So, you want to become a photographer, eh? It’s actually an exciting career, and it’s a good choice for anyone who likes creative, hands on work. Some people will tell you that you need professional training and a degree in photography or photojournalism. Peshaw. Okay, those things will help immensely, but like most other creative careers, a little talent, professional knowledge and experience can take you a long way.
How to become a professional photographer in 10 steps:
1. Get in gear
Most photographers today work with DSLR cameras. Does that mean you need one? No. You can work with whatever is comfortable for you, but whatever you choose, get familiar with it. You should know that camera like the back of your hand to be able to adjust settings and get the best quality photos in an instant. If you’re just starting out, choose something basic and work your way up as you gain more experience.
2. Educate yourself
If you have never taken a photography class, now is a good time. Although this is a creative field, there are some rules, tips and tricks that can help you become a much better photographer. For example, the best photographers are lighting experts. They know which angle to position a subject in natural light to get the best possible shot, and they understand how light will be absorbed or reflected off of their subject.
3. Practice every day
You don’t need to plan a major photo shoot for every day of the week, but don’t leave home without your camera. Start thinking like a photographer. When you see something that looks like it would make a good picture, take one!
4. Hire models for portraits
If you are planning to be a wedding photographer or a fashion photographer, your portfolio should include some portraits, even if they aren’t the traditional type. You may be able to barter rights to use the photos in exchange for modeling work, if you find models who are just getting started in their careers.
5. Build a portfolio.
A resume is good, but in photography, you’ll need to prove your talent, and the only way you can do this is by showcasing your best work. Try to choose a wide array of shots using different angles, subjects and lighting to show your range.
6. Get your business license or get a job
Many start their careers in the entry level as a freelance photographer. They may simply be independent or they may have their own business. If you decide to start your own photography business, research the documentation and licensing you’ll need in your local area in order to call yourself a professional. If you’re okay with working for someone else, which could be a great learning experience, then get a job instead.
7. Get insurance
If you’re working as an independent contractor or a solopreneur, you’ll need insurance. Your insurance should cover your business and equipment in the case of accidental damage or in the event of a lawsuit of some sort.
8. Set goals
How often would you like to work? How many jobs do you see yourself booking in a week or a month? Set goals, so you can start planning out how to find the customers you’ll need to achieve them. At the very least, you’ll need a website to showcase your work, and you may need to run ads to attract new business.
9. Decide on your rate
Once you have set goals, including how often you’d like to work and how much money you would like to make, it’s time to figure out how you’ll price each job. This is a difficult step to get right, so don’t get discouraged. It’s a balance between how much you’d like to make and how much your clients will be able to pay. Start with your wish list, and then do some competitive research to figure out whether that rate makes sense.
10. Draft a boilerplate contract
Before you get your first job, you should be prepared with a contract. This boilerplate contract will be something you can use again and again, changing only the contact info, dates and specifics of the job. If you can afford to, you may hire a lawyer to draft this document for you. Otherwise, you may want to use a free resource like Docracy. Your contract should outline the relationship between you and your client, and another should outline the relationship between you and your subjects (if they are different than your clients). Becoming a photographer is about more than just taking excellent photographs. It’s about being business savvy and working well with clients.