I doubt about my skills.

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by benjamin_kim|1, Jun 23, 2018.

  1. Well, I graudated from BFA Photography major 2 months ago. I wanted to shoot fashion/portrait photography but Im still having problem with retouching and I doubt my fashion/portrait skill. In fact, I never learned anything about fashion/portrait buy myself. At least I spent 5 years to shoot portrait without purpose but fun.

    Today, when I checked the facebook group, I saw a young guy who is 19 years old posted portrait pics on the group and I shocked becasue he had much better retouching and portrait skill artiscally and technically. Few people that I heard didnt learn and studied from college but they shot pics for fun. Now, they are getting a lot of money for shooting portrait and fashion pics in NYC. Their pics look better than me.

    At this point, Im seriously feel gloomy and Im quite lost about what Im going to do. I wanted to shoot fashion/portrait but my skills isnt improving that amatuers are now better than me. Im highly talented for fine art photography but in order to earn money for living, I need to have another work: fashion/portrait. People told me to keep shooting pics but I highly doubt that Im doing right. It is true that I never learned fashion/portrait properly but other people who never learned photography shoot much better than me.

    What am I suppose to do? I might gonna end up as a normal photographer who shoot pics for nothing. This is not what I wanted for my life but I have no idea what to do next.
  2. Welcome to the club.
    A degree does not suddenly open doors to you, you have to work at it.
    Unfortunately a college degree does not always give you the skills you need for certain jobs. You may need to get additional training.
    And it sounds like you NEED more training and practice.

    Have you really looked at what photo jobs there are and what the competition is for them?
    - How do you break into and do fashion photography? The major fashion houses won't just call you up to do a shoot for them.
    - How do you start and get clients for portrait photography?
    - Who do you have to work for, to break into the markets, and will they even hire you?
    - People may not want to train someone who will end up competing against them.

    Photography as a business is HARD.
    Heck most professions are HARD.

    Note that fashion and portrait are 2 different things. Fashion is concerned with the clothes, portrait is concerned with the person.
    And note that there are 2 parts to this; #1 posing the subject, #2 technical photography
    For me, posing people is HARD HARD HARD. For some it is almost natural.
    If you don't have the skills, you have to take lessons. Then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

    All I can tell you is to keep working at it, pay attention (to your subject, the lighting and background), take notes, study your notes, study anything related that you see (other peoples pictures, paintings, etc.).

    Same with your photo editing. You are having trouble editing, then take lessons and practice.

    It may never be easy, but the more you study and practice, it will be easier.

    You have a lot of HARD work ahead of you.
    Gud Luk
  3. SCL


    6 years after getting my undergraduate degree from a prestigious research university followed by military service and short jobs in several industries, I finally found my niche...but it took several additional years of apprenticeship and advanced schooling to reach where I wanted to be, and feel comfortable in the challenges of my work. The point is that schooling teaches (or should teach) one the essential basics, but real life experience builds on that to create the professionalism. Yes, some gifted people seem to have the golden touch from the get go, but they are usually a small minority. Practice, study, engage with other professionals...and keep it up (as my piano professor used to tell me....before she ever played a concert, she practiced 8-10 hrs/day for months on end). Don't engage in self pity...you may never be the Michaelangelo of photography, but that doesn't mean that you can't be successful at portrait work...you just need to mentally and physically prepare yourself for the rigors to accomplish what you want. When you get to that frame of mind and establish a realistic game plan, I'm sure you'll find lots of challenging opportunities which not only pay the bills but provide a sense of accomplishment.
    Gary Naka likes this.
  4. Nobody with a (expensive) degree wants to hear this, but I believe photography is a craft. Right up there with woodworking, weaving, sculpting and glassblowing. School can teach you many things, particularly the technical, but if you're going to succeed with it as a profession, or at least as a source of income, you have to eat, sleep and breath images. You have to experiment and shoot relentlessly. You need dogged perseverance. The only one who can really teach you is you. Rest assured you're competing against many others that are trying as hard or harder than you are. The craft has not reached the point, and IMO never will, where a degree means much to anybody. People pay for results. My personal experience is that school (RIT) taught me many technical things I might not have otherwise understood as well, but the best professors in the world couldn't turn me into more than an average photographer. Now, I can fake it because I know how to light things and how to deal with difficult subjects (not talking about people), but I've seen many people with nothing more than a cell phone camera and an idea create images I can't compete with. I'm not saying this is your fate, but the only way to get where you want to go is to focus on it, set creative goals and practice until you can achieve them consistently and on demand. After all that, make sure you have at least some basic business understanding- it's hard to tell if you're winning if you can't keep score.
    Gary Naka likes this.
  5. When you are a professional, you have to produce when needed by the client or your boss.
    So as Conrad said ". . . practice until you can achieve them consistently and on demand."

    If you feel you are not good enough, then learn and practice and get better.
    If you don't know how to do something, then learn and practice, till you know it, then keep on practicing.
    IOW do something about it, don't just wallow in self-pity.
  6. I think you're concentrating on the wrong thing if you are worried about your photography, especially fashion, because someone is better at retouching
    IMO that's a technical skill that can be taught with enough time and exercise
    And if you do lack the talent, there are plentyof excellent programs for that (eg Portrait Pro), or else simply hire a specialized retoucher for it
    (back in the film shooting days photographers who could afford it had their personal 'printers' just like nowadays some photographers have their 'own' retouchers)

    To become a proficient fashion photographer, you need not only to have photographic skills, but also, and IMO more importantly affection and knowledge
    about fashion
    And that is more then just ogling at the images in fashion magazines regularly and dreaming about making similar images
    Or just like a madman shoot (literally) thousands of images in a one hour shoot
    (I remember well/with horror one of your earlier posts Portrait composition... :( )

    When originally when I made my first steps into photography I was only indirectly interested in fashion photography.
    I liked the beautiful images and pictures, but basically considered it way over my head

    But shortly after I in the early 80's started my professional photography at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, I got a girlfriend who was a aspiring model
    As more or less standard with aspiring models, especially in those pre digital days when not everyone with a camera declared himself a professional photographer and gave away his pictures for free, she didn't have the money for paid testshoots
    (test shooting was still a serious business back then, again unlike nowadays when everyone with a digital camera thinks he can shoot 'model pictures')

    So I soon found myself to be the 'Chinese vrijwillger' to take pictures for her portfolio, for free of course
    (In Dutch we have a saying "een Chinese vrijwilliger" - literal translation: Chinese volenteer - which we often use figuratively.
    When we use it in that way, we imply that we simply pick someone out of a crowd, very often against his will
    , to perform an unpopular job)
    (Being a Chinese/Indonesian/Thai/Dutch mix myself, can appreciate a little self-depreciation. So don't take it too seriously, and don't feel offended by it:))
    But to get there I didn't just focus on the photography (although that was an obvious mandatory part, although not taught even at my then school)

    I started eg to try and pick up knowledge about make up, to be able to easier/better communicate with MUAh's regarding the look of a make up they had applied and perhaps wanted adjusted
    Rather then just blur out 'I don't like that' or give nonsensical 'instructions "do a a natural make up with big lips and false eyelashes'

    Along with that I started collecting books on the history of fashion photography, to see how it started, came from and what directions it has taken over the years
    And to get to know the really important names that stood out and lasted throughout the years, rather then as nowadays too often is the case be 'impressed' with every new kid on the block who makes ' a name' on an internet site or has gathered likes on Facebook (and fades away just as fast after some time)

    Also found some books about styling, again learning that way the several 'eternal' looks that always come back in some shape or form, like 'the little black dress' , the 'gamine', or 'classic' (30's, 40's 50's) look
    So I would become better at /able to easier see/recognise what a model was wearing or tried to convey with her clothes, and communicate with a stylist about before and during a shoot
    And pick a style of photography that would best go along with it, eg a high fashion look may most likely not go well with a grungy shooting style, nor 'Heroin chic' with a main street catalog shooting approach

    And I didn't just start shooting 'fashion' despite my model girlfriend
    I started modestly, well aware of my limits and the (low) quality of the 'fashion' images I shot at that time
    But I tried getting to know (networking as that is called knowadays) other people who shot fashion, or did something in fashion, to observe and learn what they did, and how
    Admittedly being Europe based, especially in those days it was easier to go to Paris to try and meet people and hear their opinion on what I did
    Bback then the treshhold was much lower in that respect. Nowadays everybody is an expert whose 'valued' opinion can only be begged for)
    But oh yes, I did get slaughtered the first couple of times ;)

    I did finish my school succesfully eventually, and after some years, and in the meantime having spent 'apprentice' time in London and Milan, eventually made my steps into fashion photography
    But it wasn't just going to school 'learning photography' and then automatically being a succesful photographer just because/after I had graduated
    Gary Naka likes this.
  7. Great story, Paul -- and well told.

    Benjamin, we ALL suck at some point. I've been shooting pretty heavily for three years (admittedly coming to photography late in life) and pretty much still suck most of the time. But sucking doesn't mean you should stop IF YOU WANT TO KEEP GOING! Why do you want to be a photographer? I'm in it for the quest, the adventure, the journey of creating an image with someone. It's social, it's interactive, it's a jump down a rabbit hole with no guarantee of success and I absolutely ADORE the process. I'm pretty hard on myself about results but my style has evolved or broadened pretty rapidly and I'm slowly catching up to build a technical framework behind my path, underpinning my goals with reasons. But you have to really really want to do it. And here's the thing....you might not ever "be famous" doing what you love. If that's why you're doing it, you're screwed. You have to do it because you can't NOT do it. Now go do it.
    Gary Naka and Jochen like this.
  8. Well, I tried to find an internship but two photographers disappointed me since they just want me to clean their house for nothing. Im trying to learn both Photohsop and Capture One Pro from lynda.com for few days to study and improve my skills. Do you think that I should just keep shooting pics?
  9. Yes. In addition, study the work of other portrait and fashion photographers. Avedon and Penn are two masters you can study. Also look at painted portraits. Getting inspiration and artistic ideas from other mediums helps. I’ve always found practice and study to be a good combination. You can learn more than just technique from a good school or mentor. There’s a certain level of artistry one probably can’t achieve without the inborn talent, but you can get very far through study, learning, and practice.

    If you “keep shooting,” you want to make sure you’re also improving and seeing better. Some exposure to other work, some careful study of it, should open your eyes and will help see to it that your practice isn’t just a repetitive spinning of your wheels but instead a means of growth for you.
  10. Think and Work.
    It works if you are patient.

    Doubting your skill is valid.
    So improve your skill to reduce your doubt.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2018
    Gary Naka likes this.
  11. Photography and retouching are two separate fields. Yes, some photographers are good at both but don't be discouraged. If Photography is you goal then pursue that and master you skills. In fashion and commercial work the successful Photographers work with a team and it is because of that team they are successful. Do photography and work with a retoucher who is committed to only doing retouching. Remember there will always be someone better than you..That's life... But the good news is there will always be customers who will hire you. Who cares if someone is better than you...God bless them but you will still be able to make a living doing what you love. Get over your pity party and get to work my friend.
  12. There are a number of "retouching" software programs, I use one called Portrait Pro. Perhaps the 19-year old is using one also. Your best bet for getting better as a portrait or fashion photographer is to find a photographer who you admire and see if you can apprentice for him/her.

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