Choosing a creative career can be quite a challenge these days, especially for a specialized field like photography. For many of us it is unclear how to find and begin pursuing a career path and so feel good you have an idea of what to pursue. And if you are looking to make a career of your true passion, we're rooting for you from the bottom of our hearts!
So how do you start a career as a full-time or freelance photographer, begin to develop clients and start making money. In this piece, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how you should start your professional adventure as a photographer.
Ask for advice or find a mentor
No one will explain to you how to become a photographer better than an actual professional photographer. This is a specialized field and so you want to talk with someone with first hand experience. It is one of the most popular professions for those in the creative/artistic community and something many do it as a side job.
If you are interested in a career in photography, try to find a person who could tell you about the great things and downsides of the profession. Their advice will help you to prepare for unpleasant surprises and take a sober look at the long-term challenges of becoming a professional photographer.
Get a high-quality photography education
Becoming a commercial photographer is a big deal, and it takes not only natural talent but also many years of proper education to reach the top of the field. From the different types of lens to shutter speeds to lighting, it is an amazingly complicated craft that many spends years understanding.
However, it is enough to have a basic photography education to begin pursuing this career. As your jobs become sophisticated, you will gain experience and master new. So just remember that your first course is just the start of your professional education. As you master the fundamentals and develop, more opportunities should open up to you.
Nowadays, you can find countless photography courses online and can start the learning process from home. Just find the course that fits your current level and budget and start your education!
Purchase the best equipment
It's impossible to start making money as a photographer without professional equipment. We all can take good enough photos on our iPhones, but professional photography should just be on another level to be considered professional.
So, your complete set of professional photography equipment should consist of:
1. professional camera
2. a mix of lenses (this set will depend on your personal needs as a photographer)
3. several external and camera mounted flashes
4. studio lighting
Of course, the most important ones on the list are the first three, especially if your initial work is on the move (for example, photographing news and events or functions like weddings). So we recommend you purchase them first. If you plan to do not only natural light sessions but studio photoshoots (as a product photographer, for example), you will absolutely need to purchase lights, reflectors, and diffusers.
Unfortunately, this is a sizable layout for someone getting started in the business, but at least good equipment will last years.
Set up a personal website
Everything is online nowadays, and you should have a solid portfolio maintained on a highly professional website. Your website is not only your best form of advertising, but even clients you find via word of mouth or other means are likely to check out your website before moving forward and formally hiring you. We will talk about preparing your portfolio in the next part, but for now we need to figure out how to create your website.
Today you don't need a professional designer or a team of developers to create a nice website. All you need to do is choose one of the services with pre-made website templates like Wix or Squarespace, find a suitable template, and create a website that fits you.
These services are affordable, offer many excellent pre-made templates, and you can quickly make a great personal website using services' tools even if you are a newbie here.
Build your portfolio
A portfolio is your resume and the reason why people will hire you in the first place. Especially if they're looking for a wedding photographer for their big day!
Try to collect a strong group of shots that you find interesting and which reflects your style to present it to potential customers. If you can, perhaps do a couple of gigs for free first, just to get good reviews and feedback. Online reviews are crucial for new businesses and make sure to wow these first clients and ask them to post reviews for you. Collaborate with local models, salons, stores and ask them if you can make a photo session working with them to add a couple of nice extra shots to your portfolio.
When you have enough photos, use best photos slideshow software to create an powerful slideshow of the best shots to share with potential clients.
Make your personal must-have be your software toolbox
In 2022, just taking a good photo is simply just not enough. Now, after you have finished shooting, the next step of the process starts: retouching. This is what sets the good from great photographers apart. Whether it is a fashion shoot, a wedding or simple school pictures, everyone needs to be looking at their best.
You will need to be very comfortable using Adobe Photoshop or any free photo editor like Canva to fix everything that went wrong on the photo: wild hairs, skin imperfections, inappropriate background, bad lighting, etc.
The balance here is tricky and something that you will develop with time. The key here is to add spice, fix little imperfections, but leave the photos still looking as natural as possible. Try to be as delicate as you can and never do heavy retouching without discussing it with a client.
Do not stop perfecting your skills
Growing your own business also means constantly improving in your chosen occupation. New technologies bring new possibilities into everybody's lives, photographers' included. Try to follow the latest trends in technology (cameras, lens and software) as well as how professional photographers are marketing themselves.
The process of mastering the art of being a photographer is a journey that never ends, so be creative, participate in workshops, take advanced courses, and become an even more fantastic photographer than you are now.
Being a photographer is hard. Customers can be unhappy with the results, negotiating fees and getting paid are part and parcel of the business. And you are always eyeing where the next job will come from.
But this career is very rewarding too. You have an opportunity to show your full creative potential and create a photo that will live forever, delighting people with a memory that can last a lifetime, bringing them laughter or tears or both.
If you do decide to become a professional photographer, prepare to put a lot of your soul and effort into it. It will be hard to start especially in the first few years. Just keep pushing, developing your art and building of network of past customers in order to build a successful and fulfilling career.