It seems to me that a lot of amateur photographers quickly lose interest in photography. This is either because they struggle to get started, or they’re easily frustrated. This is especially true for those who make the leap to DSLRs. It’s much harder than it seems to capture what you see.
Digital SLRs are very popular these days, but most people seem to be unaware of the effort it takes to master photography, and as this PostSecret reminded me today, it’s not always that much fun.
If you’re wondering how far away you are from becoming a professional photographer yourself, I’ve put together a little guide of the five different levels that you pass on the way.
Read though, see those you recognise, and those you don’t. Leave a comment below, letting us know where you’re at.
Level 1 – The Blind Amateur
- You’re very new to photography, unsure of how any of it works, and you’re not very good.
- You spend the majority of your time shooting on Full-Auto mode, and perhaps some of the presets, such as ‘portrait’.
- Maybe you bought your camera a few years ago, but don’t remember really using it in the past year or so.
- Photography isn’t what you thought it would be, and you’re not in any real hurry to learn more.
- You would be happy if you could just capture what you see.
Level 2 – The Confused Amateur
- You know to not use full auto mode, but your knowledge of the other dials is pretty minimal.
- Maybe tried learning aperture once, but you can’t remember whether a higher number gives you more or less light, and what a shallower or deeper DoF is.
- You stopped using pop-up flash, claiming you don’t like flash photography (because pop-up flash sucks) not realising there was much more you could do with the right gear.
- You want to learn, but again, you’re lost at where to start.
- Buying the wrong gear, such as an 18-270mm, when you should have bought a 35mm f/1.8.
- Using free editing software which will come back to bite you.
Level 3 – The Promising Amateur
- You have a full understanding of how exposure works, after finding some direction.
- You go out for the simple purpose of taking photos, and nothing else. Perhaps with some friends.
- You’ve taken some great photos recently, and you look back at your photos from a year ago, and wonder why you liked them so much.
- You start to carry your camera with you more, seeing more opportunities to take a photo.
- You’re finally investing in the right gear, and this includes quality post processing software.
Level 4 – The Wise Amateur
- You finally know everything you need to know about your camera, such as metering modes and white balance, leading you to take better photos.
- Starting to build a good portfolio or strong images.
- Realise the importance of an external camera flash, and you start using one more often, learning how it works.
- You’ve found the niche that you have the most fun with, and you’ve started to excel in it, leaving other less interesting niches behind.
- People start to ask you to bring your camera. Whether it’s to a party, or a gathering, you’re known for taking good photos.
- You’ve had a taste of quality photography gear, and you want more of it.
Level 5 – The Obsessive Amateur
- You’ve moved on to more advanced techniques, which challenge you further, and increase your skills.
- Perhaps you’ve invested in a way to take your flash off-camera, which is difficult to learn, but will improve your photos.
- You’ve started to teach your friends too, friends who are only at level 2.
- You excel even further in your niche. If you’re into fashion, you start working with makeup artists and models, if you’re into landscapes, you start traveling more to find them, etc.
- You’ve been noticed, and offered your first photography job.
- You start to seriously consider photography as at least another way to earn a living.
- Your camera has become like an extra limb to you.
There’s a progress every amateur photographer goes through before reaching the pro level, and although it’s by no means an exact science, I think you can probably see that there’s some steps that can’t be missed.
If you read though this, and you find that you’re still only on level 2, but you’ve already got a fan page set up, and you’re charging $50 for headshot sessions, then it might be time to rethink your business model.
An amateur photographer pretending to be a professional photographer hurts the client, the photographer, and the industry.