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15 Tips About Turning Pro

Shoot with your heart and learn from your peers, but don’t copy them. Find your own style and consistency will follow.

You have the skills and the passion and your goal is to become a professional photographer? Unfortunately there is no instruction manual but here are a few tips you may find useful.

1. Passion: Remember why you picked up the camera in the first place? Nurture that passion, but be aware that should you turn your passion into a full time profession, you could lose that passion.  To prevent your photography from turning into a chore, keep and nurture your personal projects. They will help keep your passion for the craft alive, no matter what the commercial side throws your way.

2. Plan: You may start your photography business as a side business while keeping your full time job – and that’s a smart way to begin. This gives you time to decide if that’s what you want to do full time, and, more important, you will find out if your work is good enough to sell. Set a goal for when you want to quit that day job and be a full time photographer and then work towards that. You can adjust that goal – it’s your goal!  And should you decide to keep photography a hobby, having a plan is how you will discover that.

3. Portfolio: Be discerning when putting your portfolio together. Only show your best work. Quality over quantity!

4. Rent: Don’t go into debt!  In most countries it’s easy to rent specialty lenses for a day, a week or longer. Get the clients first, buy the gear later.

5. Persistence: No one becomes successful overnight.  It takes years to gain experience and build a good reputation.  Be persistent!  Remember your plan and your goal.  Don’t give up on your dream at the first rejection, or the second one.  You will have good days and bad days, more bad days than good ones at first.  You can sustain your plan and goal if you take baby steps.

6. Support system: Surround yourself with positive people, especially as you are starting out.  They will support your decision and long term plan to turn your passion into a profession.  Ignore the others and move on!

7. Balance: Chances are you work from home. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance between your passion for photography and your private life.  Both are important to your overall goal!  As for me, I live and breathe in pixels and sometimes that’s all I want to talk about!  But put yourself in the shoes of your family and friends who might support you, but don’t experience the same passion as you. They will support your love affair with your camera, but remember they have their own passions, too.

8. Life long learning:  Learn, learn and learn some more!   As long as you keep  clicking that shutter, you will always be learning.  Once you think you know it all, you will stop growing.  Read and educate yourself. Attend seminars and workshops. Stay informed with the latest technology and embrace it.  Mentoring or teaching reinforces your own learning, so be on the watch for those opportunities.  The world of photography is changing at the fastest pace ever, and you don’t want to be left in the dust.

9. People skills:  You will get hired when people like your work AND your personality – I can’t stress that enough! And you will be much happier working with them, too. Commercial clients have told me how much they prefer working with me because I was approachable and friendly, easier to work with because their previous photographer was rigid, unfriendly or inflexible.

10. Business skills:  Artists are not generally known for having good, solid business skills.  If you aren’t a natural at accounting or marketing, you can either learn them or hire professionals for those important tasks – and they are important.  If you can’t afford to pay for those services, maybe trade services at first. If you want to be a photographer full time, it is both an art and a business and be alert about the areas where you need help.

11. Be yourself:  Don’t fake it or try to be someone else – it won’t last and you won’t be happy.  Shoot with your heart and learn from your peers, but don’t copy them. Find your own style and consistency will follow.  One way to discover your own technique is by expanding your technical knowledge, and your style will follow.  Who knows – maybe others will learn from you one day!

12. Be resourceful:  Expect the unexpected and be prepared for it – another reason to keep learning!  And keep working on those personal projects especially in different genres of photography.  Get outside of your comfort zone. The skills you acquire will serve you well on client shoots and may save your butt some day. Your clients don’t want to see you fumble with your settings or even scratch your head in self doubt while you practice a new technique.  Plan ahead!

13. Be generous: Share ideas and tips with your peers. Competition can be good! If you’re good, you’ll get the work – don’t worry. I know so many photographers who are afraid to network because they are either shy or afraid to share their “secrets,” but all contacts are useful. Hey, I don’t shoot weddings, but when I get a request to do one, I refer that client to another photographer. Networking means referrals, but you must give to receive.

14. Be nice: Your best clients are the ones you already have and your potential clients are their contacts. Treat your clients with respect and professionalism as they are your key to success. Referrals are the best form of advertising – it’s a cliché because it’s true!

15. Be honest with yourself: Why do you really want to turn pro? Is it to look cool? Is it for money or fame? Is it gear lust? To impress your friends?  For the pure love of the craft? To teach the art of photography? There is no wrong answer  – and it’s okay to want to look cool and desire fame and fortune – but only when you are honest with yourself about your real intentions will you sustain your plan and reach your goal – and be happy!  And should you chose to keep photography as a passionate hobby instead of a profession, that’s a good thing, too!

Good luck!

Be generous and share your experience with your peers by adding some tips in the comment section below.

Want more tips on Going Pro as a Photographer? Check out the dPS eBook kit – Going Pro: How to Make Money Through Your Photography.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. I am pleased to be a new master of street photography at The Arcanum. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Google+.

  • Kay B

    I’m a part time Photography student at a local college in Michigan and will be graduating around 2013. I’m terrified of business aspect of photography. In college, they teach you the fundamentals of digital and film photography, but business courses are not required for the Photography major, so many of us are left out to fend for ourselves and expect to learn how to do freelance work. I’ve been published in two editions of my college’s arts magazine and have had 2 photographs in the local college newspaper, which is a step in the right direction, but I’m terrified to start my own business. I’ve been wanting to ask local photographers how they do it, but it feels like I’m intruding. I know a professional local photographer and have helped her out with a few theatre gigs, but she’s struggling too because she’s uncomfortable with the business side of photography, too.

  • rascalRJ

    Awesome Valerie…very well written. Seems like everything’s to the point, hitting the nail on the head 15times. Thankz n regards

  • http://www.fabiano-silva.com Fabiano Silva

    Agreed. My personal experience said that I lack number 9 and 10 skills the most!

  • http://www.joe-elliott.co.uk Joe Elliott

    Another great post, thanks,

    Another time to think about slowing down I find that hard, I don’t rush but don’t like sitting about lol.

    Great tips, thanks

    Joe

  • http://www.fosterphotographicarts.com Larry J Foster, CPP

    Get involved in the professional organizations – Professional Photographers of America and its affiliated local and state guilds. (Note: PPA caters mostly to people photographers.) At the local level, you can rub elbows with those who do this on a full time basis and learn what it takes from those who actually do it on an everyday basis.

    Enter in the PPA competitions. We all love our pictures and our clients always tell us we’re awesome. But that is nothing. Get a disinterested judge to look over your image and give you some very objective feedback, and you will really see what it takes to be a better photographer.

  • Peggy Powell Dobbins

    Helpful. Thanks

Some older comments

  • Larry J Foster, CPP

    January 4, 2013 06:58 am

    Get involved in the professional organizations - Professional Photographers of America and its affiliated local and state guilds. (Note: PPA caters mostly to people photographers.) At the local level, you can rub elbows with those who do this on a full time basis and learn what it takes from those who actually do it on an everyday basis.

    Enter in the PPA competitions. We all love our pictures and our clients always tell us we're awesome. But that is nothing. Get a disinterested judge to look over your image and give you some very objective feedback, and you will really see what it takes to be a better photographer.

  • Joe Elliott

    December 29, 2012 09:45 am

    Another great post, thanks,

    Another time to think about slowing down I find that hard, I don't rush but don't like sitting about lol.

    Great tips, thanks

    Joe

  • Fabiano Silva

    December 28, 2012 06:25 am

    Agreed. My personal experience said that I lack number 9 and 10 skills the most!

  • rascalRJ

    August 6, 2012 02:19 am

    Awesome Valerie...very well written. Seems like everything's to the point, hitting the nail on the head 15times. Thankz n regards

  • Kay B

    May 31, 2012 06:10 am

    I'm a part time Photography student at a local college in Michigan and will be graduating around 2013. I'm terrified of business aspect of photography. In college, they teach you the fundamentals of digital and film photography, but business courses are not required for the Photography major, so many of us are left out to fend for ourselves and expect to learn how to do freelance work. I've been published in two editions of my college's arts magazine and have had 2 photographs in the local college newspaper, which is a step in the right direction, but I'm terrified to start my own business. I've been wanting to ask local photographers how they do it, but it feels like I'm intruding. I know a professional local photographer and have helped her out with a few theatre gigs, but she's struggling too because she's uncomfortable with the business side of photography, too.

  • Chris

    May 29, 2012 10:01 am

    Something else I wanted to add in regard to portfolio. I think the quality over quantity is good advice but there is something else unsaid there that needs to be. Don't include your "hero shots" in your portfolio. Everyone coming up has one or two. That photo you took that is amazing but you're not sure you can recreate it or maybe even what went into it from a technical standpoint. It would be very embarrassing and a major setback if a client hired you to shoot something similar to what you had displayed but you lack the knowledge to recreate it. Display the best work that you are completely comfortable recreating time and again. Everyone will develop their own style. You want to be hired and known for that style. One that is consistent in your work because you are in control of the creative process. If you can't say with 100% certainty what want into a photo, don't display it.

  • Valerie Jardin

    May 26, 2012 06:38 am

    @Camille, see what other photographers are charging in your area for similar type of work and no more freebies! Even family members and friends should not take advantage and expect you to work for free. Give them a nice discount but stop working for free. You're a freelancer, if you are in the US you can remain a sole proprietor. Have a session fee and put the pictures on Smugmug with e-store for example. You set the prices and people order what they want, pretty simple process. Good luck!

  • Camille Duckworth

    May 25, 2012 04:01 am

    I would love some day, when my children are much older and less dependent, to go Pro. In the mean time though I practice and learn as much as I can. My biggest problem is as I practice and learn, I'm also asked often to take pictures for others. Up to this point I haven't charged much if anything because I consider it more practice, but I've gotten so busy with it I either have to say no, or start charging. How do I set prices....without officially making it a business! Every time someone asks what I would charge for a photo shoot, I kinda hum and haw....until I give an estimate. I'm afraid to 'set' prices because then it makes it official....that I have a business, and I'm not ready for that! Any suggestions are GREATLY appreciated!

    milkmilkmilk21@hotmail.com

  • Max Almonte

    May 23, 2012 01:02 am

    One of the best post so far from you Valerie. I like that you didnt start off with "get business cards, get your website running,etc". Down to earth and very informative. Thanks.

  • subroto mukerji

    May 1, 2012 04:25 pm

    Debbie: Thanks for the lucid response (and sorry for the late reply). It's clear that FX is definitely the way to go if low light shooting is involved, besides the fact that FX delivers rather better quality. With that as a given, here in India, photogs use lots of flash--so much so that the soft, smooth-looking exposures I see in various websites won't work with 95% of the great, unwashed Indian masses. I know a few wedding photographers who shoot with D90 and D80 bodies and get great results (flash-blasted, of course, but not too mercilessly).

    Chris: Thanks, wonderful advice. Here, the point you made about hanging on to the jpegs etc., and parting only with albummed (!) prints is especially relevant--that's just what these people do, and make lots of additional income by accepting repeat orders from clients / their relatives who want copies for their own albums.

    All said and done, what with digital photography being a highly technology-based medium, I'm sure the day isn't far off --if it isn't here already, observe the amazing results obtained from a Nikon D5100, D3200, or D7000 (sorry, Canonians, I'm a Nikon guy from the '70s, cut my teeth on Nikkormats and FEs / MD-12 motor drives)--when the thin borderline between FX and DX will be more or less obliterated. With the pace at which nano-electronics research is advancing (it's best to remember that we're basically dealing with tiny packets of energy susceptible to all sorts of manipulation at molecular, atomic and even sub-atomic levels), we will soon be seeing even tiny one/two-thirds-of-an-inch sensors delivering impeccable results, thanks to better algorithms and improved materials used in making CMOS sensors. What we are presently experiencing is just the beginning of a wave that will take us to realms as yet undreamt of, in digital imaging as well as a host of other disciplines.
    But since the boffins have yet to come up with an algorithm that enables even a novice to shoot great photographs, the lady / gent behind the camera will always (hopefully) make the difference.

  • Debbie Moore

    May 1, 2012 02:51 pm

    Chris - your advice is good for me too:-) I keep feeling that I must have a 5d instead of the 7d, but actual photos don't justify the $$$

  • Chris

    May 1, 2012 02:34 am

    David, I would say you'll be fine as long as you work within the limitations you've already recognized. You can't deliver prints over a certain size to your clients. The best way to control that is also something you should be doing anyway. You need to sell the prints, not the digital files. There will be some commercial clients that have an art department that requires you to give them the digital files. I would encourage most photographers not to share their digital files with the average consumer/client. You should have a lab or two that you work with and know that you will get consistent quality prints from them. Giving the files to a client that may print them at the local drug store could result in them having horrible photos. They may attribute that to you. Not a good situation. So go ahead a shoot your 6.1, just keep control of your files and thereby your available print sizes.

  • David Moberg

    May 1, 2012 02:11 am

    Great advice on equipment people. Thank you!

    I have an equipment question myself. My DSLR is an older camera that is 6.1MP. As much as I want to upgrade to a camera that is 16MP, I simply cannot afford it at this time. I feel that I shoot good looking photographs with my current set-up and shots that I have enlarged to 8x10 and 16x20 appear fine to me.

    Can I make the leap to semi-pro with this camera? Will it produce sellable, professional looking products? Or, am I better off reverting to film until I can afford the upgrade?

    Any advice is welcome!

  • Chris

    May 1, 2012 01:30 am

    Subroto, Debbie touched on the answer with a good point. I'll expand with my view on gear. I used to be in the camp that says gear doesn't matter the photographer makes the photo. To some extent that is true. I can't put a D3x in the hands of a three year old and have amazing photos come from the camera. In that case it is about the photographer and not the gear. As someone who has grown as a photographer and had my equipment grow I have a slightly different take.

    Every piece of equipment has it's pros and cons. Some gear, usually lower end has its limitations. Debbie wrote about the low light performance of entry level bodies. That's a great example. If you're shooting weddings or sports or concerts (not for a hobby but as a paying gig), good quality in low light is crucial. If you're always shooting controlled light portraits, the low light performance of a full frame body won't mean much to you. Do you need to upgrade your lenses? That depends. What are you shooting?

    Basically my view now is this. You can make great photos with entry level gear if you are sound in your photography skills. Entry level gear has some limitations. If you can say specifically what about your current gear is limiting your ability to make the images you want then you may be ready for an upgrade. Can you say specifically what about new equipment will expand your ability beyond your current equipment? The next question before doing so though should be "is the upgrade worth the money?". If you can tell yourself you need the upgrade for a specific reason or reasons and justify the cost, then yes, gear matters.

  • Debbie Moore

    April 30, 2012 11:31 pm

    Hi Subroto - this is a great question that will likely spark a lively debate. I can only answer from my personal experience. All of my initial paid jobs were shot using the Rebel T2i with kit lenses (18-55mm and 55-250mm) in good natural or studio light. Then, my boyfriend purchased the 5D2 and I got to shoot the two cameras side by side. Both cameras gave excellent results in natural and studio lighting, but the 5d2 can handle low lighting so much better that it was the only choice between the two for weddings and other low light scenarios such as a band performing at twighlight. I consider myself a semi-pro as I hold down a full time job and do photoshoots on the side. The money from photography typically gets reinvested into my equipment, so I now shoot primarilly with a 7d, but I have kept the Rebel as a backup that provides excellent results in the right conditions. I would not attempt to shoot a paid gig in low light using entry level equipment only, so it all depends on what you will be photographing and what the lighting conditions are.

  • subroto mukerji

    April 30, 2012 04:45 pm

    I use Nikon DX gear only, here in India (though I DO have the excellent FX 50mm f 1.8 g). That's because I'm an amateur, and not too well off (in western terms) a one, at that. Do you think dslrs like the D5100 and D3100 can deliver the quality necessary to turn pro? Will I need to scrap my entire DX collection and move up to a D700 or whatever--at a considerable monetary loss, besides a huge increase in the weight of my kit bag (oh my poor back)?

  • Jose Callisaya

    April 24, 2012 06:45 am

    I think that been a profesional will be really good but thinking better enjoying taking photos and been a pasion is to have a good heart.

  • Patricia dos Santos Paton

    April 12, 2012 10:22 pm

    It is a very good and encouraging article. I really liked the point you raised about turning our passion into a full time profession and being under risk of loosing our passion. I think this is really true and sometimes I get scared of this happening.
    I've developed a passion for photography, mainly after my daughter was born and I decided to be at home with her.
    Only now after some years I've been brave to give a try to transform my hobby into business. I'm aware that it must be very hard to be successful nowadays with so many good photographers around. My plan is to specialise in dance photography . I used to be a dancer and I love dance, so I feel I know those special moments to snap, snap, snap. Let us see how it goes and I hope I won't loose my passion for dance and photography!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • Jai Catalano

    April 11, 2012 05:06 am

    And BLOG about it. I make good business connections blogging. If you believe in yourself let the world know so they can join in.

  • Cyndi

    April 10, 2012 10:20 pm

    Thanks for this! I'm a newbie [1 year] to photography. So, this has been very helpful. And, so have the comments that followed. :) I love DPS! I really appreciate all the help and advice.

    @ Billie Thomas....I just recently watched my grandfather die of Cancer. I'm sorry for your current situation. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with. But, I'd have to say that having my camera and being able to express myself throughout the whole thing really helped. I'd love for you to see my album "Patiently waiting" on my Flickr page.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kisterphotography/sets/72157629419921980/

  • Anna Moritz

    April 10, 2012 09:41 pm

    Amen

  • Sandy Barnhart

    April 10, 2012 09:04 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I have 19 years until retirement, so I am just doing this as a hobby right now (with the occasional paid commission). I want to soak up as much knowledge as I can before I'm done with my first career, and ready for the next one. I have been donating portrait sessions for church functions, providing one free framed image, and selling additional prints at a reasonable price (to make up for my own expenses), and have been getting referrals that way. If you can afford to do that, it might not be a bad way to start.

  • Ali B

    April 10, 2012 08:55 pm

    As someone who has just made the plunge into the pro world of photography this article has been great! Really inspiring and has helped me remind myself why it is that I'm doing this and that it is the right thing to do. Thanks also for some great comments. Wish I had something to add....maybe next year! Thanks again!

  • Zamz

    April 9, 2012 06:07 pm

    This gave me very good tips

  • bleukrush

    April 9, 2012 09:05 am

    DebbieMoore: Thanks for the words of encouragement. Great suggestions!

  • Valerie Jardin

    April 9, 2012 07:23 am

    @David Print portfolio are becoming a thing of the past, I would recommend first to have your best work available to view online on a website (I use a customized Smugmug site). Clients will usually hire you just from looking at your website. If/when you meet a client in person, the iPad (or other similar tablets) have become a popular way to show your work. You hand it to the clients and they can page through your images at their leisure. It's easy to update often and you can't beat the sharp screen for the wow effect.

  • David F. Moberg, III

    April 9, 2012 06:45 am

    Thanks for the article, and a special thanks to the commenters as your insights are both informative and inspiring.

    I have a couple of questions...
    First, what is the best number and types of photos for a portfolio and what would be the best format? Prints, CD/DVD, or SD card?
    Second, which sight is the best to display your work? Flickr, Picasa, 500px, etc.?

    Thanks.

  • Betty Huth

    April 8, 2012 11:56 pm

    Chris is right about insurance. You NEED it. Another thing you need to do if you are serious about your business is make it legal. If your town or county requires a business license, get one. They usually aren't that expensive. If your state has sales tax, get your sales tax number. Tax boards can put you in jail for tax evasion. They will get you faster than the IRS. Those two things will keep you out of trouble.

  • Debbie Moore

    April 8, 2012 09:10 am

    Bleukrush - I'm sure it would be very difficult - almost impossible - but other people make it so why shouldn't you try? I had a photographer friend (now deceased) whose brother shot for NG. Study the photos they publish and work to develop a portfolio better than what they are currently publishing. Consider hiring an agent to get your photos in front of them. My breakthrough was that I did 2 free shoots for a modeling agency. They subsequently hired me plus my portrait business took off when people saw what I could do. Good luck!

  • bleukrush

    April 7, 2012 03:38 pm

    I'm a graphic designer trying to pursue photography. A big part of the reason as to why I want to get into it, is because of the romantic idea of traveling. I aspire to take photos for magazines such as National Geographic, which I'm sure there are thousands of people that want the same. Is it naive? Is it wrong the wrong reason? I can already see it will be very difficult.

  • Mary

    April 7, 2012 07:32 am

    Great advice both in the article and from the comments. Thanks everyone for sharing. I'm teetering on going full time so this has been helpful.

  • Chris

    April 7, 2012 03:43 am

    Everyone forgets insurance and establishing a business. One accident can cost you everything. If you begin profiting from your hobby and are serious about it, you need to get your self setup right to separate yourself from your business. For most, incorporating will work. Then get liability insurance in the name of the company. Set up one light stand and have it fall on a childs head and besides feeling horrible, you could lose everything before you begin. People get the idea that you can do this casually and there are plenty that do. If you take yourself seriously and take the steps to show it, potential clients will look at you as more than a casual shooter.

  • Marco

    April 7, 2012 02:38 am

    As to Critiques, this site has a section but I find that they are often too nice or say nothing at all. When I want a true critique I use www.photosig.com but beware you must have thick skin as they will "tell it like it is" most of the time. What I find useful is that many will give specific advice on post processing that may fly over your head, but is worth looking up and learning. As always it is what you make of it. The plus is that they are not invested in your feelings so they are not tempted to sugar coat things. These days I have progressed enough that I only submit ones that I "feel" something wrong with, but cannot put a finger on the problem. They usually get me in the correct direction fairly quickly.

  • Valerie Jardin

    April 6, 2012 10:36 pm

    @Heather. If they are your friends they should not expect you do work for free either. It's ok to offer to do free portrait sessions for family and friends to build a portfolio, but once you need to start making money with your photography simply offer them a discount. If they like your work they'll be happy to pay and should feel lucky to get a special deal!
    Good luck!

  • Daniel Upton

    April 6, 2012 01:24 pm

    fantastic tips! another tip...don't be too hard on yourself! it takes many years to develop as a photographer, but all of those pros that consistently produce quality work started where you are now.

    I read somewhere the other day that wedding photography is in a league of it's own because there's no margin for error....bollox! Having shot a few weddings (with happy clients), I've realised that not every shot has to be outstanding, and that there are many opportunities to capture more than one photo of the same 'moment' i.e. the kiss, or 'cutting the cake'...etc. and not all of them have to be keepers. The reason I mention this is because I think some people like to inflate the level of difficulty involved or the level of quality expected. Don't get me wrong, weddings involve a lot of skill, and they're not easy, but what I'm saying is....back yourself and go for it!! If you're worth your salt, the expectations you put on your work are going to be much higher than those of your clients.

  • Debbie Moore

    April 6, 2012 02:56 am

    Debbie LeFever is absolutely right. I turned down the first three people that tried to hire me - one was a Navy Seal that wanted me to shoot the dust cover for his book! I made myself take the next job and that client loved her photos and hired me for a 2nd job. To the student above, make your prints available for sale on a website for a charge and discretion people there when they ask for your photos.

  • Debbie Lefever

    April 6, 2012 02:16 am

    It sounds simple, but it was the hardest thing for me...actually DECIDING to go for it. DECIDING I was good enough. Thinking of myself as a pro. Once the decision was made, business started coming in. Believe in yourself. It's a hard line to cross in your own mind...but once you do, it makes a world of difference.

  • Tina

    April 6, 2012 01:57 am

    Also to Jeff W. I agree and disagree. I believe what the article was saying is don't listen to the negative people that we all have in our lives that want to bring us down by squashing our dreams because they themselves are afraid to live out their own dreams. What you are referring to is honest critiques of our work and we all need that person or people in our lives that we know cares about us yet will give their honest opinion of our work. Completely different from the negative Nelly's out there that just want to keep people down. God knows there are plenty of them around. I have some of them in my own family. But I also agree with the attitude that some people have now a days to tell people what ever you think they want to hear. Those people are not doing anyone any good. The real trick is discerning the real critique from the negative attitude.

  • Debbie Moore

    April 6, 2012 01:50 am

    Great tips! I've been in the "keep day job, do photo jobs on the side" since 2010. I love it! I make it a point to do fun photo projects to keep my Passion alive. Money from photo shoots is usually invested in new equipment. I've also decided to launch a tutorials page on my website in the near future to address some of the questions other photographers have asked me.

  • Tina

    April 6, 2012 01:21 am

    Love the article, I agree with Fuzzypig about the niche photogs. Even though I myself have been portrait shooting for about 9 years as a part-time photog.I still have not felt comfortable enough to let go of the day job. I ONLY acquire clients from referrals so maybe if I took that leap of faith and advertised I may get enough clients to go full pro. I get a lot of feedback from my clients in the way of referrals and compliments. But making it a full time business is just still too scary even after 9 years. Sure hope that changes sometime because I've been a photographer for 32 years, it is a passion I've had since I was 12 years old and got my first camera. Thanks for the advice.

  • Heather

    April 6, 2012 12:25 am

    Good pointers. I also read the other comments. I am taking a digital photography course and learning tremendous information. I am experiencing friends requesting copies or the file of photos they see that I have taken on various trips. I provide them willingly and am flattered they find my work so desirable as to frame and hang. How does one make the leap from "free" to asking for payment? I am also curious about the pricing folks are using for photos.
    Many Thanks!

  • Barrie Photographer

    April 4, 2012 05:10 am

    Great tips thank you! I really need to rent me some gear instead of blowing a boat-load.

  • Jeff W

    April 2, 2012 11:59 pm

    Overall a good list, but I disagree a bit with No. 6. I know what you mean by it — yes, having positive people around you can be good — but honesty can be far more important, and it isn't always positive. Make sure you have a couple of trusted people who will give you honest, detailed critiques of your work. Friends who tell you your work is good just to make you happy aren't doing you any favors. There's a lot of truly hideous photography lurking out there, all done by people who have listened to the "positive" people and marched onward.

    I also echo what a couple of other commenters said about writing a business plan. It doesn't have to be complex, but it should include a full summary of your expenses (equipment, insurance, rent, etc.), income, and your time involved. Also, INSURANCE! The moment you accept money for your work, your personal insurance policies likely will no longer cover you. Get liability insurance and make sure your equipment is insured.

  • Valerie Jardin

    April 2, 2012 10:18 pm

    Thanks! @Fuzzypig Actually the tips are meant to be very generic and not industry specific. I am a commercial photographer myself, not a portrait or wedding shooter. I really think that the approach to turning pro is very similar whatever niche discipline you choose.

  • Fuzzypig

    April 2, 2012 10:02 pm

    The only thing I find about most "turning pro" articles are they are always geared towards the aspects of photography that make the most money, weddings and people portraits. I realise the more niche apects like landscape and architectural are just that, niche, but it would nice to hear from people who have managed to make a photographic career in the much more niche disciplines where there isn't so much money or work available, making it so is much harder.

  • Alexx

    April 2, 2012 09:41 am

    Lovely post!

    http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/

  • Hasan Almasi

    April 2, 2012 06:30 am

    Very useful and interesting tips. thank you.

  • Natasha McEachron

    April 2, 2012 04:09 am

    Great article and tips. The tips are perfect for those who would like to make the transition to becoming professional photographers but is also also helpful for anyone who would like to turn an interest / hobby into a business.

  • Anna Irving

    April 2, 2012 01:40 am

    Great article, it's nice to have a kind of check list to keep on track.

    I've only just started to dabble in the pro arena but I would like to add that people might want to clarify prices and fees, what hours, how they'd like to be paid etc in their own minds and perhaps on paper, so that they can be clear with clients from the onset. it saves any confusion later on.

    @billie thomas... so sorry!

  • Peter Alberti

    April 1, 2012 09:00 pm

    A fantastic article with some great points for anyone wanting to follow there dreams!

    I have been running my portrait and wedding photography business (part time) for just under a year, it's going from strength to strength! Most of my clients come from referrals, so I can't express how important it is to deliver the best possible customer service! It can make or break your career! Enoy the ride :)

  • Lara White

    April 1, 2012 09:41 am

    I would add to this that you should put together a budget of expenses before you start investing in your business so you have a sense of how much it's going to cost to get started. Plus having a budget helps you see the overall picture before you spend a bunch of money on marketing or equipment, you have plan it all out and then make adjustments prior to any big purchases.

  • Billie Thomas

    April 1, 2012 06:17 am

    I am an amateur photographer (started 7 months ago). I find that there is A LOT to know but the discovery and treasure hunting is great. Currently, I am doing this as a hobby and side business while I care for my ailing grandmother. It is offering a refuge from the heart break of watching a loved one die. I appreciate your tips! I wish that I had some of my own share!

  • Filip

    April 1, 2012 04:55 am

    Great read! :) Thank you for the article!

  • Steve

    April 1, 2012 04:40 am

    You also need to consider a website to show your work.
    There are many options for this.
    I use Photoshelter. You have lots of options to customise your site for your own brand but they take care of all the backroom stuff:

    http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu

  • steve slater

    April 1, 2012 01:07 am

    Another point is that you will probably need your own website to display your work. You then need to learn SEO skills to get people to see your work, the right people. Not just hits but buyers.
    I use Photoshelter. You can manually tune the site to your own brand and style but they take care of all the behind the scenes work for you:

    http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu/

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