- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
- GOING PRO FROM BEGINNER DSLR CAMERA: A NO Holding Back Guide to Going Pro With Your DSLR CAMERA
There’s been an ongoing trend for a few years now for first time DSLR buyers to want to jump straight into the business of photography. It usually starts with these folks snapping pictures of their families, friends and pets. They get instant appreciation and tons of positive comments and this is by no means a bad thing, but it does interfere with their ability to honestly judge their worth as photographers.
Many of these new photogs don't have the patience or the time to really learn what photography is all about and to acquire a decent skill set. Instead, they put up a Facebook page, most often called Bob Something Photography, maybe put in a little money to get more likes and start waiting for clients to write and call.
Well, if you're one of these people, I have four questions that I believe you should ask yourself. What you're doing isn't necessarily wrong, it just needs a little more attention and probably a lot more hard work than you image.
(Success Tip: Master photography with a simple deck of cards here)
Question No. 1 - Are my skills good enough to turn pro?
This is one of the most common mistakes beginners make, and it is a big one as well. A lot of them buy entry-level or semi-pro cameras and immediately start using them in Auto mode. It’s comfortable to let the camera do all the work, so they stick to that for a long time, without making the effort of learning how to use the camera’s settings manually. Let me tell you one thing: any photographer who doesn't know how to fully control a camera, any camera, has no business going pro. There is no way around it. And let me tell you one other thing: learning how to use your camera is not enough. A professional photographer needs to be completely confident about his lighting skills. You're going to need to learn how to work with ambient and flash light.
So before anything else, give yourself an honest answer if you are truly up to the task of taking pictures in difficult conditions.
Question No.2 – Do I know what my clients want from me?
Wannabe pros get really excited and confident after shooting their family and friends. In fact, they get so confident they make the mistake of confusing the needs of their family and friends with those of actual, paying customers. Only after they come face to face with the first client do they fall victims to the shock and start losing their confidence and thus get a cold shower from reality. So you must ask yourself if you really know what people expect from you. The first step to deal with this problem is to have a visible portfolio. Yes, these will most likely be the photos of your close ones, but they will be a reference for your clients. Show only your best work and expect your clients to demand the best quality you can offer.
One other thing you need to pay attention to is the attitude of your clients and your attitude towards them. They will not behave like your loved ones and they're are not doing you a favor by posing for a few shots. They pay money for a service and they expect that service to be proportional to the amount they spend. Think of your new photography business like a small restaurant that is full of pretentious clients.
Having people skills is one of the most important assets if you want to be successful in this business. Simply having a passion for photography is not enough and you must be prepared to meet high demands and deal with annoying people.
Question No. 3 - Do I know the risks I am taking?
Treat your new found goal of becoming a pro photographer like entering a new business, because you will be dealing with similar situations. You have to invest time and money and you have to become educated. You must study the local market and identify your potential client base. After that you have to do the math and come up with the exact figures that allow you to make a profit. Constant marketing and advertising are a must until you make a name for yourself.
These are just the basic facts and it gets a lot deeper once you set out on this road. Most people thinking about starting a career in photography already have a day job and some of them want to leave that behind and focus all of their attention on making it as photographers. While indeed such an endeavor requires your full attention and a lot of time, you must have the right answers to questions 1 and 2. Your social situation is also an important factor. If you have a family, this giant leap you are about to take affects them directly; they go in with you. Risk assessment is crucial and over the years I've seen a few photographers quitting their jobs and spending their savings on gear, only to close shop a year later.
I don’t mean to be a downer here, but a lot of things can go wrong and you and your loved ones need to be prepared.
(Success Tip: Consider buying used gear vs new to maximize working budget. View used camera gear here.)
Question No. 4 - Am I prepared for the life of a freelancer?
As I've mentioned before, most people considering a career in photography are switching from something else. Employment is very different from working as a freelancer. There are goods and bads to both of them, but it takes a certain kind of tolerance to be able to work as a self-employed professional.
First of all, you need to consider the work hours. If you have a nine to five job, prepare for dramatic changes. As a pro photographer, you could end up working twelve to fourteen hours a day. The movie nights with your family could turn into editing nights. The hours are therefore a lot longer, but at least you're doing it for yourself not your boss.
Financial insecurity is perhaps the most troubling change of all. I have friends who are doing pretty well with their businesses but occasionally admit the nostalgia of a secure monthly salary.
Things will be tough, especially in your first months. Whatever you do, DO NOT quit your job and start your photography business without savings that will get you through for at least 6 months. Doing that is financial suicide.
Expect to do your own accounting and say goodbye to paid vacations and medical. All that will now be coming out of your pocket, out of what you earn as a photographer.
I know these questions are tough and answering them isn't easy, but if you want to stand a chance, you have to be honest with yourself. It’s a very demanding market out there, and no matter where you live, the competition is most likely fierce. I didn't write these questions to scare you away from taking a chance that could change your life for the better. Instead, I want you to be true to yourself and acknowledge the risks and changes you will have to face with this important step. There are a lot of photographers who successfully adapt to this life and make wonderful transitions from other fields of work, but there are also many who fail because they don't do their homework or were simply not cut out for it. Only you can influence your path in photography, but my advice is if you’re going to take the leap, be as prepared as possible.