Every now and then, I get asked if I attended photography school and/or how I learned photography. I have a degree in electrical engineering and I never took formal training in photography. Six years ago, when I decided that I wanted to be a wedding photographer, the first thing I did (after buying a camera) was read photography books. I went to the library and checked out as many books as they had. I went online and explored the vastness of the web to find all the resources available. After devouring all the free alternatives; then I started buying books, DVDs and paying online forums’ membership fees. I did everything I could to learn as much as possible on the subject.
Some local photographers, that I asked, declined to let me come along to see them in action. So I bought dozens of DVDs showing famous wedding photographers shooting weddings. Those videos were incredibly helpful in making me understand what I was getting myself into, and in giving me some idea of what I had to do.
Thanks to the online forums I was able to meet a lot of photographers all over the country and the world. The vast majority was very helpful in pointing me in the right direction about organization I should join and workshops I should take. Now I try my best to help other photographers, that find themselves where I was years ago.
Today I was doing a little organizing in my office and I put all my “how to be a wedding photographer” books in one pile (see picture). I was surprised of how many I had. My favorite 5 are on top.
I think that, like in any other profession, it is imperative to try our best to continue learning constantly. I subscribe to many different magazines that I consider part of my growth efforts. Some of them offer me technical instruction, and others just pure inspiration. These are some of the titles of the magazines I read throughout the year; American Photo, Vogue, Popular Photography, Vanity Fair, Digital Pro, W, PC Photo, JPG and many others.
I still buy a few “how to” books; but most of the time I try to buy books that showcase photography by my favorite photographers. Just to name a few, Henri Cartier Bresson, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Annie Leibovitz, Juergen Teller, Karsh, Sebastiao Salgado and James Nachtwey.
So, how did I learn to be a wedding photographer? I read a lot of books and magazines; I watch a few DVDs and have been very lucky to meet a lot of great photographers with a good heart.
The two best workshops that I have attended are: The Foundation Workshop (makes you a better shooter and changes how you see everything) and The One Light Workshop (awesome lighting instruction).
P.S. I even found this cool VHS video among my things. This video might look dated; but it was very helpful. Fundamentals are crucial in any job.