I just want to mention that I don't really think I'm all that worthy of advice, I'm not at the top, I'm barely scraping the middle, I don't know if I'm the best person to ask for advice and there probably are better people to ask, still, as some do choose to ask me, I will try and respond.
It's hard to respond though, I maybe get several questions like this a week and I know many of my peers, better photographers out there, they might get tens of questions a week, hundreds maybe, still, I wonder if they sometimes find it hard not only to find the time, but also to know how to respond.
I remember how it felt, when I was first starting out and I didn't know how the hell to go about it, I think I was tempted to message photographers too. I was happy taking photos, but yeah, I wanted to be good at it and I wanted people to want to be photographed by me, I wanted people to love my photos and I wanted to earn money from it and live off it! Thrive even! The thing is, it's hard from here, 6 or so years down the line, to pinpoint the steps I took to get where I am! I mean, I'm still wondering on the steps to get further still! So yeah, tips, tips on how, it's hard...
So I get asked a fair amount of questions...I can say that when people ask my what gear I use, I don't think this is the most useful information to get to know how to get further in the photography world...all the advice you need is in google, and the camera doesn't make a photographer AT ALL, their mind does, their knowledge, their imagination. For those that did ask, I use a Canon 5D mkiii, I also tend to shoot with my Sigma 35mm 1.4 and Canon 85mm 1.8...you see, pretty uninspiring answer aye!
People also ask my how I edit certain photos. The thing is, that is not a quick answer question...in fact, unless you're in the room with me and I can run you through it step by step, it's an almost impossible question to answer. Same as 'how do you achieve those colours', truth, I dunno, about 70 different little things, little adjustments that change with every image, I couldn't possibly say! Not cause I'm a dick, but because I literally can't remember or can't pin point it to a few easy explainable things. Most of the time it's not complicated, it's just usually a lot of easy things that I can't list out for you, you know?
The number 1 question I get more than any other 'can you give me some tips/advice on how to become a photographer?'
Well...no tbh. I can't give you a step by step guide, there just isn't one, and looking back I'm not entirely sure how I started to get work, it just kind of...happened! Still, I will give you a list of some things to expect, some small bits of advice, not from the queen or anything, no no, just from me, seeing as some people asked...
1. Be prepared (and maybe warn your mum and dad too) to live at home longer than you might want or expected.
Earning from photography is slow and hard, you will not just suddenly be earning 30k a year when you decide you want to be a photographer, most photographers I know luck out because they can live rent free (or on family rates) at home, which luckily leaves more time and less stress to shoot, shoot, shoot. Shoot for free, shoot for small amounts, slowly you'll earn more and this will most likely happen because you had the freedom to do it. If you're lucky and your parents will have you then stay there, at least until you can definitely support yourself off photography.
2. Get a part time job.
If, again, you're lucky enough then don't get a full time job. If photography is really what you want to do and you want to commit to it when make sure you have time for it, that means not working full time. BUT you have to survive, and most likely you won't be able to for a long while off photography alone, so get a part time job for 3 or 4 days a week, or half days, whatever you can survive on. This means you're not crapping yourself over money, you have enough to pay your car insurance and save up to buy a lens, buy shoot dresses and, you know, eat and everything, it also means you have the rest of the time to shoot, whether that's free or paid, you need that time. Again, slowly you'll be able to reduce your hours so that one day it's earning it all from photography...but for a while, expect to have a part time job.
3. Think in and outside the box.
So when I started I followed a butt load of photographers, every single one I would look at their images and wish I could shoot like that, so, you know, I tried! It helped me hugely, and I think it's ok. I don't think it's a case of seeing a photographers photo and trying to do the exact same thing, but looking at it and trying something similar, to grow and get better, to see if you can! Doing this usually ends up molding your own style which is important for getting work. At the same time as trying things you've seen, try your very own thing as well! Think outside the box! Practice makes perfect, so once you've practiced a little you'll feel more confident to try your own thing! It's just as important for your style.
Best advice I can give to a budding photographer is to start the 365 project. It's hard, really hard. It takes dedication and time and imagination and passion...however, if you stick with it at the end of those 365 days you will have learnt SO much, you will also have a huge amount of photos for your portfolio plus you also might have some friends who followed your journey along the way!
5. First shoot for free, then charge.
The whole 'getting work' thing is hard to give advice on, I think it's usually an organic thing, but if I look back, I think what I mostly did was shoot a few things for free first, then when I was confident, I would charge! This could be weddings for example, I remember shooting two friends (of friends of friends) weddings for free to see if I could do it, to be confident in it, to learn, then after that I advertised that I could do it and slowly I started getting clients! So start with free, then cheap and then, as you get more confident and better, charge more.
6. Reach out, make friends, join the community!
Because it is a community! There are blogs and forums and photography sites...hell, even Instagram! Find people near to you that are shooting too and go and take photos with them! Knowing other photographers is one of the best things you can do as a budding photographer. You can learn from them, they can learn from you, you can ask questions, you can find stuff out together, you can push each other and, mostly, you'll always be inspired! Comment on other peoples photos, get chatting and see if they want to shoot!
So there you have it, some advice, some 'tips'. I don't know if they'll help, like I said, answering these questions can be harder than you'd think, but looking back on when I first started I didn't know these things, maybe it would have helped to. I want to also say that It's lovely to get messages, I didn't mean to deter anyone from sending them, being inquisitive is so important to learn and grow, and if you do send a question I will try and answer and I really will try and help.
Know above all though that the journey with photography is your own. There are no magic tricks to make it all happen in a instant, and you wouldn't want that anyway, because it's all about the journey! If you stick with it, you'll get there, and when you do you might look back and not even know exactly how :)