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10 Tips I Wish I Knew 10 Years Ago as a Photographer

It has recently come to my attention that exactly 10 years ago, almost to the date, I took my very first step into the world of photography. I was fresh out of high school when I got conscripted to the army and later served as a military photographer. Whether it was to my liking or not, this is how I was set on this long path which has, since then, flourished and developed my passion for photography into my current career as a traveling, cultural and documentary photographer.

This path has led me further than I ever expected as I learned a great deal about myself not only as a person but also as a photographer. Probably the most important thing I picked up early on was the desire to share the knowledge of the cultures I visited, the stories I heard and the photographic experiences I gathered. Therefore, I find it only fitting to commemorate this 10 year anniversary by sharing with you my list of top 10 pieces of advice I wish I knew 10 years ago when I first started.

#1. Build a website with a purpose

Whether you are an aspiring or a full-time photographer, it is most likely that at a certain point in time you will be interested in building your own website, a professional platform from which you could share your work as a photographer. Before you purchase a template or hire a designer to build you a website, stop. First, you should sit down and spend the time to define exactly what you are trying to accomplish through having your own platform.

If your sole aim is to have an online portfolio, the existing social media platforms already do a pretty good job at it (and for free!). So, if you do decide to invest the time and/or money on building your own website, try to make sure you get more out of it than just another form of an online photo gallery.

#2. Buy one good camera and forget about gear (for at least a few years)

While I don’t wish to recommend a specific camera, here is how I would recommend you to go about it; Don’t buy a camera that suits your current skill set as a photographer. Instead, invest in a camera that will suit the skill sets you are hoping to inquire in a few years time… Let me explain.

While it might be too advanced, buying this kind of camera will allow you to primarily focus on growing as a photographer. Not wasting time revisiting the camera market every year, looking for a slightly better camera to match your new skills as a photographer. Speaking out of my own work, although I did recently upgrade to a new camera system, my previous camera has served me for almost 8 years! I used it throughout most of my military service and during all of my photography projects leading up to my last trip to Ethiopia.

And that’s all I’ll say about cameras and gear on this list.

#3. Work on a long term project

While the status of an individual image has its respectable place in many portfolios, when you look at the media today, the images that end up receiving the most exposure and recognition tend to be the product of long term photography projects. So I highly recommend you start working on your own photography project right now

And don’t worry, no one is asking you to fly halfway across the world for it — you can start small. All you need to do is to simply choose a subject that truly interests you and using your camera, go ahead and explore it! I can guarantee that working on your own photo projects, will not only improve you significantly as a photographer but the process itself will be one of the most rewarding photographic experiences you’ve ever had.

#4. Learn from the old masters

When I first started learning about photography, I felt like there was not much to learn from photographers of the past. I thought that their ‘old school’ black and white style of photography had little relevance in today’s highly competitive market. But I could not have been more wrong!

As a good friend of mine once told me; “It’s funny how young photographers today think they reinvented the wheel while some of these ‘old masters’ did similar photographs even better almost 50 years ago!”. While there are some amazing photographers out there today, if you truly wish to get a deeper understanding of photography, I highly recommend you to invest some of your time exploring the work of these ‘old masters’ — photographers whose images shaped the world of photography into what it is today.

You can start by checking out some of my personal favorites like Gordon Parks, Sebastião Salgado, and Fan Ho — they’re pretty amazing! And, if you want more recommendations, check this video I made a while back:

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