Without a doubt, digital photography has brought about one of the biggest changes in photographic history. As a result, the role of the photographer is in a state of change. The line between pro and amateur has been blurred. You can no longer own a “pro” camera and rely on that to make you a pro. Most of your clients will have the same, if not better, cameras.
While the trendy looks of today – with no posing or lighting control- are currently in fashion, they cannot last. Its only a matter of time until everyone says, “Heck, I can do that myself.” The only answer is to grow as an artist and create images that require a level of skill and expertise that the average person on the street doesn’t have. A “creative eye” is no longer enough. Everyone has a creative eye – at least to them.
The obvious place to start is by joining national organizations like PPA or WPPI. But I think you have to do more than that. You can’t focus 100% of your learning effort on just being a better photographer – because cameras are making everyone better photographers already. You need to learn about composition, color harmony and story telling. These elements have been around for hundreds of years – you just need to take the time to look into them. Here are a few places to start.
1. Art Appreciation classes at a local junior college. These classes don’t generally cost more than $100 or so and will give you a great background into the history of art. Hopefully, it will inspire you to branch out into different areas of art.
2. Take a painting or printmaking class. I won’t lie to you, its going to be difficult, but it will be a wonderful learning experience. I took a few painting classes and was very frustrated by how it slowed me down – vs creating an image instantly in the camera. However, it forced me to really analyze tone, contrast, color harmony, etc. When I later started working with Corel Painter, these skills were invaluable.
3. Find an artist that you admire and spend some time with them. Many photographers offer week-long classes from time to time, where you can really get a deep understanding of their techniques and creative process. This just cannot be duplicated in a three hour program. Your goal should not be to become a clone of that photographer and do things exactly how they do it. Rather, you need to understand their process and decide which pieces work for you and your style.
By taking steps like this to grow your creativity, you will move closer to being an artist and no longer be competing with the people who are just operating a camera.
Best of luck!