Beginning a career as a photographer can be a great way to transform a hobby into a profession. If you have a genuine talent for photography, then there are chances that you could build a name for yourself and make a very good living doing what you love. However, it’s more complicated than posting a few of your pictures on social media and crossing your fingers.
Taking pictures is the easy part, it’s everything surrounding the business that you’ll need to get a grasp on if you want to succeed. Here’s what you should know before you start a career as a photographer.
You Might Have to Improve Your Skills
You may be good at taking photos and have gotten some compliments from your friends and family. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re ready to make it a career.
Do you find yourself taking a lot of pictures that you can’t use and have to rely on photoshop? Well, if that’s the case, it usually means that you’re simply not good enough yet. Your photos should be exposed correctly, in focus, and look great in-camera without the use of photoshop.
If you’re constantly blown away by the work of other photographers and wonder how they’re able to do what they do, then this might be another sign that you’re not ready yet. That doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to be able to replicate your favorite photographer’s work, but it also shouldn’t seem out of your reach. If that’s the case, then you may need some extra formation.
You Will Need Some Time to Build Experience
Don’t expect to start working on big projects from the beginning. Chances are you’ll need to get practice first, even if you have the fundamentals. Different jobs might present different challenges, and you need to be able to get it right every time before you can call yourself a professional photographer. This is why you might want to start with small work and with friends and family so you can fine-tune your skills.
It also means that you may have to do some volunteer or pro-bono work to earn your chops. At least, if you make mistakes on these jobs, the client won’t be as angry and will understand that you’re still learning.
Forget Normal Working Hours
If you decide to work as a photographer, know that you may have to work more often than what you’d like. Events are often on the weekend, and gigs can last well into the night, so know that this could take some of the time you usually have off.
There are no sick days either, and if you don’t feel like working one day, you could get yourself and your clients in trouble. So, make sure that you’re ready for the commitment and that you’re the kind of person who follows through on their engagements.
You also have those gigs when you have to start at strange hours, like the middle of the night or before dawn. This could be very tough for some, so this is another thing you’ll have to prepare for. Even if you manage to get some editorial or advertising work, you still can’t expect to work a regular 9 to 5. Your work will depend on deadlines, and you sometimes won’t be able to leave until the material needed is finished. Then you have to deal with calls, emails, and everything else that comes with running a business, so don’t expect it to be a joyride.
You Might Have to Deal with Difficult People
People take their image very seriously, and some might be more perfectionist than others. Then you have those who don’t know what they want or have unrealistic expectations. This is all part of the job, and something you’ll have to be ready to face.
Photography is one of those strange positions where everyone seems to think they can do what you do better, so be ready to hear harsh criticism from people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. This is why you’ll need to have a nice disposition, and it will be your responsibility to tell them why certain things might not be possible.
You also need to be able to see when someone may have a point, and be ready to take criticism. You need to have thick skin in this business, and try to view everything as a learning experience. The last thing you want to do is take it personally. Legitimate criticism will only make you a better photographer if you take the time to take it in and make the improvements needed.
You Don’t Need to Spend a Lot on a Website
Know that you don’t need to spend tons of money on a website to get started. There are services like Format that will allow you to build a great looking photography portfolio website in minutes. All you’ll need to do is pick the theme that you want, create an about and contact page, drag and drop your photos, pick a few details, and you’ll have a fully functional portfolio site up and running. Their service is also pretty affordable, so that should be more than enough for someone who’s just starting.
You’ll Spend a Lot of Time on the Business Aspect
You have to be prepared to spend as much time, if not more, on managing and promoting your business than on photography. Learning your craft is one thing, but learning how to sell it is another. We strongly suggest that you start educating yourself about the business aspect of photography before you get started.
As far as marketing goes, don’t expect that you’ll be able to get successful by putting your work on Instagram and start cold messaging people. You’ll have to use a wide variety of techniques to get your name known, and you also have to be ready to do the work needed to get recognized in your local market. There’s a lot more groundwork involved than it seems, and you’ll have to be able to sell yourself. So, if you’re introverted, you’ll need to learn how to get out of your shell, or you’ll have a lot of trouble getting known in that business.
You May Build a Whole Different Relationship with Photography
There’s a major difference between doing something as a job, and doing something for fun. You may love photography, but things become different after you’ve spent 12 hours editing work for a client.
You will be working on other people’s schedules and conditions and might have to stomp on your convictions and creative vision to satisfy them. We have to expect that most photographers get into the field out of love, but still, a lot of them get into slumps and burnout, so you’ll have to constantly pay attention to your mood, and don’t let a bad gig linger too long if you don’t want it to influence your outlook negatively.
These are all things that should be at the top of your mind if you are thinking of starting your own photography business. Know, however, that making it is possible, as long as you have the talent necessary, and the hustle to sell it.