I think this is a question that everyone who starts any new endeavor asks themselves at some point: Am I going to be good at it?
Even with the consciousness of the effort that is involved in becoming successful at something, it’s still a dilemma faced by most beginners. Of course, there isn't a straight answer for it, and you can’t know for sure until a number of years and thousands of photos have passed.
There are, however, a few early signs that indicate a high probability of success in photography. Here they are.
One (or More) of Your Photos Goes Viral
When you take an amazing photograph, you may or may not think that it’s truly amazing. The ultimate confirmation comes when it goes viral, when someone (or thousands of someones!) sees it online and thinks it’s worth sharing. It’s a great feeling, and it’s a sign that you might just have the talent to make it. However, don’t settle for that and get lazy. Keep working at your craft, learning skills and practicing the ones you already have. Do that, and the viral-worthy photos will keep coming!
You’re Quick to Understand Post-Processing
Having a good understanding of post-processing early on will take you a long way. Many beginners ignore it or postpone learning it, simply because it can seem a bit daunting to understand all the various controls and tools that are at your disposal in programs like Photoshop and Lightroom. Other people learn it quickly, then use it to excess. If you find the balance between the two in your early days of photography, you are placing yourself on the right path to becoming a professional photographer.
Successful Photographers Compliment You
Even if you feel you’ve done a good job and your work gets seen by professional photographers, it doesn’t always attract praises from seasoned pros. But when a photo that you’ve created catches a pro’s eye, you know you’ve done a good job. It’s great to get kudos from friends and family, and a viral photo here or there is nice too, but the ultimate compliment is when a true professional finds your work to be a cut above the rest!
You Go to the Right Workshops
There are so many photography workshops nowadays that it takes quite an effort to pick out the ones that are worth going to. The tricky part is that the education you get in the early part of your photography career is crucial to your future in the business. If you go to a workshop where you learn all the wrong stuff (and there are a ton of workshops preaching the wrong things!), it will take quite a long time to become aware that you’re not doing things right. If you want to learn how to be a photographer, be a critical consumer of all things photography, and only spend your time and money on the proven winners.
You Start Collecting Trophies
Photography contests are an important part of the development of a photographer. At first, they will most likely be small ones, like monthly contests in photography magazines or online contests for amateurs. But you have to start somewhere, and if you’re truly talented and keep submitting, you’ll start winning important contests. Much like getting praise from a pro, performing well in a contest that’s judged by a panel of professionals is among the highest praise you can get. If you start collecting trophies and ribbons, you know you’re doing something right!
You Stop Photographing Everything in Sight
Being selective with what you shoot is crucial in developing your creativity and sense of aesthetics. You should photograph as much and as often as you can, but at the same time, be picky! Find what attracts you most and stick with it. Don’t go around photographing every flower, every meal, every building, and so on. Finding your niche will also help you find your voice. Find your voice, and you’ll be well on your way to being a great photographer.
You’ve Moved Past Auto Mode
The sooner you shake off auto mode, the sooner you will learn how to be a photographer. It’s just like riding a bike - you need the training wheels at first, but eventually your skills surpass those training wheels. It can be scary to venture into manual mode, but great photographers know how to make adjustments to their camera themselves!
You Spend Time Learning Lighting
A good sign that you might turn into a great photographer is an interest in light, both natural and artificial. Studying how light works will help you understand what works best for each subject, and it will also give you better comprehension of how your gear handles light. Also, having the ability to create your own light, exactly the way you want it, will set you miles apart from a lot of other newcomers.
Learn how to master the use of natural lighting in your photos in this in-depth tutorial by Bob Holmes from the Advancing Your Photography YouTube Channel:
You’re Not Afraid to Experiment
There are a lot of rules and guidelines in photography, most of which have real value for photographers of all skills levels. As you start out, rules of thumb like the Rule of Thirds are critical in helping you learn better ways to compose photos. But if you’re going to be a successful photographer, you’ve got to learn when to set the rules aside and march to the beat of your own drum. Experiment with different types of photography, different subject matter, ways of lighting the scene, and composing your images. The more you play around, the more likely you are to find the elements that really speak to you, which, in turn, will help you create more compelling images that captivate viewers.
In the end, becoming a great photographer doesn’t involve any deep secrets. Rather, it’s just about taking the time to learn the fundamentals, practice your craft, and discover what your voice is as a photographer. Once you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to counting yourself among the greats!