The movies always make the professional photographer’s job look easy—it’s all glamour shots, travel, creative angles and drinks with models. Of course as with every job, Hollywood tends to let its creative license go wild and ignore the nitty gritty reality of work. Professional photography is more than the photo shoot—it’s post processing, it’s marketing, and its running your own business. Here’s what a day in the life of a professional photographer might actually look like.
The Morning Commute
It’s 5:00 am on a Saturday—you wake up, shower, dress up and wolf down some fried eggs and toast before grabbing your car keys, your camera sack, your lunch, and a thermos full of coffee as you drive three hours to your 9:00 a.m. engagement session shoot at a farm in the middle of Wisconsin. Along the way you meet up with your second photographer. It’s typical of wedding shoots to have one person cover the bride and her bridesmaids and the other the groom and his groomsmen. Since this is just an engagement session, you won’t necessarily have to split up your efforts between the bride and the groom, or worry about bridesmaids or groomsmen. It’s always nice to have a second photographer to help out with the shoot.
Arrival at the Shoot
You’ve arrived at the client’s chosen location for an engagement shoot. It’s a picturesque dairy farm deep in the country, but you’re not exactly sure where to park, and you have no phone service in the area. Great. Fortunately the young couple’s there to greet you and show you where to park. Spend the next twenty minutes hauling all your gear to the site of the “first look” setting up your workstation and the first scene.
Learn about your Clients
Usually this takes place over the phone a week before the shoot, but it helps to double check with the couple what their best angles are, if there are any features they’d like accentuated or anything they don’t want to draw attention to. If you’re in this line of business, you probably have a package of angles, poses, and scenes that the couple already saw and wanted to do, but of course there are going to be certain shots the bride will probably want included into the deal.
Now’s the moment you were waiting for, the engagement shoot. Chances are you’ve already vetted the area for potential shoots and have an idea as to what poses and scenes you’d like to capture. For the next couple of hours, you’ll make use of the ambient lighting and local features as you take engagement shots across the farm—on horseback, a loving tussle in a haystack, a kiss in front of the barnyard doors. Here’s where you’ll really let loose and have fun as a photographer.
Afternoon Post Processing
At some point after closing off the shoot, grabbing a quick bite to eat, and reaffirming plans for the actual wedding shoot a month from today, you’ll find yourself on your MacBook Pro in a local cafe with Photoshop open in one tab and Lightroom in the other, sorting through all the photos you just took. You’ll backup all your RAW files and perform any basic touch-ups that don’t require much thought at the moment. Chances are you’ll have a previous engagement photo session to polish up and get ready for the client.
Marketing and Lead Generation
At the end of a productive day, you might take this time to work on your photography as a business. Upload the processed photos of a previous engagement session (chances are you won’t finish working on the one you just shot until the next day) to your blog and email the bride and groom. You’ll work on some SEO (search engine optimization) on your site to improve your website’s visibility on search engines, respond to emails and pursue other clients.
End of the Day
Clean your cameras and lenses and start charging them for the next shoot. You’ve earned a big dinner and some R&R until the next day. Before you finally turn in for the night, and provided your equipment has finished charging, you’ll pack everything back into your bag ready to take on the next day. Get some rest, for tomorrow’s the big wedding day.