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Starting Out

4 Jul 2007 2:22PM
Hi all,

I don't get much chance to visit the forums but I would be very grateful for some advice from you kind people. I would be very interested in starting out in professional photography in the future (sooner rather than later) and I would be grateful for some advice on the best way to get started. I have read some other topics on here about getting started in portraiture photography and there were some very useful tips there.

I am not 100% certain on what kind of photography I want to concentrate on however; it is more likely to be portraiture and weddings I think. At present I don't have a DSLR and desperately want to purchase one when finances allow. I am considering a Canon 350D, 450D, 20D or 30D really. Is a 350D a suitable camera for professional work? What camera would be considered as a minimum requirement for professional photography?

I met a pro photographer at a friends wedding a few weeks ago but unfortunately only got to speak to him for a few minutes before he left. I am going to a christening on Sunday and this photographer will be there as well. Do you think it would be inappropriate if I asked him whether I could go along to some shoots with him to get some experience and get some advice from him? I understand it is tricky as he may see me as a future competitor.

I have has a portfolio printed with some of my favourite photos that I can use to show people when needed and I also plan to put together a web site as well.

So really what I would like to know is:

1. First steps to take?
2. Do I need a DSLR straight away and if so which one?
3. Is it worth taking a course or doing some sort of qualification? Do customers look for these qualities?
4. Would it be bad form to ask the pro photographer whether I could go along to some shoots with him?

Sorry for the long post, I really hope you can help and am grateful for any advice you can offer.

Many thanks,

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User_Removed 11 1.5k 1
4 Jul 2007 3:05PM
I really like the picture in your gallery that you have on canvass. I would not recommend a 350d for professional work, it is a very good camera and has many of the features that are on a pro model however it is not built for heavy pro use. I have put pro lenses on my 350d that are heavyer than the body itself so although the camera is capable of producing good images it is not a viable option. I would recommend a 5d and L series lenses to optimise image quality. I have the canon 24-70mm f2.8 70-200 f4 and a 85mm prime lens and all are optically superb. Also you will need a background support, background and a set of studio lights and a lightmeter to obtain correct exposure. A good start in terms of camera and lenses for portraiture would be a second hand 20d 400 50mm prime for full lengh shots 50 and second hand 85mm prime about 175 for head shots. Buying second hand means that you can sell these lenses at the same price as you got them for if your business does not take of. With regards to wedding photography a 5d is the minimum requirement. At weddings you will get guests with 350d cameras and they would wonder what you were doing with one as a pro. I would not approach a pro and ask to shadow them they will problably say no. You should purchase studio lighting and take photos of family and freinds for free to gain experience on how light falls on subject. that way you will know what works and what doesnt. Only attemt to make an income when you are positive that you can produce professional images without any mishaps. In business reputation is everything and with a little practice you will become good. the Baby portraits in my portfolio were my first attemt with studio lighting on my freinds baby and they were delighted. I to hope to make an income from portraiture so keep in touch and let me know how you are getting on. good luck. james
4 Jul 2007 3:19PM

Many thanks for the advice, it is much appreciated. I had a feeling that the 350D may not be the best option and have been looking on ebay to get an idea of price for the 20D's. I'm getting a difference of opinion around whether to ask the pro photographer if I can shadow him. Some colleagues I have spoken to have said to ask because 'if you don't ask, you don't get' but I have the same concerns as you have stated.

Thanks again and best of luck with your photography too - I like your portrait shots in your portfolio.

Edjones 12 37
4 Jul 2007 4:35PM
I don't know why 'realestate' said not to ask to shadow another photographer. Its probably the most constructive and proactive thing that you could do, as it will give you an invaluble insight into this proffession before you spend all your money on it, and it will equip you with a little knowledge required to make the hard decisions you might face a little easier. If wedding snappers are too precious to let you shadow them, then look for local news/press agencies or newspapers that, if approached politely, will on most occasions be certain to give you some work experience. Good luck,


...Oh, and don't worry about splashing out on a big lens to wow all your potential clients; if you have an eye for pictures, then your portfolio will do much more than an intimidatingly expensive camera will. Start low, aim high.
4 Jul 2007 4:45PM
Thank you Ed.

I appreciate your views and it has given me something to think about. I had not thought about approaching local newspapers so many thanks for that.

elowes 14 2.8k United Kingdom
4 Jul 2007 5:13PM
People do like to see big cameras these days. Almost an obsession. Any camera with a decent lens can do the job but some can do it bigger and better and impress the punter. What you will need eventually is L quality lenses or the Nikon equivalent if you want to produce good prints over a4 in size.

Anything below a dslr or film slr will not do and you should not need to ask. Of course film is still about and film cameras are a lot cheaper, can be had very cheap second hand and second hand lenses that are not up to digital can produce excellent quality on film for a lot less money.

If you seriously want to do quality portraits and weddings get the best lens camera combinations you can afford. You will need a portrait lens and a wide lens.

A good combination is the 5D with 24-70F2.8 plus an 85mm lens for portraits or the 24-105 F4. With the latter it is a compromise as you lose a stop. Cost either way new will be 2000 or more. The 350D 400D, 20D or 30D will be OK (there are still a lot of 'pros' out there shooting on 6mp cameras) but you will need a different choice in lenses to get a decent wide angle. They might not last the course (or impress those easily impressed by size) but that depends on use.

Then you will need a lighting kit, a good portable flash, reflectors, tripod ect. Upwards of another 1,000.

It was once a prerequisite to work with a pro as bag carrier etc to learn the trade. Not so easy and you would need to prove yourself before anyone would consider taking you on.

Take a long look at what you do now and assess how good it is, think about what you want to do and don't give up the day job. When it comes to weddings are you sure that you have the confidence and people skills? These are vital for getting the best out of people.

Last comment is that the quality of the image is more about the photographer but having said that some cameras are not up to the tasks you have in mind unless you are going to be 'alternative'. As Ed says, get a portfolio together and see how much you can impress with what you have.
ian walker 13 716 United Kingdom
4 Jul 2007 7:53PM
stuwhitt 13 1.4k United Kingdom
4 Jul 2007 8:55PM

Quote:I am not 100% certain on what kind of photography I want to concentrate on however

I am sorry but before you even consider starting out on the road to turning professional you need to decide on what discipline you want to follow, then work out a business plan, in the meantime it will be very helpful if you could find a professional to act as a mentor, the SWPP may be able to help on that front. As regarding equipment don't be tempted to borrow a large sums to buy the latest and greatest pro gear, the last thing a young business needs is to be saddled with large debts.
Another way would be subscribe to FPME and start submitting to mags, picture libraries ect in your spare time using the gear you have now and build up slowly


Stu Smile
ZenTog 16 7.9k 1 England
4 Jul 2007 9:05PM
try sampling some of the work you want to get into, some of it may not be to your taste when actually doing the real job.

Newspaper work at the local level is not paid enough to support buying good equipment, average pay 12 to 15 per picture published, some dont even pay at all. once you break through that level to being paid by the paper to do jobs its a bit better, but gets a lot better for national papers and magazines, but that takes a lot of getting into

Portrait and wedding photogrpaht can pay but is a lot more stressfull, event photography is another avenue to get into, an if you messup you get more chances to take pictures of people unlike weddings .

being a professional photographer isnt an automatic money earner, like other business`s it takes time to build up a client base , and longer to make a real living wage to pay mortgages and support a famliy , probally when you look at what you are getting paid per hour on a monthly basis it would be a frightningly small amount !
5 Jul 2007 10:17AM
Thank you very much to everybody for their advice and guidence. You have all given me a lot to think about and I certainly have a better idea about what to do now. The only other thing I would still like some advice on is whether it is worth enrolling on a college course of some sort? A lot in my area seem to be based around film photography and developing your own pictures etc. which I don't think would be that beneficial to me, although I guesss it would give me a good understanding of the fundamentals. Are some of these self study digital photography courses any good? Are there any in particular that you would recommend? Do stand a better chance of getting work if you are qualified. I have a full time job (which is well paid but I don't particularly enjoy) and a family so my spare time is not unlimited.

Thanks again.
ZenTog 16 7.9k 1 England
5 Jul 2007 11:43AM
college is very good for getting the business skills, for networking and for understanding colour , light and contrast etc, most colleges are getting heavily in digital processing and printing.
it would cost you wages to go to college, it doesnt mean you will get jobs with a college degree, a great portfolio will mean a vast difference though, again it will cost a bit to gain a great portfolio worthy of job offers.
and to be truthful theres not that many jobs out there, and they are being chased by a larger group of qualified togs who are turned out of college \ uni all hungry for jobs etctry going pro part time ie weekends etc, if you can cut it , then consider going full tiem. if you cant handle part time with family commitements then it wil lbe the same full time, in self employment you never clock off, you can be working 20hrs day plus at time 7 days a week, as at the start you will be working very hard to bring business in
5 Jul 2007 12:41PM
Thank you Paul, that is useful information.

Edjones 12 37
5 Jul 2007 12:51PM
Paulsfrost has a good point. Of course there are benefits to be had from going to college, though a guaranteed job is not one of them. In the end, employers/potential clients want to see a portfolio that proves you can take nice pics, not a peice of paper that only says you can. I think that whatever happens you should try and keep it simple, as it must appear that there are an enormous amount of things to bear in mind. With regards to equipment, get things as you need them, not because someone else says you do. Natural light from a conveniently positioned window/doorway and a home-made reflector will provide you ample opportunity for great pictures - a set of new studio lights and softboxes will just confuse you; until you understand why you need them. No doubt the quality of your current camera is more than enough for the low-res pages of a newspaper - until you understand why you need a faster shutter and interchangeable lenses. This method applies to college courses. If you find it difficult to get your head round the techniques and processe that you want to master, then go to college. But if you are naturally curious/creative etc. then try just getting out there taking pictures and you will naturally aquire the relevant knowledge as and when you need it. And trust me, it will lodge itself in your grey matter much more firmly than if anyone else tries to feed it to you. If your pictures and experience are sufficiently appropriate for the job, then any piece of paper with a qualification on it will just go unnoticed.

TimJ 14 482 2 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2007 1:06PM
I agree with Stu's point about not forking out for all the latest kit otherwise your first few jobs, which may be few and far between when you are just starting out, will all be paying for the kit and not making you any money.

An option that people rarely consider is hiring your kit, which is often much more economical when you're starting out and you can have all the latest kit! Obviously you need to know how to use it so the day of a wedding should not be the first time you've used the equipment Wink

All the best with your venture.

5 Jul 2007 2:53PM
Ed and Tim,

Thanks. So really I need to build up my portfolio as a priority and maybe some courses as a confidence booster I guess. I think I at least need to invest in a DSLR to start getting better results as I do currently find my Fuji Finepix S5000 very limiting.

Are there any good resources on lighting? I shall have a look through these forums for info but are there any other places, websites or books?

Thanks again, I really do appreciate your help.


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