Photography is a popular field in today’s world, with many digital photographers practising it as a career and others as a creative form of art.
This is because the advent of digital photography has made it incredibly easy for one to become a photographer - I mean, you just have to buy a camera and basic equipment, use the available resources on how to become a professional photographer without going to school, practice photography to horn your skills, and then find a niche.
However, although this may sound easy, the truth is that becoming a professional photographer is not that simple. Photography is a highly competitive niche that requires you to have skills, talent, discipline, marketing skills and creativity to stand out.
In addition to this, you also need to be willing to put in long hours of practice, manage your time, especially because most events are time-sensitive, and manage your photography business as an entrepreneur. But above all, it is an interesting field that can pay off handsomely.
To help you get started, we have compiled a step-by-step guide on how to become a professional photographer.
The first thing you should do when getting started with photography is to self-analyse yourself - you need to research yourself first.
Ask yourself some questions- what is your motivation for becoming a professional photographer? What are you aiming to achieve with your work? Which gap do you wish to fill? Which genre of photography appeals to you the most?
The truth is that you may not have all the answers to these questions at the start, but with time, you should be able to answer them. That’s why you need to practice each day. This way, you will be able to find what excites you most as a photographer and know the genre of photography that suits you best.
You need to analyse your local market as well as emerging trends in photography. Study other professional photographers in your area and discover the gaps you can fill.
You will want to know the genres or types of photography that are common in your area. For instance, you may find that most of them are wedding photographers. However, this should not be the basis for you not to venture into that field. What I mean is that you need to work hard to develop your unique style if you would like to stand out.
You shouldn’t be intimated by your competitors, but that’s not to mean you should underestimate them. Connect with them so that you can have a support network.
Make sure to know the rates they charge for different packages. This information will help you understand the market prices. You will need this information to set your pricing ranges.
While you need to invest in proper equipment to take quality shots, you should not go overboard when purchasing photography gadgets.
In most cases, you can start by buying 2nd hand equipment or some older models of camera and lenses. If you can’t find that, just buy an entry-level DSLR camera to get started. You don’t need to go for the highest model when starting out.
Research about what set of equipment you need to get started based on the type of photography you are focusing on.
NOTE: Many people tend not to focus much on picking lenses. However, you should not make this mistake. Pick your lenses carefully so that you can get a versatile one that serves you in different working situations. Also, ensure that you invest in the right software for post-processing.
A camera is only as good as the photographer using it. By this I mean, you may have the best camera but fail to capture great shots consistently.
So, how well do you know the features of your camera? Do you know how and when to adjust the ISO? Do you understand the need to adjust your camera’s exposure in your photography?
You should dig into the many features of your particular camera so that whenever you need to change a setting, you know where to find it with ease.
In addition to understanding the features of your camera, it is also important to know the limits of your camera gear. Can you get a sharp shot by using your lens at a wide-open aperture?
Test your lens by taking a shot of printout or newspaper - most lenses have a specific “sweet spot” that produces sharper shots than the rest.
This same concept applies to your camera settings- how far can you adjust your ISO before the images become too blurry or grainy? Knowing the limits of your camera can help you improve your shots, even when you upgrade to an advanced camera model.
All these are possible through practice. That’s why I recommend that you take a lot of shots so that you can get to know your specific camera.
It is true that virtually all digital cameras have an Auto Mode, whereby the camera sets the ideal settings depending on the different lighting conditions. However, to really become a professional photographer, you need to master all the basics that allow you to get over auto mode and take your own customised shots.
This means learning about exposure - aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Each of these three settings affects how dark or light an image will be, and how much of the shot is in focus.
In addition to exposure, you should learn the basics of composition and focus techniques. These are the things that will help you take great shots.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to master all these fundamentals all at once, but you do need to master them all if you were to become a professional photographer.
Sometimes, the best way to learn fast is by working alongside an expert. This way, you will learn by observation. You can look out for vacancies in photography studios so that you can work as an assistant or intern to gain hands-on experience that no course or school can teach.
The key to getting real photography experience is by applying the skills and knowledge you have learned in the real work. Therefore, during your internship, focus on learning how to deal with clients and how photography business is run.
The rest, you can master through online courses and by practising.
Once you feel confident about taking professional shots on your own and have mastered all the basics of photography, you can now start developing your photography path. The first thing you need to do to make yourself stand out is by creating a portfolio.
Your photography portfolio is among the crucial tools in your journey to becoming a successful professional photographer.
Just like in any other field, having an impressive photography portfolio will help you easily convince your potential clients that you are capable of taking professional shots.
Remember that people will judge your talent and skills based on your portfolio. Therefore, select your best shots that showcase the full range of your work, and organise it in a way that wins over clients for you.
A portfolio is something you keep updating since you advance every day based on how you improve your photography skills. If you don’t have enough pictures to showcase in your portfolio, you can offer a discounted session to a friend or even stage a shoot. After that, put together all your best shots and find a home for them online.
You can even create a blog or website where you showcase your shots or find a website that allows you to showcase your work.
Expand your exposure by sharing your work on social media. You can create a social media page where you will be uploading your best shots. Request your friends to like your page and share it so as to spread the word about your new business.
TIP- Rather than trying to target all social media platforms at once, you may pick a platform that you know most of your potential clients like and focus most of your efforts on it. You can expand your social media presence to other platforms later on.
Business regulations vary from one country to another. You need to explore what rules apply to your area. Seek advice from other professional photographers, lawyers, and business counsels.
To put this in another way, we mean that you should know what you are allowed to shoot and what is illegal to shoot. In most countries, taking shots in public places is allowed…as long as you are doing so with a camera, not a pistol.
However, what you need to know is that many public areas are indeed private. For instance, there are some places where you cannot shoot in subways.
Therefore, you should check such regulations to avoid getting yourself on the wrong side of the lay.
Some clients do not trust photographers with unregistered businesses. Yes, even if paperwork sucks, you should set an official photography business. Inquire about how to do this in your locality and have your business set.
Also, it is important to create a photography contract for your business. This will help you manage the relationship you will have your client, which is vital to success.
Ensure that you explain the scope of the professional services that you are to offer. And although you may not have a contract for all projects, you can keep a contract template.
Once you have your online portfolio in place and set up your business, it is time to market yourself. There are several ways you can market yourself as a photographer.
For instance, you can gather emails from potential clients and send promotional emails to them. Also, you can get active on social media networks and local groups in your area.
Participating in local trade exhibitions and photography contests is also another way of gaining more exposure.
In other words, there are a number of ways you can use to market yourself and get more exposure as a photographer.
Learning how to become a professional photographer is an unending journey. You have to keep learning, practising, and marketing your brand.
Ready to embark on that journey? Browse more pages on our website to learn more about the basics of photography!
Posted in: Photography for beginners