So you want to be a professional photographer? Many people think professional photography is all about taking creative shots in exotic locales, big cities, and small towns—but if you want to make a living off of your camera, It’s best to hang your romanticisms at the door. Before you quit your day job and try to turn your hobby into a career, there are a few things you need to be aware of before you enter the world of professional photography.
Marketing and Web Design
You’ll probably spend a lot more time searching for clients and working on your marketing machine then you will at photo shoots. Be prepared to learn the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), internet marketing, basic web design, and lead generation. The first thing you will have to do is set up a website where you can point your services and host your portfolio. There are many ways to do this without having to learning to code. You could hire someone to make a website for you or learn how to use a content management system like WordPress. When you go into business for yourself, maintaining steady streams of income is a must.
It Won’t Mean Saying Goodbye to Morning Commute.
What’s that, you’d rather watch Saturday morning cartoons? Sorry bud, if you’re a wedding or portrait photographer, chances are you’ll be working weekends and evenings. If you were a travel photographer or shooting a documentary your hours might be a bit different, but one thing’s for certain, it’s a myth that being a professional photographer means you have total control over your hours. You will have more flexibility than the 9-5 worker, but at the end of the day your schedule is largely determined by that of your clients. If you’re shooting portraiture of some office execs downtown, expect to battle the same rush hour traffic as the typical businessperson.
The Customer is Always Right.
This old adage is as true for professional photography as it is for any business, the customer is always right. This is especially true if you’re in portraiture or wedding photography. The first thing you’ll learn is that the amazing shot you took at that creative angle where the lighting was simply sublime, won’t mean a thing if the client doesn’t like the way their smile looks.
It’s Not About Having the Best Camera
You’re running a business here, and that means you need to make prudent financial decisions about the gear you invest in. When you’re starting out you might not be able to afford the best camera in its class. Sometimes you don’t even want the best camera in its class. It’s often more about finding the right camera for the job. Follow this simple rule and you’ll be more cost effective in your business.
You’re Going to Have to Spend Money to Make Money.
This is probably true of any entrepreneurial endeavor. While you don’t want to buy the most expensive camera without thinking, sometimes the job will require the best camera in its class. It’s all about your current abilities and what the client is looking for. Consider rentals if you need a particular lens that’s outside your budget. A lot of your money however will go to things that weren’t exactly at the forefront of your expectations. Long commutes, air travel, hotels, and eating out. HDR photography software, Lightroom and Photoshop will cost you a pretty penny too.
Remember to Have Fun!
Don’t be discouraged by the amount of work that goes into becoming a professional photographer. They don’t call it a job for no reason. Even if your clients aren’t looking for the most creative shot, you can always ask them if they’ll let you experiment on the side. As with painting or getting paid for your art, you have to put yourself out there before you can get recognized. Keep taking those creative angles, maintain your blog, and market yourself well. Find a niche that you can truly call your own, and you’ll be well on your way to making your income as a professional photographer!