- The Legalities of Setting Up a Photography Business
- Want to Start a Photography Business? Here's 5 Ways to Get Prepared
- Photography Business Tips: 3 Essentials You Need Before You Start
- 3 Things You Might Not Think About When Starting a Photography Business
- Enter photography competitions to get exposure for your work and your brand.
- Volunteer your photography services at local events.
- Have business cards on you at all times so you can hand them out when the opportunity arises.
- Join forces with other service providers and make referrals to one another.
- Make "cold calls" and send "cold emails" to introduce yourself and your services to people in the community.
- How to Make More Money as a Photographer
- Fact vs. Fiction: A Day in the Life of a Self-Employed Photographer
Let's face it...
You aren't going to make the move from being an amateur photographer to being a professional photographer overnight. In fact, it'll take a lot longer than that.
But just because it's a journey doesn't mean that it's some kind of impossible task. Instead, if you have the right plan for achieving your dreams of becoming a professional photographer, you can take baby steps toward reaching your goal.
That being the case, here are some actionable steps that will help you start a career as a photographer.
How to Become a Photographer: Plan and Prepare
You wouldn't take a road trip without doing a little planning, right? So why would you try to start a photography business without a plan in place?
Making the transition from being an amateur photographer that takes photos for fun to a professional whose livelihood depends on the photos they take necessitates having a solid business plan in place.
A photography business plan is a detailed, highly organized document that helps you plan out every aspect of your business.
From the name of your business to the types of services you offer to projected costs of starting the business and everything in between, your business plan is a line-by-line checklist of what you need to do to make your dreams a reality.
Not only will a business plan help you focus your energies on what needs to be done, but it will also allow you to identify the strengths you can rely on and what you need to do to shore up your weaknesses, too.
Get started with your photography business plan by using this template from the Small Business Administration, and for more tips on developing a business plan, check out the video above from Kat Moran.
Editor's Tip: Join our #1 affiliate program and earn income on the side.
Practice Your Craft
Of course, you can plan your transition into being a professional photographer all you want, but without the skills to take great photos, you won't get far.
That means that you need to be diligent about shooting every single day and developing advanced skills that will serve you well as a photographer.
And this isn't limited to learning how to compose a nice-looking photo, either.
There is simply too much information out there for you to not spend time every day learning something new about being a professional photographer.
Reading articles like this certainly helps, but also watch YouTube videos to learn new skills, buy a few photography books for inspiration, and pick the brain of other photographers and small business owners to see what real-world tips you can get for being a successful photographer.
The more you immerse yourself in photography and the business of photography, the better off you will be when you open up shop as a professional.
Compile a Portfolio
All that practice you put in planning, taking, and editing your photos needs to culminate in a collection of images in your portfolio.
Your portfolio is like your business' window to the world - it's how you communicate your talents and abilities as a photographer to potential customers.
That being the case, your portfolio needs to be 100 percent on point.
There cannot be any "so-so" photos in your portfolio; they must be the absolute best examples of your skills as possible.
What's more, your portfolio needs to be curated. That is, it's not a dumping ground for every photo that you like.
Instead, less is more in this situation. Aim for perhaps 15-20 photos that show your range of skills, and no more. Potential clients don't want to spend an hour flipping through a huge portfolio. Besides, the chances are good that they'll know if they like your work after seeing the first few images (and often, after seeing just the first one!).
And since your talents and skills will grow with time (and your photography style might change), it's important to make your portfolio a living document.
Revisit it several times a year and remove photos that are outdated or no longer reflect who you are and replace them with fresh examples of what you can do behind the lens.
Upgrade to a Professional Website
When you're an amateur photographer, posting your photos to Instagram and Flickr is fine.
But transitioning to taking photos as a profession, you need to have a professional website to give credence to the work that you do.
There are loads of website builders today that allow people with little or no website building experience to create pretty darn good looking websites. Squarespace and Wix are likely the most popular website builders right now, and both offer specialized templates just for photographers.
Get the scoop on the necessities of a photography website in the video below by Jessica Kobeissi:
In addition to having a professional website, you need a professional domain name.
Sure, you have to pay for a domain name and pay to keep it, but having your own branded URL is an absolute must if people are to take you seriously as a photographer.
Having your own branded URL also means that you can have your own branded email address that will serve as the icing on the cake for developing a professional online presence.
On top of that, it's a good idea to snatch up relevant social media handles that match your business name.
Having the same handle on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so forth will make it easier for customers to find you, and it simply looks more professional if all your online identities match.
Editor's Tip: Professional photographers only have the very best printers handle their printing needs. See what your photos look like when they're turned into a fine art print.
Get Out There to Find Clients
Just because you have photography skills and talents, a nice website, and a professional email address doesn't mean that people will be knocking down your door to hire you.
You have to work to find potential clients, but fortunately there are all sorts of ways to do that:
The key to finding clients is to be persistent and to target your efforts wisely.
Obviously, if you specialize in sports photography, you don't need to send many cold emails to residents at the local retirement home...
What's more, you have to be prepared to cast a very wide net without getting much in return.
The vast majority of cold calls you make and cold emails you send won't bear fruit. But it's part of the game of being a professional photographer - you have to keep trying to get the leads that turn into paying clients.
Look the Part
A piece of advice for budding professional photographers that often goes unnoticed is this - you need to look the part.
Slumming around in jogging pants and a stained t-shirt isn't going to do you any favors when you're trying to get people to pay you for your services.
Now, this doesn't mean that you have to wear a suit and tie or a dress all day every day, but at least look presentable and like you are a true professional.
Be well groomed, have your nails trimmed, comb your hair, have a go-to outfit to wear for client consultations, and pick up a good-looking camera bag for all your gear.
These are no-brainer type of things, yet you'd be surprised just how many photographers that aspire to be professionals don't look the part.
If you don't look like a pro, potential clients won't take you seriously, and you won't even have a chance to show them your awesome portfolio or explain the services you provide.
In that regard, this last professional photography tip is one of the most important on this list!