Time Magazine recently asked professional photographers their reasons for getting into photography. One of the most impactful answers came from a professional photographer for National Geographic, Sarah Leen, who said that photographs "defeat time." When you take a picture, you can keep a loved one's memory alive, you can stop time from moving on, and you have a piece of history in your hands. It is a living embodiment of joy or sorrow, or whatever emotions are there.
Photography enthusiasts often look forward to becoming a professional photographer and start earning from their hobbies. Nothing beats the feeling of getting paid for something that you love doing and would even do for free.
Being a professional photographer might seem easy and straightforward. To others, it looks like a glamorous occupation. You get to hobnob with celebrities, and all you do is to take pictures. In reality, however, photography is less about the glitz and more of loving what you do and working hard at it.
It takes years of practice to hone your photography skills and come up with consistently good pictures. You need to work hard, and you need to learn a lot of concepts. You might find yourself spending on photography classes, equipment, and software that you would need to produce the best photographs. Others have to work two jobs to support their photography.
For some people, they pass on becoming professional photographers because they view it as more than just a craft but art. They do not like compromises when it comes to their creative processes. Professional photographers know that they have to listen to their clients' specifications and give them what they want.
If the hard work needed to be a good photographer, or you do not want to compromise your artistic freedom scares you, then you might want to reconsider becoming one.
How Much Does a Professional Photographer Earn?
According to Recruiter.com, a photographer typically earns around $24,000 to $36,000 annually. However, this can change depending on a variety of factors, including your experience and the type of photography you do. For instance, photographers in the District of Columbia typically earn more than $55,000 a year.
The good news is that salaries for photographers have been steadily rising since 2004. This upward trend ensures that becoming a professional photographer will be more lucrative in the future.
Become a Professional Photographer
If you think that you have what it takes to be a professional photographer and would like earn while doing something that you love, then remember these tips to going pro.
Practice and take a lot of photos
Budding photographers should take a lot of photos. Do not worry if you cannot explain how the rule of thirds works, or if you do not have an idea what aperture is. At first, you will find yourself using auto mode more often, and that is okay.
When you shoot in auto mode, you can still hone some of your photography skills, such as learning composition, or getting the timing right. It would also show you areas of improvement, such as getting the proper lighting. It is essential that with every picture you shoot, you take time to look at these images and figure out what you like and dislike about them. Being critical of your work can help you improve.
Throughout all of these tips, you will encounter the word "practice" over and again. Remember that being good at anything means that you would need to do it repetitively and learning something with each repetition.
Be familiar with your camera
Knowing what your camera can do is an excellent way to get the most out of it, and also help in those situations when you need to access the features real quick. Even entry-level cameras can give you stunning shots, but there would be some trade-offs in what it could do because of the lower price. Find out what these tradeoffs are. For instance, is it one of those cameras where you can still have a sharp photo even when you open the aperture very widely? Does it falter with macro shots? How much zoom can you get in before image quality suffers?
Additionally, your camera may have a lot of unfamiliar buttons. Make sure you read the owner's manual before you start taking photos.
Master the manual mode
While it is okay to start learning photography taking photos in auto mode, you would still need to learn how to shoot in manual mode to get the perfect shots. To do that, you would need to learn about the essentials: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. You would also need to know what settings to use to get the perfect brightness and sharpness for your photos. On top of these settings, you would also need to master techniques in both composition and focus. These allow you to be more creative with your images.
Admittedly, it takes some time to master all of these, and you would need to practice (there is that word again!) a lot to master them. Do not fall into the trap of trying to learn them all at once, master one concept first before moving to another.
Learn how to manipulate lighting
Once you learn how to adjust the settings and know what to include and leave out in every photograph, then you would need to learn more about lighting. Photography is all about knowing how to use light to take amazing photos. There are times the lighting is just perfect. All you need to do is to press on that shutter release button.
Most times, however, you would need to manipulate the light to get perfect shots. You should know what to do in any lighting condition. For instance, what if the sun is behind your subject? Or will side lighting help with this particular shot? Further, you should know how to work with natural light, strobes, flash, and reflectors. Lastly, sign up for some easy to follow lighting tutorials online
Choose your specialty
You can get into several types of photography, and each discipline has its own set of expertise that you need to learn. You would need to decide what kind of photographer you want to be. The trick is to find a specialization that you would enjoy. If you love kids, then you would not mind having to spend the whole day photographing toddlers and babies. If you are quite shy, you might do better with food or product photography.
Another consideration would be the potential demand for your services. If your area already has several prominent wedding photographers, throwing your hat into the ring would probably mean a rougher start for your business. Most people will prefer to work with more established names. You might be forced to charge a much lower rate to get customers into your studio. Rather than work for peanuts, try real estate photography or aerial photography and other specialization.
After you have chosen what kind of photographer you want to be, you would need to learn the required skills to learn in your chosen specialization. For instance, if you are going to take tempting food photos for a living, then you should learn food styling and proper lighting.
Post-processing is your best friend
Even the best photographers need to learn how to edit their images. For most people, this means learning how to use Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, which are two of the most popular image editing and enhancing tools right now. Several online courses teach users how to use Photoshop or Lightroom so that even beginners would find it easy.
Gather feedback and learn from your mistakes
Some people are lucky to have somebody who can serve as their mentors. Some photographers started out in the school paper where they had teachers and editors that can critique their shots. Others work as assistants to more established photographers.
Find somebody who knows photography that you can ask for critiques and opinions. You can also join a photography group, post a photo on social media with the specific intention of gather feedback for it, or join photo contests. The feedback you get will help you know where you’re good at and what you need to improve.
Exposure, exposure, exposure
All professional photographers start out from being nobodies. The good news is that a new professional photographer now has several ways to get the word out. For starters, put together a portfolio with your best photos to show around. You can also offer discounted studio sessions to introduce your service to people.
You might also try to gain exposure online. Create a Web site, or use social media to showcase your best shots. Learn some search engine optimization tricks and make your online properties easy to find.
Plan your business
Learn how to run a business after you have built up your photography skills. Then develop a business plan that would consider several factors such as studio location and marketing strategies. A well thought out business plan will spell the difference between making money and going bankrupt.
Good Luck on Your Professional Photographer Journey
You have to be clear on one thing, being a professional photographer is hard work. You would need to be both a creative and talented photographer as well as a savvy businessperson. Learning how to work a camera and becoming good at capturing priceless moments is only the start.
When you become a professional photographer, you would need to work on promoting your skills and your service, as well as selling your work. You should love taking photos so much that you are willing to endure the more tedious aspects of being a professional photographer. Most importantly, you should remember that a professional photographer never stops learning and succeeds only with the right skills and the right attitude.