Life as a pro wedding photographer can be challenging. It’s probably best described as a mixture of a profound sense of freedom and an acute sense of uncertainty. But it can be a profoundly satisfying pursuit provided you’re driven by a will to succeed. Much like in any other business, your endeavour’s success depends on how passionate you are as a photographer and how good you are as a business person. Believe it or not, the essential aspect of making images is just a tiny part of the whole process of running a photography business.
If you want to shoot more photos, turning a professional photographer probably isn’t an excellent way to ensure that. Or, you can leave the marketing and management side of things to someone who doesn’t shoot.
If security is what you crave, look for a 9 to 5 job. Like any other business endeavour, photography doesn’t guarantee you a paycheck at the end of the month. What you make is entirely dependent on your marketing understanding and your business sense. If you don’t get work for a month, there’s no paycheck at all. It’s as simple as that.
That said, there is a particular element of security, too. No one can fire you when you run your own business. Your success is dependent on your hard work. You don’t have to depend on someone else for your success.
A significant challenge as a professional photographer is to find a way to stand out. There are a lot of wedding photographers out there, all looking for work. They have decent gear and have good skills as photographers. With so much competition, standing out and being able to create an identity becomes a huge challenge. One thing a photographer cannot afford to do is sit back and take it easy. The industry is changing all the time. Clients are looking through a diverse number of avenues when looking for a photographer. Instagram, for example, wasn’t even around a few years ago. But today, it’s one of the major venues for getting new business. You can’t afford to overlook these factors.
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On the plus side, you get to meet many new people—people who become fans of your work and your support system. You get access to some fantastic people, all because of your camera. Sometimes photographers have no control over the kind of work they do. But they have some degree of control; they’re making the calls and deciding how they’re going to spend their time.
This sense of freedom to be able to do what you like is addictive. That’s a pretty big motivator for someone trying to put forward their best work.
Step-By-Step Guide on How to Become a Professional Photographer
Start by Asking the Right Questions:
Professional photography can be an excellent choice for a career if you can manage the right balance between your creative passion and entrepreneurial instincts. Like starting any other business, put together a list of questions that you need to answer for yourself before you begin your photography career, set goals, and think about being a good photographer.
- What motivates me?
- Am I prepared to start small and persevere alone?
- Can I work independently as a photography professional?
- Which photography specialty niche excites me?
- What are the gaps that I can fulfil in my local area?
- How do I improve my skills?
- What value would I offer to my clients?
Find the Right Answers and a Mentor
You would find the answers to most of your questions on becoming a good photographer through research, both online and offline. Go to photography talks, exhibitions, and seminars. You would meet many photographers at these events, and you can get a lot of answers directly from them. There are several online photography communities that you can become a member of. Some of the answers you seek will come from structured education, and some responses will only come with experience and time. Our exclusive range of Melbourne wedding photography will help you not miss a thing on your wedding day.
Get the Right Photography Education
Professional Photography is one of the very few fields where structured training is not a prerequisite. You can self-learn, practice, and improve your skills without going to a formal educational institute. However, it can add a lot of value to your career, skills, and experience as a professional photographer.
Many professional photographers have taken photography courses at top photography schools, universities, or design institutes. Besides a formal course of instruction to develop their skill sets, a photographer should have a keen eye, oodles of creativity, and technical ability.
Do a Photography Internship With a Professional Photographer
If you’re a young, budding photographer, look out and network with other professional photographers and mentors. It is essential to develop your people skills. Good communication, flexibility, and a patient demeanour are as important as developing your technical skills as a professional photographer. Never shy away from getting feedback about your work. You are eventually going to make a living based on the quality of your work.
Look out for vacancies and get a photography job as an intern or an Assistant to gain hands-on experience that no university or school can teach. The key is to get professional photography experience by applying the knowledge and skillsets you have learned in the real world. During your internship, focus on learning how a photography business is run and how to deal with clients.
Find Your Focus Area
Your education and internship experiences would help you learn the art and technique of photography and give you a more definite sense of the kind of photographer you want to become. It’s time to start defining your photography style and find your niche and concentrate on the genre/photography style that you enjoy. Do you want to shoot portraits, travel, weddings, fashion, conceptual fine art photography, documentary, or are you interested in commercial photography? Research the niche that you want to focus on – For example, if you want to become a wedding photographer, study and learn from the best wedding photographer websites.
Put Together the Right Set of Camera, Lenses and Photography Equipment
While you need the proper equipment to capture high-quality images, don’t go overboard in purchasing all the fancy photography gadgets you can find.
Professional photographer’s equipment and be frugal and make well-considered purchases.
In most cases, you can start by buying second-hand equipment in good working condition or slightly older models of camera or lenses at a significant discount. Buy a decent DSLR camera to get started as a professional photographer. You don’t need the highest model to get going. Some photographers feel using an SLR camera is a more authentic way of learning photography.
Make sure that you buy the right set of equipment based on the type of photography you focus on. Buying lenses is always an area where people tend to make a lot of wasteful spending – pick your lenses carefully so that they can serve you in most of your working situations. Also, make sure that you invest in the right hardware and software for post-production. A properly calibrated monitor and the right editing software would be must-haves for your professional photography needs.
Practice, Practice, Practice
It’s all starting to come together now. You now need to continually hone your skills by practising various facets of your photography specialisation repeatedly. Make sure that you become proficient with all your equipment and know them inside out of your camera.
Shoot pictures every single day. That is the only way you will get better at what you do. Set up a work schedule to manage your projects. Start a 365DayProject. Use Pinterest to create boards and curate your best shots that follow a particular style.
Build Your Photography Portfolio
Your photography portfolio is the most crucial tool in your arsenal to become a successful professional photographer. Having an impressive photography portfolio will pave the way for success as all potential clients will judge your skills and talent based on your portfolio. Select your best images that show the full range of your work – make sure that your portfolio wins over new clients for you.
Create Your Online Portfolio Website
Creating your online portfolio website is critical for you to get exposure, reach out to clients, and have them view your work. Your photography website is your window to the world – it can open up new opportunities for you and win your clients and projects beyond your network and local area when people search for a ‘professional photographer near me.
Your website, branding, content should reflect the kind of work you specialise in to draw the right customer base. Learn from how other top photographers are showcasing their portfolio – have a look at these photography portfolio websites. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.
Choose the right platform to create your portfolio website. Ensure that the portfolio website builder you choose offers the flexibility, features, and ease of use you need to put together a professional portfolio website without requiring any coding knowledge. Once you have a strong portfolio, you can register yourself with the photography associations in your country to become a certified professional photographer.
Set Your Photography Pricing
Ensure that you calculate all your input costs and profit margins to arrive at the prices for your photography. Research the top professional photographer/s in your area and field, but factor in the value you bring to the table. Be flexible and have a price range. Do not undercut your competition too much to win projects, and be wary of overpricing and losing clients. Learn the basics of how to license your images and put together templates for contract agreements with clients.
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Start Marketing Your Photography Business
Once your online portfolio in place, you need to invest your time in marketing yourself. There are several ways in which you can market yourself as a photographer. You can participate in photography contests to gain exposure, participate in local trade exhibitions, email potential clients about your service offerings, get active on social media, network and build client relationships, pitch for the right openings in your industry, and be open to collaborations.
Grow Your Photography Business
Your number one priority from here on is to grow your photography business. Everything that you and all the choices you make will impact your success – the kind of work you do, the clients you work with, how your price your photography, your specialty and area of operation – all of these affect your photography business. Make sure that you are consistent and are continually marketing yourself, meeting new people, and, most importantly, retaining old clients.
Keep your passion for photography alive, and continuously strive to do great work that would make you stand out. That’s the sure-fire recipe to pave the path to your long-term success as a professional photographer.
10 Things to Consider Before Becoming a Full-Time Wedding Photographer.
It has been about one year plus since I quit my full-time job and pursue this crazy road as a full-time photographer. It has been almost five years since dreaming and planning to become one. I know it is not easy, and you might not know what to do. Therefore, here are some important key points for you to consider before transitioning into this unknown reality blindfolded. First, this is just a write up solely from my experience, so do not take it literally as everyone has a different problem-solving brain and risk tolerance. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.
The most important thing before you start is to set your expectation right. This will be the sole determining factor of your persistence and not quitting after three months of work. Just to let you know, a full-time photographer will be not shooting all the time. You will handle everything from customer relation to business management to logistics and productions. (If you are a sole proprietor). So if you are dreaming about shooting all day, every day, most likely it will not happen.
Ideally, you should have a cash reserve equivalent to your nine monthly expenses before you start. This is to ensure that you can survive through a 0 income period. But from experience, it is wiser to have a 12 months expenses reserve at a minimum. Yes, the industry is that bad, added with effect from covid-19. Twelve months or more will be even better as it buffers for future business expansion. This situation differs if you already do have a constant income from photography itself. So just juggle with the benchmark. You know what to do.
This is the thing that keeps you in the game. If you do not have the skill, do not go full time as you will not last long before destroying your name. Probably you could start with becoming an intern or photography assistant to learn how things operate. A good rule of thumb to measure this will be matching your skill to the industry standard. To do that, just look towards the few industry photographers and put your work side by side to compare. If the variance is huge, find out why and improve on it. Little tips for you guys, always show respect and initiative if you want to ask for advice from them. Remember, time is gold to everyone.
If you ask me what gets you work? This is it. Portfolio! A simple explanation for this. If you want to get hired for a job, you bring your resume and certification. But to professional photographers resume doesn’t help much. Clients would like to know if you can deliver, and a portfolio is the only answer to it. Ask yourself have you gotten enough portfolio? If no, continue shooting first. Be it a personal project or client project, as long as it proves that you can deliver. From my experience, the portfolio is never enough. Always look for ways to improve them from time to time.
Nothing like a good solid business plan that will carry you further than you ever imagine. Having a solid business plan will propel and guide your business in the right direction. Ensuring that you have a clear direction of what you are doing is so important in sustaining your business in the long term. If you are not sure what you are doing, do some research on the internet or hire a business coach. It might seem like a huge cost to pay now, but it will pay back in the long term.
It will be appropriate to have a diversified income source when you start streamlining as your business grows. This is because there will be a few periods of uncertainty during the startup where your income source will be affected. Your backup income source will keep your stomach filled and your business running during that period. As the wise man once said, “never put all the eggs in the same basket”.
Common word and nothing strange. Think of this as a way to obtain sales for your business. You will need a way to obtain sales. After all, what is a business without sales? So you need to figure this out as early as possible. Tips for that, you should be a little selfish to promote your work out for people to notice you. There is no way people will find you if you do not confidently promote your work. It will be a bonus if you are a people person. Being able to talk and sell is as important as having good work and good skill. Ps: I am neither, so it’s bad for my business and myself. Lol. Don’t be me.
I would say this will be the biggest catch when pursuing this journey. If you are thinking of pursuing this journey of creativity, drop it now. Most of the time, you will have your ego broken when your artistic vision is limited and not appreciated by clients. Bear in mind that does not allow that to burn you. Take your time for personal creative projects to keep your mind fresh at all times. After all, it is not the client’s responsibility if you are not creative. Always remember there is a difference between doing it for interest and doing it as a job. Be ready to give up some part of that away.
Becoming a full-time photographer does not mean you have to escape an 8-5 trap. Since it is your business, it just means that you have to be more committed than before, even if you have to work 24/7 to make this work. Be ready to fail a dozen times and get back up stronger. Through persistence, you will grow. As they say, the best lesson in life is by failing. If you never fail, you never learn. Do not by any chance allow those failure to discourage you. This journey will be tougher than you ever imagine but bear in mind, good things don’t come easy. If you are not ready to do that, hold on to your dream.
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There is a reason this is the last thing to consider. If all else fail, plan your way out. Your Plan B. What will your alternative career be? Back to work under MNCs or start entering creative firms or venture into a new field or pick up part-time jobs while still supporting this career. You name it. I guess what I am trying to say is you need a backup plan and be ready to do anything to keep yourself striving. If it fails badly, come back again when you are ready. Or just quit if you feel this is no longer what you want, a solid Plan B will be your route to go.