I write a lot of articles about writing, but that’s only one side of the coin for many online journalism and blogging jobs. Many places now want you to be able to be a decent photographer, too. My means of acquiring this particular skill set originally consisted exclusively of buying a digital SLR and hoping things would take care of themselves. That’s not, as I’ve discovered, how it works.
Practice is the real key, but it can be hard to find inspiration to put in that practice. Here are some ways that I eventually came across which helped me develop my skill, and weren’t nearly as expensive as just trading up to a newer model camera in the hope that it would somehow improve my abilities.
This is a classic technique, and one employed by photography schools around the country. The idea is simple; take one photo a day for an entire year, hence the “365” moniker. You can have more (or less) structure in addition to that, but if you’re just starting out, it might be best to just go ahead and keep things loose. That way any picture you take will count, and that will come in handy on days when you’re less than motivated to go out and find the perfect shot.
Homework isn’t just for students, and you don’t need a traditional teacher to receive assignments. There are a number of places on the web to pick up tasks and prompts that can start a fire under your photography habit.
One of my favorites might already be familiar to many hobbyists. It’s Darren Rowse’s Digital Photography School. Not only does the site provide great tips and tutorials for people at all skill levels of digital photography, written by a wide variety of industry professionals, but it also features an ongoing weekly assignment section that you can use to help create some truly inspired work. Even just browsing the contributions of other users can provide great ideas.
Similar to assignments, but not the same, are contests. They aren’t the same because there’s a competitive element involved, and the point is to share your work, whereas with an assignment you could just keep your results to yourself if you prefer.
There are no shortage of photography contests going on online, so it’s hard to narrow the field down to just a few. Photo Friday is a great one, though, because it occurs weekly and results are posted both online at the web site and now to a special Twitter account, too. The stakes aren’t that high, but it’s a great way for beginners to get exposure and there’s no shortage of chances to win.
One thing to watch out for is sites that aren’t exactly honest about their processes in these competitions. The thing is that stock photography is lucrative, and there’s no easier way to amass that than to hold a “contest” in which all photos submitted automatically become property of the site, which means they can collect royalties instead of the photographer.
Become a Double Threat
Being a good writer is a really useful skill to have if you’re going to pursue work online, especially if you’re looking to get into blogging or copywriting. It’s good, but if you can pair that with photographic skill, it becomes great. The years of the one-trick pony in online work are behind us, as more people flock to the web to make some money. The true test of whether you succeed will depend upon your ability to outperform others in multiple areas, not just one. Video is next, but that’s a horse of a different color.
What tips do you have for budding photographers?