How to Become a Professional Photographer – Tips for Greatness

Asking yourself how to become a professional photographer if you feel like you have what it takes? Well, it really isn’t all that hard as long as you’re committed to the goal. If you want to quit playing and get in on the serious stuff, you’re going to have to push for excellence.

It’s a competitive business and only the strongest survive. Pretty much like in the corporate world, without the 9 to 5 work program. You will probably lead a bohemian, colorful life, and have access to great events. Some photographers work with celebrities, so you might even get that autograph you’ve been hoping for your whole life. It sounds good on paper. However, it does come with sacrifices and a lot of effort.


Here’s How to Become a Professional Photographer in Just 6 Easy Steps:

1.      Invest in Photography Classes

You don’t need a college degree to become a photographer, but you will need to know the technical stuff as well. You can’t rely only on talent when you have to work a complex equipment such as a DSLR camera with various lenses. There are many companies and organizations offering photography courses, and some aren’t expensive at all. You might even find free ones if you do some Internet research. Read online reviews, ask around, make sure you have chosen an excellent course. You will learn how to get the best out of your camera, what techniques to use, learn everything about photography gear and even develop contacts that may be of use in your future career.

2.      Build a Portfolio

While you’re taking your classes, spare some time and start shooting. It’s never too early to start building a portfolio. It’s the only way of demonstrating the quality of your work. Post your photos online on websites such as Flickr or DeviantART. It’s free, and you can easily share the link to your portfolio with prospective clients. Only post your best shots. As always, there should be quality over quantity.

3.      Get a Job as an Assistant

Working as an assistant to an expert in the field is even more useful than specific education. You will gain valuable work experience, but more than that, you’ll develop all the skills you need to become a professional photographer.

4.      Get Inspiration

It’s good to know what other photographer are doing. It doesn’t mean you should start copying their work. No. You have to develop your own style so that people will recognize your work without even having your name next to it. But you do have to look at other photographers’ photos to see how they use lighting, for example, and other elements that make the shot incredible.

5.      Get Yourself out There

Now that you have the skills and the portfolio, you have to get popular. This means also becoming a social media expert. Set up social media accounts and share your photos. Interact with your audience to gain popularity. Check out business pages and try to get in contact with them to offer your services.

You should also act as a sales person if you want to gain profit from your work. At first, you can offer your services or free. When you feel like you’ve won your clients, you can start charging money gradually. Don’t expect to become a professional photographer if you stay within your bubble.

6.      Be a Professional

No, we’re not talking about being a professional photographer. Although, it should come with the job. It’s about how you treat your clients. Answer e-mails, phone calls, messages, as quickly as possible. Even if you have to turn down a job.

If someone isn’t happy with your work, try to reshoot it or reprocess it. But never get angry at your clients. After all, the customer is always right.

You should also keep track of receipts, invoices, taxes. Stay organized at all costs.

Now that you have developed your general skills, you have to find your focus. Try sticking to one field of photography. Be the best at that one thing you’re most fascinated about instead of risking to provide mediocre work because you want to do them all. Below, you’ll find some other useful tips for wedding, wildlife, and sports photographers.

How to Become a Professional Wedding Photographer

wedding photographer

A wedding photographer has one of the toughest jobs. They have to take shots of people on the most special day of their life. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. Well, not always, but for most it really is.

  1. It’s crucial that wedding photographers invest in a good camera and great lenses. You can’t remake photos taken in church or at the wedding reception, so you have to be sure your camera will provide high-quality shots.
  2. Before you start shooting weddings for money, take photos at your friends’ weddings. They most likely have hired a professional photographer, and you can observe the way he works and constructs his composition.
  3. Get yourself known as a wedding photographer. Establish a name for your wedding photography business and use catchy words and phrases to attract clients. You must bring your marketing knowledge to the table to become a professional photographer.
  4. Set your rates low. That is, at first. Most people don’t afford to spend money on an expensive photographer, and you’ll get more clients if you’re not greedy.
  5. Study portrait photographers. Because you have to take photos of people, it’s essential to know what angles work, what are the right poses and how to post-process your pictures.

How to Become a Professional Wildlife Photographer

wildlife photographer

  1. Invest in expensive lenses. Wildlife photographers usually shoot at the lens’ maximum aperture. This way, they get the fastest shutter speed to focus on the action and blur the background. Because of this, they prefer fast super-telephotos: 300mm ƒ/2.8 to 800mm ƒ/5.6. These are expensive lenses, but you can’t do it otherwise.
  2. Study animal behavior. If you know at least a little about how the animal mind works, you are already way ahead others. Animals are tricky and unpredictable. You must learn to be patient and always keep yourself safe around dangerous animals. Don’t be a hero.
  3. Find a mentor. See what wildlife expert photographers work within your area and are willing to help you with pro tips. Enter contests and have your work receive critiques and suggestions. Feedback helps you improve your skills.
  4. Wear camouflage. Besides the fact that you have to be as silent as possible, you have to blend in with the environment. You might not have something to shoot if the animals spot a stranger in their environment.
  5. Buy particular hygiene products. This means not using shampoo, soap, deodorant, and other hygiene products, that smell. You should be able to find odorless ones in stores as well.

How to Become a Professional Sports Photographer

sports photographer

  1. Be a fan of sports. You won’t make it if you don’t love the game. A sports enthusiast will better capture the essence of it rather than someone who’s in it only for the money.
  2. Practice your skills by photographing amateurs. Start small and work your way up to the big league. It’s also better to begin by shooting sports with less movement.
  3. Use the right lenses. Just as wildlife photographers, those who want to shoot sports have to invest in expensive telephoto lenses. A wide aperture isolates your subject from the background and fast shutter speed enables you to freeze the action. Dig deep in your pocket to get the best results.
  4. Be competitive. You have more in common with the sports you’re photographing than you think. Photography is a competitive business, and you have to develop both your technical and people skills to win the race.
  5. Get a job at a newspaper or sports website. You’ll have access to all the major sports events, and you’ll get to be as close as possible to your subjects. And you’ll even be making money in the process. It’s a good starting point if you want to become a professional photographer.


Wedding Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid  

Weddings are serious events. So, if you are not actually a professional photographer yet but still want to venture in the vast world of wedding photography you need to keep your eyes open for some pieces of advice.

Here you will find some of the most common photography mistakes you need to avoid if you want to master the art of photography.

This list will include mistakes from both the photographer and the soon to be married couple’s points of view.

Wedding Photography Mistakes

Wedding Photography Mistakes From the Photographer’s Point of View

1. Not Knowing your Gear

It is very important to think ahead when it comes to any sort of serious event you are the designated photographer at. Always make sure you have a plan B when it comes to your equipment. At a wedding, you are usually set with having two cameras, a tripod and a couple of different lenses. This way, even if one of your cameras malfunctions or runs out of battery, you will not lose precious time and moments charging your camera or not being able to replace it.

Another problem is having expensive equipment and not knowing how to use it. Take your time to find out every little function your camera is capable of. A wedding is not exactly the right place to see what a new setting on your camera does.

2. Poor Exposure

Poor exposure is always a problem when it comes to big objects in a light color. You big, white object at a wedding is the bride’s wedding dress. You certainly do not want all of your shots with the bride to appear like someone sank in a large white mass, this is why you need to play around with the exposure.

An exposure set too high will make the bride’s dress look like its glowing while a too underexposed picture will make shadows look noisy and the white looking grey. Given the fact that you have a light dress to shoot, you can use a slight under exposure to capture all the shadows casted on the bride’s dress and a little underexposure can be edited fairly easy after the photoshoot.

3. Lack of Experience

Do not let anyone talk you into becoming the main photographer at an event if you are not sure that is what you want. Let’s say your best friends in high school are about to get married and they are almost forcing you into becoming their photographer even though you haven’t shot any weddings prior to theirs.

A wedding needs one of the happiest events in the married couple’s lives so do not consider the task of being a wedding photographer as easy. If you are not 100% certain you will be able to end the task successfully, offer your services as a secondary photographer, experiencing with different angles and details and let a professional photographer take the blame if the photos are not good enough.

4. Focusing too Much on the “Best Shot”

If you want your wedding photographs to really stand out, do not spend way too much time on taking the best shot of the married couple. Usually, a couple who wants beautiful wedding pictures with only the two of them will arrange a private photoshoot where they can focus on being with each other.

At the wedding, you need to capture moments rather than people. Group photos where half of the people are looking at your camera while the other half is looking on other cameras are starting to get really annoying. Focus you attention on how the wedding goes on and mark the most special moments with photographs of the soon-to-be married couple, their guests and also some their designs.

5. Choosing JPEG Format

You need as much detail as possible, especially when it comes to wedding photos. Most of your photos will most likely need some touch ups after the wedding so why not take advantage of you gear properly? Instead of choosing to shoot your pictures in a JPEG format, choose the RAW setting.

Wedding Photography Mistakes

From the Bride and Groom’s Point of View

1. Lack of Communication Between You & Your Photographer

Do not expect to find someone who will know exactly what, when and how to shoot right from the start. In order to get the best out of your wedding pictures you have to have good communication with your photographer.

Try pointing out what you actually want to see in your wedding pictures and what you expect out of all this wedding photography experience.

2. Not Finding a Focus Point

Do you want two dozen pictures with the two of you in different moments or do you want a collage made with pictures of your family and friends? Sort out what your photographer’s focus point should be, this way if he or she messes up, it will not be because you weren’t sure about what you wanted.

If you have ideas regarding what colors should be predominant or how you want the pictures to be taken, do not be afraid to share them with your photographer.

3. Details are not that Important

Thirty years from now, when you will be looking through your old wedding pictures you would have probably already forgotten what colors the napkins where or how uncle John spilled an entire bottle of champagne on aunt Mary. Photographs are special moment frozen in time, take advantage of them as much as you can.

Details and small moments are what you will remember from your special day so do not consider them less important.

4. Not Making Eye Contact

If you will constantly pose whenever you see the camera in your vicinity, you will automatically have dozens of dull pictures. Through posing you eliminate any trace of real emotion and you will constantly be distracted by the camera.

For your pictures to look as natural and as great as possible, always maintain a natural look and be spontaneous even when you see someone taking a picture of you.

5. Not hiring a Professional {Photographer

You may think you know enough about photography to trust your wedding photos in the hands of a beginner or a friend’s but without having some special training or experience in photography, you will most likely be disappointed of your photographer.

Although a professional photographer may be expensive and you might not consider him necessary, you will definitely love him after you see the actual pictures.

Why You Shouldn’t Have A Checklist For Your Wedding Clients

Are you a wedding photographer? Do you use a checklist to let your clients tell you what images they want?

Stop handing them out and let your creativity soar. While checklists may seem like a great way to communicate with your client, they actually turn you into a subpar photographer. Here’s why.

It Is Unprofessional

You are a professional photographer. Do you really need a client to check a box telling you she wants a photograph of her and her new husband? As a professional, if you don’t understand the basic images that are needed to fulfill a wedding package, you shouldn’t be shooting weddings.

It Sets The Stage For Failure

Imagine you have a checklist with 200 photographs on it. The bride goes through and starts checking them – check, check, check – before she knows it every boxed is checked. It’s her wedding, she wants it all. Now you have the task of having to fulfill every check. Did you get this image? Yes. Oops, I forgot one, now what? Pretty soon you’re missing a lot of the wedding because you’re so worried about getting all the check marks. And if you miss one, the bride will pull out her checklist and ask you about it. Then she won’t be happy with the images you took; instead she’ll be disappointed in the one’s you missed.

It Limits Creativity

Every wedding is different. Every bride and groom is different. If you’re working from a list that says “close up of the bride”, “profile of the bride”, and on and on, you’re not paying attention to what is happening around you. You move from checklist, to pose, to shot, to check, and to the next image on the list. You’re not watching the groom sneak in to make the bride laugh. You don’t notice the bridesmaids off on the side dancing and twirling. You miss everything that will cause this wedding to be unique.

Why You Shouldnt Have A Checklist For Your Wedding Clients

Instead of working with a checklist, use what we call a wedding worksheet instead. [Read more…]

Wow, I Never Knew It Was So Easy To Make Money At Photography

I’ve had a point and shoot since high school and love to play around at photography. The other day I picked up one of those camera specials at the big box store – you know, where it comes with a body and a lens all in one?

So I was thinking, I’m pretty good at photography, and because I haven’t had a raise in five years and my husband has been out of work for 18 months, I think I’ll make some money at it.

I’ve already shot a wedding and did a pretty good job. Its easy. You just show up and keep shooting. Sure I ended up with over 3000 images. But I had to take that many; by the time I went through them and took out all the bad ones, I had 400 great ones left. And after I Photoshopped what was left, I have to say they were pretty good. The bride seemed pretty happy with her CD.

And I made $500 bucks for my effort! That really looked good in our bank account. Sure, I work during the week, and the wedding took 10 hours out of my Saturday. But the kids will understand – this is a tough time. So $500 and 10 hours of time – that’s $50 an hour. Yipppeeee. Oh wait, I guess I did spend 5 hours on Sunday editing the 3000 down to 400. Oh, and I did spend the several hours each night over the following week Photoshopping those final 400. And I did meet the bride for coffee so she could look through the disk on her computer. And I might have to meet her again if she wants to order anything else – but she does have the images so that probably won’t happen anyway.

I loved the camera I used as well. Sure, I couldn’t get everything I wanted – its hard with the one lens. I’ll save up and buy another one soon, but for now the one camera body and one lens should do just fine. The on camera flash seemed to work pretty well too. This last wedding was in the middle of the day and held out on a patio area, so I didn’t need much flash anyway. It can’t be that much different at a night wedding, or a wedding reception in a dance hall with low lighting, right? And as long as I’m careful with my camera, the one should last me this entire season.

I talked with another bride today and she asked me about price. I have no idea what to charge, but I do know everyone I’m talking with wants a CD with all the files. They really don’t care about prints or albums or frames, so I know I’m going to stick with handing them a CD with all the images. That seems like the easiest way. And since I’m new at this, I know I can’t charge what others do. I searched online today and found several photographers in my area that charged $1000, $1200 and $1500 for wedding coverage. So I’ll low-ball it to make sure I get plenty of work. I think I’ll offer a $500 and an $800 package.

Business license? I need one of those? A tax ID? Insurance? Really? I want to do this bare-bones. What do I absolutely have to have in order to get this business off the ground? All else can wait.

I’ve worked the last five weekends, and boy am I getting tired. The weddings are all over town, so I’m averaging 10 hours per Saturday. And of course you can double those hours with production time. I haven’t spent any time with the kids in weeks. We’re having to get babysitters too as my husband found a part time job as well. But in five weeks, I’ve made $2500. Of course I have no idea where the money went. Groceries, gas, dentist bills and clothes for the kids. Probably a lot to the babysitter as well.

Oh no, I dropped my camera. And I have a wedding tomorrow. It should still work, right? It looks like its okay.

Well it wasn’t okay. And now the bride is fuming. All of her pictures are messed up and I don’t know what to do. I told her I would spend a lot of time Photoshopping them and doing what I can to make them great.

After 50 hours of computer time, the bride is finally happy. Whew. I was worried she was going to sue me. And I haven’t had time to look into that insurance yet. Maybe I should do that this week…

This was the worst summer of my life. I have no extra money in the bank, I’ve been working 7 days a week for the past 5 months, I don’t even know who my kids are anymore, I haven’t spoken with my husband in 3 weeks, and I have a pile of work still left to do. Photography used to be fun – it’s a huge chore now. There’s nothing creative about it. I just show up and literally start shooting in hopes I capture something great. I hate posing as I really don’t know how to do it. And I’m always stressed out and worried my camera will die or I’ll have to replace a lens. And these bridezillas! I had no idea some of them could be so demanding. They really want me to get a shot like that? How would I do that?

They say the best way to get more weddings is to market your business. What? I have a business card, but I can’t afford anything else. And do I really want to anyway? I can’t imagine having another summer like this. Maybe its time to hang up my camera and go back to shooting for fun.

I’m thinking there might be a little more to it in becoming a true professional photographer.

The One Thing That Makes You A Professional Photographer

Its probably one of the hottest topics online when it comes to the photography profession:

The differences between amateurs and professionals

Is there truly a difference? Do you need something special to move from one to the other? And is it truly possible to make a living as a professional photographer with amateurs filling up the marketplace for part time work?

Right here on this blog we’ve discussed this concept again and again.

Dig Deeper: The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals

Dig Deeper: What A Pro Captures Versus What an Amateur Shoots

Dig Deeper: How To Lose A Million Dollars in 3 Seconds

I just found a video that touches on this very topic. Michael Freeman says it in the simplest way possible:

Professional photography means making a living from it.

Can’t argue with that. [Read more…]

10 Things You Have Heard As A Professional Photographer

Chances are when you started thinking about becoming a professional photographer, you held the dream close inside for a while. I know we did. After all, it had been generations since any of our family had broken into the entrepreneurial world. What would they think? What would they say?

Well as chance would have it, they probably had a lot to say once you did tell them. I’m sure you heard it all. And I was reminded of some of the things family and friends said when we finally made our announcement this morning when I read through a great blog post, Things They Have No Right To Tell You. So I came up with some of my own.

Have you heard any of these?

I’ve never started a business before, but I can tell you it’s a very risky thing to do, especially in this economy.

Nobody makes a great living as a professional photographer; welcome to the world of being a starving artist.

I’ve never been a photographer before, but I have a ton of ways to help you build your business.

I really need professional photography. Would you be interested in spending a day photographing me, and I’ll give you some of my “product/service”?

I have a great charity – could you donate some of your services to help me out?

I’m in a tough spot right now, but I love your work. If you photograph me for free, I’ll tell all my friends about you – and I know “a lot” of people.

It takes money to make money – be prepared to spend a lot.

You have real talent; I know you’ll be successful.

Quit dreaming and get your head out of the clouds. Get a job like the rest of us.

I’ve tried that before, and I can promise you it doesn’t work.

What else have you heard?

10 Things To Think About Before You Turn Professional

It seems as if everyone you run into is a photographer these days. And part of that is true. With mobile technology, its easier than ever to capture photos and video simply because you always have a camera ready and with you.

And while many people love taking pictures, not everyone with a camera is ready to be a professional, nor do they want to be. They are happy with their day jobs, and are just as happy to take the occasional portrait of a friend or loved one when they ask. They don’t want to worry about marketing or finding clients. They don’t want the responsibility of writing up contracts and buying business insurance.

Yet for some, the thrill grows beyond just snapping a few pictures. They love the art form, and want to use their love of photography to grow something more. They want to share what they do and love with the world.

When you’re ready to move from hobby to professional, it takes a lot more than the photography. Here are 10 things you’ll need to do along the way.

1. Set Up The Business

In order to charge for what you do, you have to set up the business side of things. You can do that as simply as visiting your local government, establishing the business, and taking out a tax license. And you can get a lot more complex with it by filing for corporation status. But in order to keep things legitimate, make sure you take the necessary steps before your first client. The last thing you need is “complications” down the road because you didn’t get things established the right way in the first place.

Dig Deeper: Setting Up Your Photography Business In The Right Way

2. Think About Insurance

When you work for someone else, or buy a home, you sign on the dotted line, and have all the coverage you need. Running your own business is a bit different. You have to have business insurance to cover the cost of doing business. And if you are making this a full time career and don’t have a policy through a spouse, you may have to invest in your own health insurance policy. And finally, think about long term disability as well. If something we’re to happen to you, and you couldn’t pay the bills for 6 months, 1 year or longer, what would you do?

Dig Deeper: How To Lose A Million Dollars In 3 Seconds

3. Be Covered Legally

Every industry has its own set of legal requirements. While a handshake and a smile may have worked years ago, its hard to rely on that today, especially if you are in long term negotiations. Make sure you have a solid contract in place for all types of photography you will cover – portraits are different than weddings. And make sure you have model releases if you will be using your images for anything outside of handing them over to the client. I also use online model releases just to make sure clients know I will be using their images online and approve it. Its not a complicated process, and in many cases you can find examples to follow through other photographers. Be sure to check in with a lawyer to make sure you are fully covered for your circumstances – if its already written, reviewing is much less expensive than going through the entire process.

4. Establish Your Pricing

Don’t just guess at it; make sure you charge what you need to for your photography in order to stay in business. There is an art form to pricing your services and packages. Make sure you price to cover your costs, and to make a healthy profit.

Pricing Your Photography – the best way to build a successful business

5. Have the Right Attitude

Business doesn’t just come to you; you have to work for it. In hard economic times, it may take a bit longer and a lot more work. But if you have the attitude that says “I’ll do it no matter what”, you have a much greater chance of success.

One of the things that sets great business people apart from average one’s is keeping a professional attitude, no matter what. If a client gets on your nerves, you have to learn to handle it in a professional manner. And when you type a word, phrase or entire report online, you have to think of appearances first, not your opinion. Professionalism maintains 24 hours a day, and is affected by everything you do. [Read more…]

Moving From Hobby To Business: What It Takes To Get To The Next Level

This post is Day 5 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

A hobby can be different things to different people.

It might mean taking a camera along on vacations and to family events, snapping up a few images.

It might be taking a few portraits or shooting a few weddings for people you know, making very little, and doing it more for a portfolio.

However you define it, I tend to look at the way the IRS defines it.

The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year. A person should be able to able to determine if its hobby or business by asking the following questions:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

For me, your photography turns from hobby to business the minute you decide you want it to be a business. If you feel you can in any way generate income from taking photographs, and you are ready to set out on the adventure called entrepreneurship, then you are ready to start a photography business. [Read more…]