These days it seems like everyone is a photographer because of easy access to cameras, editing tools, and online sharing. Having access to the basics doesn’t automatically make you a professional photographer, though.
So what can you do to get started as a pro? Here’s your quick guide how to become a professional photographer!
1. Do Your Homework
Doing a bit of research can go a long way in easing the learning curve of early entrepreneurship!
You’ll want to take a look at your local market to study the other photographers in your area, and the rates that they charge for various packages. You’ll also want to know what genres of photography are commonly present in your area.
This can help you start to get a sense for what niche of photography you want to shoot. This will also help you figure out the caliber of work expected and corresponding rates.
Photography magazines can also be a great source of inspiration and education. Keep in mins that they won’t provide local information.
It’s also always good to do research so you get to know your fellow professional photographers! Connecting with other professionals in your town helps to build your support network. This will be vital as you grow your business.
2. Take Care of The Paperwork
This process will vary with each city, state, and country. Be sure to ask your local officials about the process in your area.
Having the proper paperwork in place will help establish you as an official business. Both to the public and in your own mind!
This also lets customers know that you’re serious about being a business owner and that you don’t take photo jobs lightly.
If you plan to do business under a fictitious name rather than using your own, be sure to ask how to apply for that as well.
And don’t forget the photography contract. Here’s our article on 10 Things Your Photography Contract Must Include to get you started.
3. Evaluate Your Gear
Start with what you have and work with that! The artist is far more important than the machine. That being said, having the right gear for the genre of work you’re doing can help up your game.
Begin with what you have, and perfect your technique as much as your current gear allows. This can include shooting technique, lighting methods, and editing. If you’re looking to try out high end gear or something different before buying, consider renting!
Renting gear is great if you have a big job that may require more than what you own. It’s also a good option if you’re thinking of investing in something but aren’t sure if you’ll like it. Rental fees can be very reasonable. There are even online rental websites that will send the gear straight to your door.
When looking at what camera, lenses, and lighting you have, consider if there’s a specific niche that you want to work in.
For example, the lenses that you’ll want for shooting interiors will be different from the lenses for corporate events.
This is where having a great support network of local photographers comes in handy. You can ask other professionals what gear they suggest for the niche you’re considering.
4. Pick a Niche
Speaking of niches, it helps tremendously to focus on one type of photography. This can be portrait photography, product photography, event coverage, wedding photography, etc.
Specializing will make your branding clearer to your audience. And the right clients will have a much better chance of finding you!
You’ll most likely still take on jobs that are outside of your specialty to help increase revenue early on. But you can choose to only show one type of work in your portfolio.
That being said, it’s absolutely normal to experiment with different types of work when you first start out. It takes time to find the niche that really speaks to you.
Eventually, the goal should be specialising in one type of photography work. This way, your brand becomes more defined.
5. Create an Online Portfolio
The first thing that people will want to see from you is examples of your professional photos. Having a website to which you can direct potential clients is vital!
This can be a free site at first, as long as it has capabilities for large, easy-to-navigate galleries. It should also have an About page that includes your contact information.
Along with your portfolio, be sure to get business cards. Then you can easily share your website with everyone you meet!
Here’s our 5 steps guide to creating a professional photography portfolio.
6. Tell People EVERYWHERE About What You Do
Those business cards will come in handy when you begin to tell people about your new venture! Start by letting your friends and family that you’re starting a professional photography business.
Social media is great for this, and be sure to include your website link when you share.
Next, you’ll want to start telling people farther out in your network. They can be acquaintances from work or folks you meet at social gatherings. Tie it into conversation naturally, and offer a business card if they seem interested in seeing your work.
Finally, you’ll want to seek out local events for casual networking. That way you can begin making new connections!
While this may seem intimidating, take it one event at a time. Don’t put pressure on yourself to find clients immediately.
Choose events that feel more casual and comfortable to you. And then experiment until you find what works for you.
7. Snap! Snap! Snap!
It should go without saying, but be sure to practice as much as possible. The more you shoot, the more quickly you’ll grow professionally.
This will provide you constant material for your portfolio & social media. It will improve your technical skills as you gain more experience. And it will give you more courage as you get out and about more.
Of course you would ideally be shooting for clients consistently, but don’t wait for a client or relative to request your services. Go out and shoot something every day!
A great way to do this is to create a 365 project for yourself, where you shoot one photo a day for one full year. This can start at any time, and you can set a theme to it to help guide you more.
8. Always Keep Learning
Learning never stops, and it’s especially vital when you’re starting out and have so much to learn! Educational activities can take many different forms. They can be an online course, an in-person workshop, or finding a mentor that you connect with and admire.
Whatever this looks like for you, learning should be a lifelong pursuit. That way you’re always growing and expanding the expertise that you offer to clients.
Consider also educating yourself on the business aspects of being a professional photographer. Many of the photography magazines on the market today talk about not only technique and artistry, but also business aspects.
This will help make you a well-rounded business owner that can tackle all sorts of issues that may arise.
Deciding to turn your hobby into a professional venture is exciting. It can also seem overwhelming at first. While there’s lots more to running a successful photography business than what we discussed here, these simple steps will get you started when you first dive in!
We have tons of great tips for getting started as a professional photographer – why not check our articles on how to write a model release form or the lowdown on using stock images for a start!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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