Good, I was hoping the title would grab your attention! If you’re already a serious photographer, great. You will relate to what is being said. If you want to be a serious photographer or you’re curious, my hope is that you find these tips useful.

How I used my skills as a martial artist to become a serious photographer

I’ve been blessed over the years with a dual career — martial arts and photography. I would like to share my history as a martial arts champion, not to boast but to explain how it was achieved and how I applied it to photography. This taught me how to be a serious photographer by acting like one.

Back in the mid-80s, I was one of the youngest nationally and internationally recognized Triple Crown karate champions, achieving the title three consecutive years in fighting, forms and weapons. I was fortunate to have an instructor that knew the secret to turn out champions. He himself was a Triple Crown champion and he turned out over a dozen champions including my oldest brother John who was an undefeated heavyweight champion.

Photo by Michèle Grenier

How did he do it? He drilled into our heads that to be a champion, you need to act like a champion. Train like them, think like them. Let’s apply this to photography. To be a serious photographer, act like one. Here’s how.

What defines a serious photographer?

In my opinion, a serious photographer is one who is passionate about taking photos, learning new techniques and strives to better themselves. They simply love what they do.

Not all serious photographers are paid professionals

Let that set in. Not all serious photographers are paid professionals. Some don’t have the desire to make a living as a photographer, they just love photography.

They come from all walks of life — retired engineers, doctors, school teachers, students, bus drivers. They have transformed their hobby into a passion and have developed skills that can compete with some of the best professional photographers. They may never sell a print or get paid to take a portrait, they don’t care. They are not in competition with anyone except themselves.

Steps to take to become a serious photographer

I know this sounds too simple to be true, but it works. Give these steps a try for about six months to a year:

  • Find a photographer you respect and whose work you admire. You can find them everywhere.
  • Study how they got the shot or created the scene. It’s important not to try and reinvent the wheel at this point, that comes later.
  • Comment on their work and ask questions.
  • If they offer to teach, attend their classes or lectures they give.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to them for advice.
  • Emulate their work and when you’re ready, add your own style.
  • When you find yourself not being inspired, reach out to those that are and collaborate.
  • Most importantly, don’t ever substitute pride with ego. Pride is internal gratification, ego is external. Be proud of your work, display it, talk about it and help others.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain so give it a try.