and to try and to fail is better than living with the regret of not having tried.

I hope this is helpful

Best wishes,

David

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13 Responses to Letter from a young photographer

  1. snigdha March 29, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Hi David, loved reading your response. Very well said.

  2. snigdha March 29, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Hi David loved reading your response. Very well written.

    Regards

    Snigdha

    • David March 29, 2011 at 10:56 am #

      Snigdha,
      Thanks so much!
      Best wishes,
      David

  3. Astrid April 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    Hi David,

    I think I could just kiss you right now! You have managed to put into words something my teachers at university could not, they would say “shoot what interests you” and I always found that hard to understand, then you wrote:

    “See what interests you in your world. Is it seeing things as they are? Or is it seeing things as you think they should be? Are you attracted to the shapes on graphics of an image, or is it the content? When you look at a photo do you first study the light, the expression, the cloths, the environment, the angles or the movement? Keep these things in mind and then steer your work towards what interests you. ”

    …and it makes sense!! It has taken 2 years for me to find something that relates photography to personal interest and understand it.

    Thank you thank you thank you! :)

    • David April 4, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

      Hi Astrid,

      You Rock! You totally made my day. I am so very happy the blog was of use to you.

      Yes, I so understand about going to school and the teachers not knowing how to frame the question. The same thing happened to me.

      The thing is, we are only really good at what we love doing. As strange as it may sound, finding out what you love doing can be difficult. Sometimes all we need is for someone to ask us the right questions to things we already know the answers to.

      All my best,

      David

      • mark-andré pierre sass April 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

        hey david!

        i just wanted to thank you for your great answer! you nailed it!

        i am an autodidactic photographer and extremly passionate about photography. it gives me so much: i enjoy the process of taking pictures and i love to make people happy by showing/giving them their bests shots. to me it’s pure jollity and great compliment seeing peoples reactions, especially because most people hate it being photographed.

        at the time i was getting deeper into photography, i fell in love with fashion photography. i learned to do super crazy retouching on a very high level.
        but the more i read about the fashion industry, the more i realized: selling people fake is not my world. i don’ want to predict anything just for a flat wow-effect. there must be another way. and it gave me a hard time, figuring out which way i want to go. up to this time my work hasn’t had a concept or any kind of frame. and so no meaning, no voice.
        in 2011 i wanted to work more conceptual, but hadn’t specific ideas. a few weeks ago i had a spontaneous shooting with my girlfriend. i loved the results and by accident i found my voice and a concept. you could see the images by klicking on the link i attached.

        conclusion: finding your own voice could be really hard, but sometimes your voice finds you. the worst thing you could do is to give up!

        just wanted to share this, life is great!

        mark

        p.s.: i love your work!

        • David April 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

          Hey Mark,
          Thanks so much for writing in and sharing this. I love “finding your own voice could be really hard, but sometimes your voice finds you. the worst thing you could do is to give up”
          So true.

          Best wishes,

          David

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