Back when I started my photography journey there was really not much guidance to become a professional photographer. No Pinterest to look up for inspiration and not many great online courses.
However, there are so many paths to becoming a photographer, that no one can give you a definitive answer on how it has to be done.
The first step to becoming a professional photographer is identifying this passion and understanding what it is you enjoy about it.
Some photographers will tell you to educate yourself first in school, and I do underline that knowing photography basics is a must. But nowadays this can be learned through Youtube or other free courses and tutorials.
Below I share the most important tips on how to build a career in professional photography, when you already know the basics.
1. Niche down
In the beginning of your photography journey it might feel like you want to photograph everything. Experimenting with different subjects and themes will give you the understanding about your true interests. However, there will be a point where you will need to narrow your main theme.
Feeling strongly about a theme or methodology will help you communicate to your audience and it will draw the right audience to you. These questions might help you to identify your interests:
- What are the subjects you photograph the most?
- Do you feel at ease around people?
- What it is you excel at the most?
If you notice you feel comfortable around people, you might want to focus on building your work around that. Some photographers focus on a niche that is lucrative like wedding or maternity photography. Notice that these directions require you to be very social, especially wedding photography that is mostly focused on summer season.
Deciding working either in the studio surrounding with reconstructed image or documenting real life events will narrow your focus.
2. Connecting with clients
So now that you know what the themes you work with are, the next step is to connect with your clients. Where to find them and be available for their needs?
Starting out within your circle of friends and people you know is a steady way to see what your clients expect from you. Starting with the people you know, you can build up your community of people that will most likely work with you in the future.
Another option is to connect with people through social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook. There are many groups for photographers and clients, and people are looking for photographers through there.
You need to also understand how do different platforms focus on different clients; Facebook and Google are great for finding local wedding and maternity photographers. Instagram on the other hand will provide you with a more commercial demand.
But frankly, you can’t truly be prepared where your clients will find you. They might come through family and friends or just fall onto your front page through social media. This is why you will need to have a website and a clear Instagram / Facebook profile to communicate your work.
We all know it’s difficult to sell yourself and your skills, but self-promotion is essential if you want to start a photography business. Having an online portfolio either on social media like Instagram and then moving onto a professional website will communicate the necessary information to your clients. I like to use Photoshop for almost everything I create in my photography; from portfolios to publications.
You can be the greatest photographer, but if no one knows about you, it will not make any difference. So invest in a quality online portfolio and share it with your potential clients. Look up for inspiration from other photographers and see how they are doing it.
Another way is to build a photography portfolio as a PDF and pitch it to brands and magazine Art Directors. They are the ones who are in charge of the final articles. Make sure you communicate what it is you want to collaborate on and express your professionalism in your pitch.
Be sure you choose the right magazines and brands that are connected to your visual style.
4. Invest in equipment and learning
Some might argue that this should be the first step on your photography journey. Yes, knowing the basics in photography is essential, but as I have stated before, you do not need fancy equipment for this. Just knowing basic composing and lighting is enough to get you started.
You will be able to understand better how it is you want to invest in yourself if you’ve been photographing for some time.
I compare this to a situation where an average person wants to start sports and invests in all the expensive and latest equipment, unfortunately this will not assure that they will actually start exercising.
5. Create a daily habit
After investing in developing yourself and bettering your equipment, you have to know that this is not a sprint. Everything you’ve learned and focused on, needs to become a daily habit for you. Photographing daily, reviewing your focus points and the direction you’re going to will eventually lead to naturally think and act like a professional photographer.
You will also benefit greatly from similar-minded people and their feedback on your images and the way you work. Do not feel intimidated by them just because they know more than you; people are usually eager to share knowledge that might help someone who is just starting out.
In the beginning I remember how I was interning for multiple photographers to see their work ethics and other secrets I was not able to otherwise find.
Once you know that photography is what you are passionate about, you will then differentiate where you should focus next. If you notice you work best with reconstructed image in studio surrounding, invest in an inexpensive studio lighting set.
There are also many great online courses on different themes and they will not rob you of your money. I especially like watching videos from Self Publish Be Happy to learn more on portrait photography.
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