April 26th will mark my one year anniversary of buying a Canon 7D. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing and wanted something more. Something that I wanted to do everyday. Working in an office 40 hours a week just wasn’t for me. Thanks to my income tax return I was able to get a 7D. Woooo! I got a camera! Now what?

I’ve come a long way since my first shoot. My coloring was off, focus was iffy and the editor wanted to beat me up. Instead of getting down and doubting what I wanted to do, I told them I will post a new video to prove I can do it and do it well. How did I do this? I went to D.C. everyday after work and shot everything around me. I would get home from work and get downtown by 4:30 and shoot until it was dark. I did that for a couple weeks and put it all together. Each day I shot I tried to do something new. People, cars, different angles, different focal lengths and different lighting. I read everything I could from Vincent Laforet, Philip Bloom, Shane Hurlbut and Cinema 5D (Jared Abrams). Before I knew it I was getting freelance gigs and shooting for the corporate company.

If I could go back, I would have done this first before jumping right into getting paid jobs. But live and learn. That’s exactly what I did. Learn. I learned more everyday and applied it. I’ve noticed some people have so much knowledge on shooting DSLRs but when I look at their site they have nothing to show for it. It is great to know everything but if you aren’t shooting and posting videos it will be very hard to get work. I am no Vincent Laforet or Philip Bloom (by any means) but by researching and applying what I read, I am working on getting better and mastering my craft.

So along with reading more and practicing everyday, another thing I would have done was got on Twitter sooner. Once on Twitter I was able to connect with people of all levels and backgrounds. I got questions answered, saw all kinds of work and learned about new gear releases. I was smart enough to start a blog and that helped with getting work by spreading my name and sharing my knowledge.

Contracts, invoices, and all that business stuff should not be overlooked. Take the time to research that as well. Take a class if you can or even ask for professional advice. I learned the hard way why you need to have professional contracts.

The final thing, and maybe the biggest thing I have learned is related to gear investment. You don’t need to buy everything. No matter how fun it is to have all the toys, it is a good idea to look what you are shooting and what you want to be shooting. Keep in mind the budgets you work with and how many jobs you will get in the near future. I started out doing this and then… BAM! I was best friends with the UPS guy and BH Photo Video turned into my homepage. I got caught up in all the cool toys and got very good at convincing myself I “needed” it. Looking at it now I don’t regret any purchases because I use them on all my shoots but it wasn’t always like that. I didn’t always need them. Especially while I was just starting.

My advice for gear is to start slow. Put your biggest investment on glass and lighting. You don’t need every lens and you don’t need a full light kit to start. I continue to rent lights but could have gotten a good return on investment if I got a basic light kit when I first started.

Crazy how fast a year goes by. I only help I continue to meet great people in the field, continue to master my craft, and add to my long gear list!