Become a Photographer

If you have made the decision to become a professional photographer, congratulations – you are about to try to break into a highly competitive field. Too many amateur photographers believe that all you need is a camera and a passion for photography.

That is true for the most part. You need industry-appropriate equipment and you should love what you do.

More importantly, however, you need to realize that being a professional photographer means that you are running a business and a brand. Even staff photographers at magazines, museums, galleries and photography professors put in hard work to establish their careers and are always at work honing their craft and marketing their portfolios. Below are some tips to establish you as a professional photographer.

Study Photography: This is does not necessarily mean going to school. This refers to studying your competition, learning from professionals that are currently working in your desired career field. Study how they became successful and try to emulate their career paths. Rest assured, though, that secondary education provides a more secure career route into photography. Study the markets, too. See if you can combine your specific passions to fill a niche in your own area. In addition, some areas may have higher areas of competition, but also higher financial payoffs.

Develop Your Own Style: The most commercially successful photographers have worked long and hard at developing their own styles. This can be as simple as buying a stack of photography books, studying styles that you admire and shooting as often as possible. Overtime, you will notice that by simply taking dozens of pictures every day and wherever you are inclined to take them, that you have a unique style. Highly recognized photographers in the pages of Vogue, Elle, and National Geographic often have their own unique styles that developed over time and with practice.

Hone Your Craft: Remember that photography is not only art and science. It is also a craft. If you love the precision and order that comes from shooting in the studio using medium-format cameras, than fashion or studio photography may be two choices to consider. Alternatively, if you love to take pictures of buildings and parks in your town, architectural, landscape and/or nature photography would be career choices to consider. Developing your own style also takes practice and experimenting. If you are still in school, take as many different courses as you like that offer a wide range of career options.

Get Equipped: Research industry-specific organizations to find out what types of equipment you will need. Most professional cameras, darkroom technology and photo editing software are expensive, but it is necessary. The equipment needed will vary by career field.

If you are still in school, you may be able to rent equipment, especially cameras and lighting, for use outside of your school’s studio, so take advantage of that. If you are out of school, you may be able to rent equipment from local photography studios.

Develop Entrepreneurialism: Freelance photographers too often forget they are running a business, do not let that happen to you. If you love photography and want to be a financially and artistically successful photographer, than you need to use to the aspects of running a business. It may be helpful to take business courses. This will include writing a business plan, researching potential clients, and marketing, among other things.

Plan a Course of Action: Once you decided to become a professional photographer, you will need to plan a course of action. Do you want to go into business for yourself? On the other hand, do you want to take a risk and start your own photography business? Both can be rewarding, financially and professionally. However, there is no use in wavering. Depending on what photography career, this might include additional education, photography internships and/or relocating.

Create a Portfolio: Once you have started taking images, add the best of your work to your portfolio. All professionals need a portfolio.

Get Published: Part of the definition of a professional photography is that majority of a professional’s income comes from making and/or selling pictures. Send your work out to magazines, galleries, museums and advertising agencies. Any individual or company that could publish and pay you for your work is a potential client. The more often your work is published or exhibited, the more people will find your work credible.

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