So, you've been at this photography thing for a while...
You probably have a decent understanding of how photography works, from shooting in manual to manipulating light and so forth.
You might have even been hired by a friend or a relative to take photos of a special occasion.
But a question lingers in the back of your mind - "How do I know when I'm ready to be a professional photographer?"
This is a question that pulls at plenty of amateur photographers.
And the answer really comes down to just one thing: confidence.
I know, I know...you need other stuff too, like the aforementioned technical and creative understanding of how to make a great photo.
You need people skills and business skills too.
This list goes on and on...
But, the common thread between each of these factors is simply having confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Let's explore how you can build your confidence such that you feel ready to take the plunge into professional work as a photographer.
You Don't Need Fancy Equipment
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a ton of gear, or even expensive gear, to be a professional photographer.
In fact, all you need is a camera and a lens. That's it!
Plenty of photographers have made money off of images they took with a basic crop sensor DSLR and a kit lens, and there's no reason why you can't join that club.
Yes, having a top-notch lens will help you create images that are sharper.
Having a tripod gives you greater flexibility regarding the speed of the shutter that you can use.
A good laptop with post-processing software opens up greater possibilities for editing your work.
You can add those things to your kit over time.
However, the bare essentials - a camera and a lens - is all you need to get started.
And getting started means knowing how to use your camera and lens backwards and forwards.
Practice taking all kinds of shots. Learn how your camera and lens react in different lighting situations. Develop an understanding of how to adjust exposure settings in manual mode. If you can do these things, you'll have the confidence you need to wrest every bit of quality out of the gear you have.
Start By Working for People You Know
One of the best ways to gain confidence in your photography skills is to practice.
And by practice, I don't necessarily mean taking photos of your family holiday gatherings.
I mean, talk to your family and your friends, and find opportunities to take photos of important events in their lives.
Sure, you might not want to photograph a wedding right off the bat, but you can work up to that by practicing your craft on less stressful events.
That means taking photos of your partner and your children. That means being the official photographer of your parent's anniversary party. That means asking your friends and neighbors if you can document their kid's birthday or their kid's high school graduation party.
In fact, just shooting what you love can get you well on your way to developing the confidence you need to be a better photographer. In the video above, Josh Katz recounts the story of how he became a photographer, a journey that began by photographing his friends skateboarding.
By putting yourself out there to take photos of events of the people in your life, you not only get to practice your technical photography skills, but you also get to practice the people skills required to be a successful photographer.
That means learning how to work with your family and friends to develop a shot list. You'll also get valuable experience directing people, such as helping them strike a pose for a portrait that's pleasing to the eye. The experience of hitting the streets and asking people if you can provide a service to them will be invaluable to you as you develop your professional career and need to market your business to the community.
What's more, working for friends and family members allows you to build a portfolio that you can then use to get paid work.
Again, you aren't going to use your first portfolio to land an international photography gig. However, you can use it to help you land jobs for local businesses or organizations that need a hand with their photography needs.
Build Your Portfolio
As mentioned earlier, your first portfolio isn't going to be something that lands you a six-figure gig as a professional photographer.
However, what your portfolio will do is show the community what you're capable of doing and help you land jobs that will get your foot in the door as a paid photographer.
In today's day and age, having an online portfolio is an absolute must.
That means not only can you get your work out there for people to see but you can also have a professional looking website and portfolio that's sure to impress future clients. Just imagine telling people to visit your portfolio that's got your name, logo, and awesome examples of your work - now that's a confidence builder!
When creating your portfolio, it's important to remember that less is more if you want an effective photography website.
You don't want every photo you've ever taken in the portfolio. Instead, it should be a curated body of work that shows only your best photos.
What's more, the portfolio itself should be clean and simple, that way people that view it aren't distracted by crazy colors or effects on the website and can concentrate on inspecting the quality of the photos you've created.
No Job is Beneath You
This one is hard advice for some new photographers to follow...
When it comes down to it, gaining confidence is all about practice, and if you're constantly turning jobs down, you won't be getting the level of practice you need to build your confidence or your business.
When you're just starting out, you need that experience to build your skill set and to build your clientele.
That means that no job is beneath you, no matter what it is.
The key to remember is that even if a job doesn't pay well (or doesn't pay at all), you still reap the benefits of more work. You get more practice working with different types of clients for different types of purposes. You have more images to practice your post-processing skills. You also get more photos to include in your portfolio.
What's more, the more you work, the more people you'll have to spread the word about you. Word of mouth is one of the keys to building a successful photography business. It's an incredibly important source of new jobs for photographers, so by taking every job that comes along, you're increasing the likelihood that you'll get future gigs because you'll have more people talking about you and the photos you create.
When it comes to building confidence, having a slew of satisfied customers that sing your praises to their friends and family is hard to beat! So, when your neighbor asks you to photograph their BBQ, do it. When someone calls you to take portraits of their pet, do it. The more work you take on, the more experience you get and the more confidence you will build.
Find a Mentor
Having someone that knows more about photography or business (or, ideally, both) is an invaluable asset for a burgeoning photographer.
Not only is a mentor someone that can give you advice on building your business or finding clients, but they can also act as a review board for your work.
Part of building confidence as a photographer is being willing to put your work out there for critique and review.
Having a mentor to give you constructive feedback will go a long way in helping you create more compelling photos. And by virtue of that, you'll gain more confidence in your abilities as a photographer.
Additionally, a mentor can help you get out of binds you find yourself in. They might act as a second shooter for you when the job is just too big to do alone. They might offer you creative advice when post-processing just isn't going how you'd like. They might even be able to help you resolve conflicts with clients such that you keep them in your good graces.
The point is that having someone have your back is a huge boost of confidence when you're just starting out. A mentor can certainly be that person to watch out for you and offer their help when needed. Learn about a few more reasons why having a mentor is so valuable by watching the video above by Miguel Quiles.
Starting a photography business is no easy task, that's for sure.
But you can make it easier on yourself by engaging in each of the activities outlined above. Not only will these steps help you build the confidence that's the foundation of a successful photographer and businessperson, but you'll also develop many other things that will help you be more successful, like having a solid portfolio and a large client base.
In the end, building a business will take time, patience, and dedication. But if you can commit yourself to the process and focus on these five confidence-building steps, you'll have a clear pathway to becoming a more successful photographer.