SOUTH SOUND SIDEKICK: How to improve your photography skills

By Volcano Staff on January 18, 2013

South Sound Sidekick series offers advice from experts living in the, well, South Sound. It posts every Friday. Today, Red Williamson of Newspin Photo has advice on how to pursue a hobby or career in creative photography.

Red Williamson writes,

If you're interested in pursuing a hobby or career in photography, it can be a challenge knowing where to begin. With the emergence of the digital age, I have watched the career field of photography make notable changes since I started my business, Newspin Photo, 9 years ago. When I am asked for photography advice, there are several points I always come back to, and now I would like to share with them you.

The first thing you should know is: You don't need a new camera! You may have heard this before but it's worth repeating. Chase Jarvis said, "The best camera is the one that's with you." This statement rings true now more than ever, since the rapid evolution of the smart phone. As for me, I have prime lenses and a professional, full-frame, 36-megapixel camera; I also have an iPhone 5. Which device do you think has taken the most pictures of my 17-month-old son? My phone. Easily. And I'm not the only one. Kevin Russ sells prints of photos he's taken all across America with his phone. Teru Kuwayama and Balazs Gardi are two war zone photographers who have captured images from Afghanistan using only iPhones.

Hopefully you see where I'm going with this. If you want to pursue a hobby or a career as a photographer, why wait another day? You don't need to buy a fancy camera. Odds are, you already have a great camera right in your pocket. Start shooting with what you have. Even a lousy camera can take beautiful pictures if you learn how to use it.

My second tip may seem like a no-brainer as well, but it's something I constantly have to remind myself. Never stop learning! There are a number of ways to learn about photography; undoubtedly, the most valuable resource we all have access to is the Internet. There are countless articles available to you, YouTube videos, tutorials and friends on Facebook that you can message. If you ever want to find out how a technique is done - just ask. I tell my mom to talk to "Lord Google" like it's a person. For example, I recently googled, "How do I get a press pass to shoot Lady Gaga at the Tacoma Dome?" The results were very informative. Then I asked a Facebook friend how he's gotten into shows, and now I have plenty of information I didn't have before. It's that simple.

And for now, my last piece of advice is: BREAK all the rules. My only formal education is a film class I took in high school. I'm so glad I learned the rules of photography, but I'm also glad I pushed back against every rule I was taught. If you are limited to what people before you have done, or what's currently "cool." or what you think will get you the most likes (duck faces, I'm looking at you) - then you've missed the boat. You have to approach photography like any form of artful expression. Show us the world how you see it, feel it, taste it and hear it. Show us something new - something true.

This may sound silly, but often times when I'm adding an image to my portfolio (or even my Instagram) I struggle with thoughts like, "Is this cool? Will I make money off this? Will this make me famous?" Instead, I choose to quiet these thoughts and remind myself that I'm doing this for me. I have to be true to that, first. Then whether the likes come or not, or whether the prints sell or not, I can ultimately say I'm at peace with the fact that I boldly shared a piece of myself with the world.

In the end, I believe that staying true to my own art and expression was one of the biggest reasons I found success in doing what I love for a living. Don't be afraid to release your creativity and think outside the box. You never know what might happen when you do.

BONUS: Red Williamson shot the Repeal Prohibition Day Celebration at the Capitol Theater

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