Learn photography as a craft
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Professional photography is a business
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- Group Portrait Photography Handbook
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- Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age
- Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images
- Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell
- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
The line between photography as a hobby and a moneymaking activity is often very blurry. Many hobbyists, enthusiasts and amateurs think that once they have gained some technical knowledge, bought better-than-average equipment and have a bit of photography experience that they are qualified to start charging for their work, and declare themselves pros. Unfortunately, too many of these photographers are not yet prepared to compete in the marketplace, even as part-timers, and are even less prepared for the financial and business implications of earning a bit of extra income on the side. In many cases, the errors of their ways can cause them to become disillusioned about photography because the outcome wasn’t what they expected.
The best strategy you can follow if you are attracted to making money with you camera, either part time or full time, is to start slowly and follow the right preliminary steps before you take the final leap and quit your career or day job.
Becoming a successful pro is more than knowing how to use your camera and pointing it at the subject; you must become a true craftsperson. What this means is that you’re dedicated to learning EVERYTHING you must know, and then spending plenty of time practicing that knowledge by taking thousands of images. Your goal must be to produce work that is equal to working, experienced professionals, although you’ve never sold an image. Another major part of being a photographic craftsperson is having the right equipment. You simply can’t compete and expect to be successful if you are shooting with non-professional gear.
It should be quite obvious that perfecting your photographic craft will require an investment of time and money. In fact, this preparatory step will cost the most of both commodities. This is an excellent reason why you must start and move toward your goal slowly. You may have to start a dedicated savings account for the future purchase of professional equipment, and this could take a number of years. Simultaneously, you can be investing your time in learning the full scope of techniques and practicing, practicing and practicing some more.
Even after you’ve bought the equipment, learned techniques backwards and forwards and spent thousands of hours practicing, you still may not be able to determine objectively when you are truly ready to declare yourself a pro. As you grow into your craft, you should also find an experienced photographer, preferably a professional that can serve as a critic of your skills and work. Although many working professionals will be eager to help and can be found through the PhotographyTalk Forum, consider looking for recently retired photographers who have the time to work with you.
Another major mistake of hobbyists, enthusiasts and amateurs that are chomping at the bit to cross the line into the professional photography realm is forgetting success is impossible without thinking like a business person first and a photographer second. No business will succeed without the proper financial and general management structure, even if it is only a part-time business. At the very least, you want to invest some money in the advice of an accountant, so you are not surprised by local, state and federal regulations about operating a business, especially your tax responsibilities. You also want to be sure that you have the right insurance coverage in place. Don’t expect your regular homeowners and/or car insurance to be adequate protection.
A business structure is only the beginning. As a business owner, your primary role is sales and marketing. Until you know how to generate interest in your services with proven sales and marketing techniques, there will be no jobs to shoot and no money to be made. This is another aspect of being a pro that you can learn as you learn your craft and save money for the right equipment.
One of the primary purposes of PhotographyTalk is to help more photographers like you become better at your craft and to find the opportunities to make money with your camera. You’re cautioned to move slowly, however, plan well in advance and take small steps towards your ultimate goal. By doing so, you are more likely to be successful and possibly enjoy a long career working for yourself doing what you like to do best.
Image credit: goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo
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