5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Pro
I’m sure many pro photographers get asked “How do I become a professional photographer?“.
I have and it’s never a straight forward answer – in fact, the answer would be unique for each person. Every photographer is different (personality, experience, confidence, business savvy, camera skills etc.), so there’s no “on size fits all” formula for success, or even getting out of the starting blocks.
But I do often ask a few questions, so thought I’d share them in this blog…
1- Have I enough cash to live?
If you have a steady income from photography already, congratulations – you are in the minority! Keep going and building your business.
If, like most, you are leaving employment to start a business, you need money – not just to run the business, but to LIVE. Your bills don’t stop, you still need to eat and once in a while, you may even want to socialise! The only thing that stops is your salary payment.
2 – What do I enjoy photographing?
There’s no point in starting a business doing something you don’t enjoy.
Make sure you start to offer services photographing things you actually like doing – it may be a niche like car photography, commercial “widget” photography, or you could join the army of wedding photographers out there.
3 – Have I got a portfolio to “sell” my services?
So you really enjoy shooting fashion, but are you any good at it?
It’s one important thing to enjoy what you do, but also you absolutely have to be able to “do” the job, and prove it with a strong portfolio of images, ready to show clients.
This is usually your website, facebook, instagram , twitter etc. – not some glossy book which costs thousands to make. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that if you’re uploading thousands of shots and there is even 1% which are “not great”, these will be noticed straight away – so be careful, only show your best stuff.
Assume everything you upload is going to be seen by the next couple/family/client and you’ll not go far wrong.
4 – Who is going to hire me?
It may be as simple as “couples getting married” – but which couples?
- Are you after the ones with £5000 budgets or £500?
- Are you offering classically posed group shots, reportage or fun filled shoots – and how are you going to find people who want these?
- Are you working locally or internationally?
Things like this have a huge impact on how you present things – from the language you use, to the style of the website. Many couples just want simple, cheap photos – would you be interested in that, or are you into the more creative, epic bridal shoots in stunning locations?
Commercial photography is harder still as it’s a far broader genre. There is everything from food to oil rigs, architecture to director-filled board rooms… then there’s editorial work for magazines and papers… oh and events and conferences…
So much to choose from – and you need to work out who it is that will want the shots you’ve chosen to take.
It needs to be broad enough to actually exist (i.e. not Unicorn Portraits) and narrow enough that people can actually “say” what you photograph (e.g. “Johnny does headshots for Linked IN and PR” or “Jane shoots products, specialising in shiny things like jewelry” )
5 – How am I going to find them?
And finally – you’re not doing this for fun any more, so you need paying clients NOW!
Most companies use trusted photographers already, they don’t need anyone new, right?
True to some extent, so you need to be different to them – offer something they’ve not given.
It may be :-
- the way you light things,
- your cool HDR look,
- your cheeky chappy way of coaxing smiles out of people,
- a blinding portfolio
- a new angle on things they are already doing
- and lots more…
So many angles to choose from, it’s incredible fun choosing them.
Also, you need to work out who you should be meeting – the decision makers. This is the tricky part as you need to get “known” somehow. Only then will people see you.
It’s a chicken and egg situation, so you can’t get known till you’ve worked – but you can’t work till you’re known!
It’s very hard to find work from people who’ve no connection with you, but if someone recommends you the process becomes easier – for both sides.
Apologies if you were hoping for top tips like:-
- “start shooting beef burgers as they’re booming” or
- “approach this newspaper with photos of cows”
The chances are you’ll start down one track, realise that doesn’t quite work as plan and have to adapt.
The steps are to:-
- get enough money,
- get good at your “craft”,
- find your niche AND show it relentlessly,
- work out who will buy your niche and
- then do whatever you can to meet those people.
Which is exactly the same as ANY OTHER BUSINESS!