Have you ever considered becoming a professional photographer?
Maybe it’s time. After all, your portfolio is looking great. Everyone loves your photos on Facebook. You’ve even contributed a few pictures to your friend’s wedding album. Plus, you’re great with people, and you’re always out with your camera.
If you’re looking to brush up on your skills before going pro, The Open College of the Arts offers degree courses in photography which can fit your experience level and ambitions. But what else might you need to know while you’re getting started?
We asked some professionals for their tips:
1) Don’t call yourself a photographer. Just be one
The best photographers have a unique style, which they hone by getting out there, testing what works, and trying out a lot of approaches before settling on one that clicks for them.
So take photos. Improve. Master new styles and get to know your camera inside and out. Capturing a great photo is partly about being in the right place at the right time. But a huge part of it is knowing exactly how to snap a moment at its best, which means being familiar with light, shadow, angles, focus and a whole range of other things. So experiment, practice, and refine.
2) Don’t charge good money for bad photos
So here’s the thing: Are you ready?
We all feel a little nervous when we’re contemplating the big leap into a new career. And – in those cases – it’s definitely worth being bold. But take the time to sit yourself down, and ask yourself whether you’ve learned your craft enough to deliver on what you’re promising. When someone takes a chance on an untried photographer, you want them to come away raving about you. It can be tough out there, so make sure you’re fighting fit and confident before throwing yourself into the fray.
3) Your camera doesn’t (really) matter
A top-of-the-range lens or camera can make photos look phenomenal. But it’s not what makes a good photo.
If you’re going pro, you’re going to need a solid piece of kit. But don’t get too hung up on spending thousands on something you can’t afford, with about 20 mystery buttons you haven’t identified yet.
As Ansel Adams once said:
“Knowing what I know now, any photographer worth his salt could make some beautiful things with pinhole cameras.“
4) Share knowledge with your peers
It might seem like the best way to get ahead is to step on toes and hoard your wisdom. But there’s enough business to go around, and building good relationships could bring you new business and referrals from other working photographers.
Share advice. Be open. Spread the love.
5) The secret is persistence
The work doesn’t always flood in on day one. Don’t see that as failure, or a judgement on your skills.
The first two years is hard. But it’s hard for the vast majority of businesses, never mind creative ones. Keep at it, and keep plugging away.
6) Don’t cull with abandon
You’ll naturally have certain tastes and standards, and you’ll know what you like. But have a good reason to scrub an image before the client sees it.
You may think a shot is poor, but it may have an emotional significance for them.
7) Don’t fret about the free photographers
Creative businesses are attractive because people love being creative. Therefore you’re bound to come across lots of photographers who are working for the joy of it.
Don’t stress about that. It’s a fact of life. Instead of raging against those offering their work for free, focus on making sure that anyone who pays for yours gets something that’s worth every penny.
8) Not every job will be glamorous
Looking forward to a life of exhibitions, beautiful trips to sun-soaked islands, and nights out in the VIP lounge? Don’t pack the tuxedo and sun cream just yet.
The life of a professional photographer can offer some amazing experiences. But don’t shrug off work just because it isn’t traditionally “thrilling”. Doing 10 days of headshots for a corporate client may not drop jaws at your next dinner party, but making your client happy with excellent work may well lead to new opportunities (and a welcome pay-cheque).
9) Buy sturdy shoes
You’ll be up and about a lot. And no one likes walking around with blistered or soaked feet.
10) Back everything up. Twice
You might have just captured a shot that would make Annie Leibovitz feel like an amateur. But if it’s just fallen victim to a crash or a corrupted card, no one will ever believe you. Unless you’re also an expert at finger-painting from memory.
Also published on Medium.