The Evolution of a Photographer in 15 Steps

It always interests me how an individual’s photographic style changes as they get more familiar with their tools and study the work of others. Photography is something that requires a real dedication of time, money and heart. If you really want to shine and standout, there isn’t a whole lot you can do besides shoot more, read and experiment.

A brief showcase of my evolution in photography

The evolution of a photographer can be reduced to around fifteen steps. From the initial purchase to the clichés to the stunning work that can become their art. What follows is a loose order of how things typically go stylistically for someone who dedicates their time, money and heart to their photography.

  1. Get an SLR camera & kit lens; start shooting sunsets, flowers and mediocre portraits
  2. Buy a macro lens and start shooting flowers like it’s their fulltime job
  3. Buy a fisheye lens and start shooting distorted flowers and sunsets
  4. Learn photoshop and start over using it and plugins/filters, $1,000 Instagram
  5. Discover HDR photography and go crazy, absolutely insane
  6. Start shooting skateboarders and kids with your fisheye lens
  7. Buy a fast 50mm lens because some photographer told them to
  8. Start shoot portraits without a flash and see how much nicer they look with that lens
  9. Buy some Photoshop plugins to mimic the wedding photographers you see on Flickr
  10. Sell the fisheye lens for a wide angle lens because your sunsets have aberration
  11. Time for cliché night/strobe/bokeh/long exposure photography
  12. Toss that kit lens for a higher end zoom (24-70mm) and start shooting weddings
  13. Invest in higher-end lenses, primes even, and develop your own photographic style
  14. Realize less is sometimes more when it comes to Photoshop
  15. Get a gallery show somewhere and talk about how simple & silly flower photos are

Well, at least that’s how it sort of worked for me, and most of the kinds studying photography with me in university. I have even seen several of my photo friends who have no “proper” photography education follow this same series of events. It’s totally normal.

What stinks is when photographers are unable to break out of one of these and get stuck shooting cliché photos that don’t represent their own artistry. Instead we see their ability to mimic another photography they enjoy.

I almost got stuck imitating Gregory Crewdson for the rest of my life. Meeting him in person made me completely turn my photography around. Who would have thought?

I went through all of these steps. From my early flower photography, which I did because everyone loves a pretty flower, to my gallery shows where I stood with other artists and curators who would laugh at a flower photo.

It is absolutely normal for people do go through these stages and I am in no way talking down to anyone in one of these stages. Just know that someday you will likely look back and go, wow that was funny huh?

Perhaps all of this is necessary, you can’t run without first walking right? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments. Did you follow a similar path? How did you push yourself as an artist? What’s next for your photography?

6 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Photographer in 15 Steps

  1. I think you’ve got the steps down here pretty well. Most people who are good at anything go through phases like this. I actually started with sports photography in high school (portraits I guess? But more action shots for newspaper/yearbook). I had given up photography for almost 20 years and recently got back in because of a killer landscape shot. Right time. Right place. Eyes happened to be open with camera handy. I’m curious to see where I evolve…

    And you have to admit – my peppermint tulip shot is really freaking incredible…

    http://www.richmackeyphoto.com/2011/09/15/peppermint-tulip-with-hdr-effect/

  2. I think you’ve got the steps down here pretty well. Most people who are good at anything go through phases like this. I actually started with sports photography in high school (portraits I guess? But more action shots for newspaper/yearbook). I had given up photography for almost 20 years and recently got back in because of a killer landscape shot. Right time. Right place. Eyes happened to be open with camera handy. I’m curious to see where I evolve…

    And you have to admit – my peppermint tulip shot is really freaking incredible…

    http://www.richmackeyphoto.com/2011/09/15/peppermint-tulip-with-hdr-effect/

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