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Photo by Joel Alexander.

These days the title photographer can be thrown around pretty loosely. I’m a photographer. Your friend is a photographer. Your Uncle Jim is even a photographer. Everyone's a photographer! But that’s okay. What does it really mean to be a photographer? You don’t have to be a professional to call yourself a photographer. You can enjoy photography as a hobby, or just an outlet to express your creativity on the side. The definition of a photographer is “someone that takes photos.” Nothing less and nothing more!

However, let’s say you’re wanting to take your photography to the next level. You’re tired of being in the same category as Uncle Jim and you’re looking into starting a career. What’s next for you? What makes a great, successful photographer? Here's our top 5 pointers on how to get the ball rolling.

The topic of gear is subjective. Sure, everyone wants the $2,500 Canon 5D Mark III, but do you really need it? No, you don’t. Some of the most amazing photographs I’ve ever seen have been taken on disposable cameras. It’s all about working with what you’ve got until you can afford that Mark III. So go out and shoot with what you’ve got - whether that be a DSLR or even an iPhone. With technology these days, the possibilities are endless. Never blame your lack of creativity and content creating on a lack of gear.

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Take photos of what you love. It doesn’t matter if you want to photograph models, landscapes, or even cats. As long as you’re shooting what you love, you’re doing it for all the right reasons. And that love you have for your subject will show in your images. You don’t have to be photographing top models to make authentic, professional looking images. I always say, anyone can take a good photo of a model, but a true photographer can make any ordinary person look and feel more beautiful than they’ve ever felt. You can even apply for to find models in your city!

Find a mentor. Mentoring is the most underrated thing in the photography industry right now. Many photographers spend years learning their craft on their own through trial and error. This is something I wish I would’ve known as a beginner. I can tell you that there are so many seasoned photographers out there who are willing to bring you along for a shoot, or even just critique a few photos of yours. We know what it’s like to start out and we were in your shoes not too long ago.

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Nashville’s The Hub meet up, June 2017.

Shoot with other creators in your city. This goes along with what I was just saying. The photography industry is like a family - especially here at H Influencer Collective’s We even host meet up’s in every major city! You can even host your own. Just ask anyone who’s been in the photography industry for a while and they’ll tell you they’ve met all of their closest friends at shoots or in photography groups online. For most photographers, there is nothing better than going out and shooting with a new face for your own personal work and growth. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. The more people you shoot with, the more you learn. And everyone will teach you something different, whether you realize it or not.

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Editing makes or breaks a photo. I find this to be even more important than the actual photo itself sometimes - as crazy as that seems. I always recommend Adobe Lightroom to beginners. You can even download the popular VSCO application’s presets that we all use on our iPhones. These days you can learn ANYTHING online. There are thousands of Lightroom tutorials online. If you’re a visual learner, watch a video on Youtube. And if Youtube videos just won’t cut it, you can offer to buy another photographer coffee and they can sit down with you at a shop and show you the ropes.

I hope this article educates and inspires you on your journey to becoming the photographer you aspire to be. Two key pieces of advice are: never forget to ask for help and never stop learning. As long as you stay true to yourself and do what you love, there will never be a right or wrong way to get to the top.

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Still Need More Inspiration? Check out these three members.