10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Becoming a Professional Photographer

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A Guest Post by Kimberly Gauthier, Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier

When I had the opportunity to check out the Going Pro Kit, I appreciated first hand the value. It brought me back to my humble beginnings. One day in 2009, I woke up and shouted “Hello World – I’m going to be a Kick Ass Pet Photographer!!!”

Well, not really, but one day, back in 2009, I was excited about starting a pet photography business after seeing a gorgeous image of a bunny. I didn’t let the lack of knowledge about dogs, pet photography, running a business, or my camera get in my way. I was going to take over the world with my gorgeous images of puppies and kittens.

My Qualifications:

10 plus years experience shooting with a point & shoot camera, an appreciation of and love for photography and animals, I grew up with dogs, and I lived with cats for years.

My business crashed and burned slowly. I wasn’t aware of the catastrophe that was slowing growing around me and that failure was looming down the road. Now I look back and I can see the mistakes I made and the things that I wish I knew about becoming a professional photographer.

If you are considering going pro, then here are 10 lessons I learned that may help you on your path.

  1. Learn to use your camera. You may be light years ahead of me, making this “lesson” pointless for you. Sadly, I took my new Sony Alpha DSLR out of the box and used it like a point & shoot for a year. The pictures I took, which I thought were great at the time, make me cringe today, but this “lesson” inspired my photography blog so all wasn’t lost. I encourage everyone to join a photography forum, seek feedback, ask questions, take workshops – learn how to use your camera.
  2. Come up with a plan. It’s so important to have a business plan; this will shape the direction you take your business, how you market yourself, your branding, and your budget, among other things. I know first hand how daunting it is to create a business plan. To give you a quick reality check, I suggest checking out Creating Your One Page Business Plan and Path To Profit by The Suitcase Entrepreneur. Following these steps was a huge wake up call and helped me to reshape and redirect the plans I have for my current business. I also read Business Plan in a Day, a book by Rhonda Abrams, to help me organize my plans for my current business. This book is well organized and gives you sections to fill out and when you finish, you’ll have a 1st draft of your business plan.
  3. Create a budget. I started out using my own money and credit cards to fund my business. Not a good idea if you don’t have the plan mentioned above. I can’t tell you how much money I tossed away without knowing if it was a good idea or not (at the time, it everything seemed brilliant). And I won’t tell you how much I racked up on credit cards to fund my dream. Developing a budget will help you control spending. And then you should…
  4. Keep your money separate. Back then, I was comingling funds and at the end of the year it was difficult to separate business from personal. I was STUNNED by how much I had spent. I now have separate business accounts; I opened them at a separate bank. That part is probably overkill, but there’s a true divide between personal and business now.
  5. Research the specialty that has caught your eye. I know some people out there are tackling a little of everything while others like to focus on one or two specialties. Regardless of which camp you’re in, do the research. I should have taken the time to study the business, the industry, and dog breeds (like how to best deal with aggressive or shy dogs).
  6. Connect with a local professional photographer. This can be a little intimidating, so I connect with people online (Facebook, Twitter, and photography forums) and build a relationship from there. Invite them to coffee when they have time. Some photographers charge for mentorships, because their time and knowledge has value. Others may be willing to meet you for a coffee or lunch to answer your questions and give you feedback.
  7. Find out the pros and cons of your business set up: sole proprietorship or limited liability company (LLC). Find out what you can and cannot write off. And understand that write offs are just an offset to the taxes you owe to the government, not a reimbursement request. I’m an accountant and didn’t know this one; duhhhhh.
  8. Get insured. I have a home photography studio, handy when I want to take portraits without leaving the comfort of home. What I didn’t know was that home owner’s insurance won’t cover the medical costs when your client twists their ankle after becoming tangled in the backdrop. If a client is on your property for business purposes, then your home owners insurance doesn’t apply. Currently, I have a policy with CNA that covers things like accidents, my camera gear and photography equipment (which my homeowner’s policy won’t cover since it’s for business), contract disputes, and lost images (due to memory card malfunctions).
  9. Get a membership to a professional organization. And don’t just join the one you hear about the most; take the time to find out which one is right for you. I joined Professional Photographers of America (PPA), because I liked what I read about them and they offer a two year newbie membership rate while you’re growing your business and you can pay the membership monthly. By the way, Professional Photographers of America offers discounted insurance coverage to members.
  10. Don’t Offer Free Photography. I know that there are different opinions about free photography. I’m not talking about donating your services to a charity; I mean offering free photography to gain experience and build a portfolio. I offered free photography and filled my calendar with sessions. I gave away up to 15 full resolution images on a CD (this is where connecting with a local photographer would have helped). Some people didn’t show up, the ones that did wanted 10x more than I was offering, and since I was valuing myself at $0, everyone else did too. For me, this wasn’t the path to a portfolio or referrals; but I did learn that people respect a fee.

There were many more lessons that I learned, but these were the main ones that still stand out today. I’d love to hear the lessons you’ve learned and what you’d advice you’d offer to anyone looking to go pro.

Kimberly Gauthier is the writer behind the photography blog Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier; blog written for amateur photographers who didn’t read their manual.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • I am quite intrigued by the number of people that do not have a plan, somehow it will come together. That said I have learn’t the hard way and even when I had a plan, sticking to that plan and realizing its value is something I have had to teach myself to appreciate

  • Great thoughts…and some apply outside of the photography field! Thanks for taking the time to write down your ideas.

  • Would some one mind sharing with me info on CNA? Where can I research this further?

  • Rabi

    If you haven’t already figured out #1, then I don’t think you have much business in photography. It’s a tough world, and I can’t imagine trying to get into it if you are not already a proficient, passionate photographer.

  • Christopher Santos

    Recently talking to two of my friends they told me that both were exiting the business of professional photography due to the tremendous competition and price war. I am not sure if any of this is a fact since I am an amateur and never charged for anything but I have noticed more advertising of professional photographers now than ever before.
    Anyhow, great article, I am very glad you shared your experience with us; these are certainly very important points that one has to take inconsideration if going pro.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for the great advice. I love this site, something new to learn every day!
    I have had really good luck doing the free photography thing. Every person I booked with has shown up. Everyone has been really stoked about the images and happy with whatever I give them. I take the images for free, they pay for developement. For me it has been a really great learning experience.
    I hope one day to be good enough to go pro, but for now I am content to learn and share.

  • Great article Kimberly,
    In my opinion point #10 needs to be hammered home to EVERYONE in the photographic business. Charity shoots and events are the way to freely give to gain.
    Thanks
    Tam

  • I’m stumped. I contacted a local photographer to see if he was interested in a 2nd shooter. He looked at my photo link and said he was sorry, I didn’t have enough experience for him.. He told me to continue to do free shoots and when I had a better portfolio contact him.. I have several free shoots lined up now.. I have 2 $50 gigs lined up.. but my confidence is way down and I just want to become better.. Now I’m fearful of charging $50 although it is my time and wear on camera and I will soon need an external hard drive to compensate for all the photos I’m taking.. Anyone have any advice? And, by the way, if you would, please look at my albums at http://www.facebook.com/soulssscapes . Thank you.

  • I have to say one of the hardest things for me was doing photos shoots for friends and what to charge, at the beginning I felt ‘bad’ for charging my friends so would undercharge and then not be consistent with all my contacts. It wasn’t until a friend pointed out to me the need to value what I did and most people are prepared to pay for quality. I then had to decide on a discounted price for friends and stick to that.

  • Scottc

    Great points. The first thing I thought of when I saw the title was “Don’t quit your day job”, though the writer is obviously beyond that stage.

    My “day job” is a bit more than just a job, so I don’t have thoughts about pro photography. Good thing, it’s just a hobby and my skills aren’t even close.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5710067909/

  • We live and learn! I started out having fun with photography and then I realized I had a portfolio and started to charge when people started to ask me (as opposed to me asking them to come over and have some fun). My last “free” job was my biggest regret. Strangely enough I blogged about it today because it has resurfaced to kick me in the butt yet again: http://andreasmithphotography.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/usually-i-just-take-photos-but-sometimes-i-grumble/

    But I’ve learned.. and I’m moving along. I’d never do a shoot for free. Again. Ever.

  • Man oh MAN! #10 is SOOOO true! If it’s free people just don’t value it! They will disrespect you and take advantage like there’s no tomorrow!

    On #1… There really aught to be a certification in order to become a “Professional” photographer and promote yourself as a Pro! True, before digital there were many cameras with full program or auto modes so you could use them as point-n-shoot cameras, but these days it seems everyone who can afford a decent DSLR thinks they’re a photographer! LEARN THE SCIENCE of photography and study the ART before billing yourself as a Pro! (Sheesh!)

  • Barry E.Warren

    I enjoyed these 10 tips, they have given me some good tips. I’m getting ready to go Pro.

  • I have been amazed to read several books on starting a professional photography business – a few by nationally-know photographers – that start with discussions of aperture and shutter speed. I’m thinking, “Really? You’re thinking of becoming a professional photographer and you need a primer on aperture and shutter speed?”

    That said, No. 1 is an incredibly important tip and why I always say getting the best gear is not as important as knowing what the gear you have can do. (That said, knowing that may well make you long for better gear, thus putting you in danger of getting mired in the pitfalls of lessons 3 and 4.)

    Excellent post with many important points to note, Kimberly.

  • BFeldman

    Man… I thought these were going to be worth while, and still have hopes… But to read number 7 and find (as an accountant) you thought write offs were a reimbursement??? You may have lost all credibility here.

    I think the fact is MANY people shouldn’t be in business, period. The only hope to having a photography business failure is perhaps you can still have ‘priceless’ moments doing something you truly loved.

  • Hi

    These are great insights! This is a tough business as I am learning, It seems that EVERYONE is a Photographer now that digital photography is ubiquitous. I started with hand held meters and B&W film several years (cough) ago and have kept up with new developments over the years. Being an Engineer by trade, I like the tech of new stuff, but learning about the Biz, it is all about People, aka The Client!

    I have found that you really need to establish your name, network like mad and keep abreast of trends. Then ask (with proposals) what your clients are looking for. One corporate client is a Surfer and wanted surfing shots for the office…a tricky challenge, but you must deliver what the customer wants and then some!

    Here is one: http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/longboard-vs-shortboard/

  • I’m just using easy digital camera…
    Professional like use DSLR but I think using DSLR limit my movement…

  • Stephanie

    thanks for the post. It’s nice to be able to take your learning experiences (good and bad) and be able to help others with them. haha all that to say, thankfully I’ve realized that I’ve much to learn before I have to learn some of these lessons the hard way. 🙂

    Susan, I’ve been playing with the idea of starting a semi pro very very very part time photography business myself. I checked out your fb page. You have the beginnings of some really nice work but (like myself) could really benefit from a more experienced eye giving constructive feedback. I just started posting my photos to the critique forum on DPS and have gotten some really helpful insights. If you are not doing already, it has been really valuable to me and I”m sure would prove to be the same for you. Perhaps the photographer you contacted would even be willing to offer some critique of you’re photos if you offered to buy them lunch at a nice place and brought a couple photos. Or see if they offer a workshop..? Feel free to check out my fb page as well if you want. Smiles Photography. Not everything there is golden (as a matter of fact, I just took a look and could pick apart every photo I have there for various reasons of what I’d like to improve) I have been using friends for practice and to build up my experience and portfolio and fortunately I’ve never had a bad experience with them (I have some pretty awesome friends. :). Or even highly recommended friends of friends so I can become used to working with photographing people I’ve not had much interaction with prior too. Occasionally they’ve really liked the photos and paid me even though I wasn’t asking for it… I’ve been investing that $ in books and or equipment that will help me improve. I would like to specialize in children photography, and of course the families of… so I have found several children photographers that I admire there work and I stock there web sights to see what they are doing… get inspired and just appreciate the creative eye of another photographer. sometimes I get discouraged when I see how awesome they’re photos are esp compared to mine but it also encourages me to strive towards learning how to get to a higher skill level.

    Anyone have a fav business book they would recommend for someone dreaming of opening up a business someday? While I’m working on #1 it probably wouldn’t hurt to figure out the practicalities of what I need to do for the “not so fun” part of a photography business (taxes, insurance like mentioned above, paperwork… yada yada, etc… and so forth). Thanks! 🙂

  • Thanks for the post Kimberley. I am still an amateur photographer building up my portfolio, and I still have a LONG way to go before I go pro – I don’t have a business plan or any clue of how to go about making one (though I will take a look at the site that you linked). The only one that I slightly disagree with is the free photography.

    When you start out, it is almost impossible to charge for your services. You have nothing to show your clients to prove what you can do, you have no credibility and there are tons of other photographers out there who DO have these things and are all fighting to get work. I have approached friends and asked if they wanted to do free photoshoots. I haven’t done too many of them – a couple of individual shoots, one family, one couple and a wedding on the way. Now that I have these shoots in my bag, and have built a portfolio to show what it is that I can do, I feel more comfortable charging for my services because the clients will know what they are in for and what they will be getting out of it.

    Of course, I didn’t just advertise “free photo shoots, come and get em.” I found friends who I thought would be interested, and it worked out very well for me because it meant that the shoot was benefitting both of us, and it was a lot of fun to do. It also takes away the problem of people not pitching up or expecting more than you are offering, because they were people that I knew, that I trusted and they trusted me to do what I thought was right.

  • @Susan, I took a look at your Facebook page, and I thought that a lot of your photographs were great. The only thing that I might recommend is not showing as many photos, since a lot of them tend to be very similar. Choose some of your favourites and show them on Facebook. This was the advice that I was given by a photographer in my area. You don’t want too many pics that look similar. You want pics that look different, so use one photo per pose in your portfolio.

    As I said, I am also starting out and considering going into business (but busy building my portfolio first). You can see my work here: http://www.facebook.com/evanescentza

  • I’ve quit my job 3 years ago to start a photography business. With almost no budget, just a low-end dslr camera. I started photographing my friends to build a portfolio. A few months later I bought a better lens then my kit, and started earning some money too, but only $20 – $30 per session.

    Half a year later I launched my website and orders started to come. Now I charge at least $100 per session but still struggling to pay the rent and put away some money to buy new gear. A separate account seems to be really a great idea, I have to try it.

    Thank you for the tips!

  • Interesting read indeed. I am a newbie in the field, and some points I knew about and others I didn’t. I am in South Africa, and reading about point 8: Joining an organization, my brain was running away to find out if there’s any such facility in South Africa.
    If other South Africans or anyone else know or can recommend such organisations, please feel free to let me know. 🙂

    Point 6: Local Professional Photographer: Wow has this helped me!! I have a friend that helps me out a lot with her knowledge, successes and failures. Not to say that I will not fail either, but to hear that others (this post included) made mistakes, you don’t feel alone in a dark room. So thanks to everyone that helps and contributes.

  • It baffles me that this list even needs to exist. Common sense isn’t so common, it seems.

  • @Lara – you are 100% correct. You do have to build that portfolio but you need to find it in your inner circle of friends. You shouldn’t be advertising FREE to strangers. It really kills me when I look on sites like Kijiji (I advertise on there a lot) and people will put up ads asking for a photographer to take free photos in exchange for the rights to use them in their porfolio. Obviously any photos we take are going to be in our portfolio. That’s the point but thank you for your generous offer 😉 – I personally have enough friends and family around. If I want to try out a new technique or idea then they will be the first person I call. Photography can still be a hobby and a business.. in that sense.

    Anyway – I hadn’t done free work other than friends / building porfolio at the beginning. My last “free” job was supposed to benefit me in the way of free advertising in a weekly paper (and a full page AD about myself and my business as the last photo run in the paper). It wasn’t the “free” aspect that bit me – it was the lack of business insight and the trust in others and I simply doubted myself and did’t pull it together properly. I have a business degree (eek!) and I’ve always worked in sales. Photography is a part time gig that I love and I happily add to my income with but I am self taught.. so I feel like a fraud a lot even though I konw my work is quite good. My problem with the business side is confidence. I’m getting there though.

    I think people get frustrated with people who buy a DSLR, put a few photos on Flickr and then call themselves a photographer but I also believe if you work hard at something you can achieve your goals… there are a lot of impressive photogs out there who started out that way.. and why not. I also see a lot of people start a Facebook page and then a year later they don’t have anything but the cheesy blurred photos they took of their family anyway and they quietly give up – the work in the end speaks for itself.. we all learn as we grow and we all get places in a different way.

  • Hello everyone…. I did some awesome shots and I called one of those KOA Campground asking them if they wanted to see the photos that I took of the Swan, ducks and all that. So they told me to email the images… Guess what!!!! They email me back and telling me they wont take my offer as they are afraid that I would charge them way too much. ahhhhh What a dumb azz sorry to say this…. I ain’t worry about it as I think they are looking for free photos so they wont have to pay me. I’ve been a photographer for 38 years. I kept wondering what’s with those people as they expected some free photos. Y’all can look up the picture I put in with Flickr.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7363677@N04/6058740123/in/photostream

  • Great article & I can agree on most except the last: No free photography. “offering free photography to gain experience and build a portfolio.”. Sorry, but I’m not paying professional fees to someone who just got a camera & started taking pics. A majority of professionals are just that & have gone to college for photography. There’s way too many out there. I can understand a discounted rate, because everyone time is worth something. Take performers for example, when starting out you have to do it for free or cheap just to get that experience & your image/name out there. Just my 2 cents anyway.

  • Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment.

    There needs to be more education. When I bought my first DSLR, I’d never heard of full frame, I thought the exposure compensation scale was showing me the distance I was standing from my subject, and I thought DOF was created during post.

    I had a business license, website, and I was advertising on Craiglist.

    There are a lot of amateurs out there who aspire to be a professional and because the affordable DSLRs look like the ones the pros use, they have no idea that they can’t just step into the role of a pro. Sounds naive, I know. So now I try to gently direct people to the pros, because that’s who we should be speaking to first. If I had taken the time, I would have bagged my business shortly after I started it.

    Thanks again for all the great comments!!!

  • This was a great read. There are some really good points in here and if anyone has read this far down into the comments perhaps another piece of advice will help them. I am a pro. My business has been paying my bills for the last 5 years and I hope it continues for many more . That said, it was a massive struggle at times.

    Advice to anyone who is serious about starting their photography business. Go intern. Unpopular idea. No one wants to work for free, and honestly I’m not even sure it is legal for a photographer to use your help and not pay you (unless he or she can prove that they are teaching you enough to make it a fair trade, or something legal like that). But that is how your going to learn to make your business work. By working next to a photographer who already has his or her business you learn the gear, client negotiations, back end business, front end business, editing, retouching, etc. For this reason most photographers don’t pay interns. If you get past that, next work with a big enough photographer try and be a first or second (or third) assistant once you know enough about the gear to work it on set. Then decide to go start your business, after you’ve worked for a few years on getting to know the in’s and out’s of the industry. It’s not a quick road. Whether your goal is to shoot weddings or advertising your going to get to a point you don’t know what to do unless you’ve been properly prepped.

    Best of luck~

  • P.A.Chacko

    Good ideas for constructive photography!
    Chacko

  • For sure, do not do photography for free once you decide to become professional, and I think in general even if one is not a pro portrait type photography should not be done for free unless it is your immediate family. As the author states, people then ask for more, or do not show up, etc. Plus, giving photography away for free just perpetuates the thinking that photography is something that does not need to be paid for, especially in the digital age. That’s why like the author says, get to know pros in your area and build your portfolio by assisting them and second shooting for them. If you live in the Tampa Bay area, feel free to contact me for such opportunities.

    I would add to the above list: NETWORK!!

    For me, that meant joining the local Chamber of Commerce, but there may also be other business organizations in your area, like a BNI chapter, etc. Not only is it a chance to meet other business owners and network your business with them, my local Chamber had very valuable business seminars and consoling all for free.

    Also, the common thought is to specialize, specialize, specialize. I even mostly believe that myself, but I have for the past 1.5 years been a full-time pro photographer and do any and all type of photography. This may just be how my case and situation worked out. Maybe others found a niche right away and were able to generate enough business just from that, but I was not able to. Plus, I like to do all kinds of photography and would burn out doing just family portraits every week.

  • Hi Jason,
    I would love to sell some of my photo but the one I just put on under the flickr and I even email the images to KOA and for some reason they turn my offer down. I dont see anything wrong with these picture that I took. I have been doing this for nearly 38 yrs and plus working with the us army. To me like they are looking for free so they can sell it for themselves with their own money. I went by their store and someone took the pic of swan. Oh my goodness they had it on the wall with 5×7 the color of quality and the pictures were all blurry, was so so so terrible. None of them came out great like I offer them.

  • Not much I can say that hasn’t already been said, but but I’ll say it anyway, number 10 hurts everyone in the business. Thanks for the list.

  • As I’m a beginner pro myself I sometimes have to search for certainty. Every time I do a session I’m thinking ‘wow these pictures are going to look spectactular’. ‘Yes I finally am mastering the system’. But when I get back at my desk I’m mostly disapointed of the results. Probably because of to high expectations (I hope :-)) I suppose.
    So, since I’m constantly updating my portfolio: http://rtvpix.com/slideshow/12621
    I’m considering cold calling prospects and tell them to make an offer on the pictures I take for them whenever they have a project for me. For example I give them 5 ready to use pictures and the client pays whatever he wants for them. This idea came when 2 years ago a few blocks away from me a restaurant opened its doors with a funny formula: people could just pay any amount they want for the meal they got served. Strangely enough the restaurant still exists and I heard rumors they want to start a second one.

    Maybe this is a more pleasant way of getting into the market without getting frustrated by price wars. Sometimes you win sometimes you loose. But at the end you get to know much more how to deal with people.

    What do you fellow photographers think?

  • Excellent advice! I think the most important message here is to remember that having a good head for business is just as important as having a good eye for photography.

  • Thank you everyone so much for your feedback to my question. I plan to go through and weed out the similar photos and hopefully (my birthday is coming up), I will get a subscription to lynda.com to help me in my post-processing.. this place is great (dps) and I love all the tips and comments. Thank you again, your time and input are so valuable to me.

  • If you don’t have a pro photographer around you can spend some time reading pros blogs and forums, where they discuss a lot of problems. You can even ask some question, but if you haven’t done your homework, you’ll probably end up with nothing. There are also some good books out there for the basics and advanced techniques – you can try them also.

  • Great advice. Some of it is common sense, for sure, but sometimes common sense goes out when window when we become passionate about something.

  • Thanks for the great advice. I second your comments about meeting local photographers. I just had an opportunity to assist a pro on a shoot for an upcoming magazine article. (You can read the post at http://canyonartphotography.blogspot.com/2011/08/5-things-i-learned-freeworking-with.html.) He’s a friend, but I had to bug him for a while until he incorporated me into his professional doings. It payed off. Watching him shoot for 3 hours and then having the road-trip time to ask questions was a huge boon to my photography.

  • John

    I left the business an eternity ago – but to quote Al Pacino “Just when I though I was out – they drag me back in”.
    So my experience as a Old Newbie
    Models are even flakier now than they were before!
    Don’t give stuff away (If it is for a not for profit – send them an Invoice and make a donation equal to what you would have charged). If you don’t you will always be the “free photographer”.
    It is exactly the same in other businesses (catering which I did – Oh this such a great opportunity for you to get exposed – give me the names addresses and emails of all the attendees then).
    Sorry If I am sounding Jaded.
    Have a plan!
    Have a budget!!!!
    Have an exit strategy (If it goes Snafu know when to bail)
    In the US – have insurance!!!!!!!
    Keep records of how much you get as income and how much you spend!
    Separate business income from personal!!!!!
    Put aside a % for Uncle Sam – or Revenue Canada
    Most importantly HAVE FUN!

  • as a professional, you need 2 sets of equipment or you will be stymied when something needs to be repaired.

  • Mark

    @Susan Morgan – While you have an eye for “the shot”, you need a little work on the technical: both shooting and post-processing. You are very close, but even a small miss is the same as missing by a mile when you are professing to be a pro. I see some minor depth of field issues, some too shallow and some too deep. I also see some images taken in shade but little light break-outs cause hard shadows. This is where some post-processing magic can help like dodge and burn, but better to shoot at a softer time of day. No one likes “raccoon eyes” on a child. Cutting the shadows by half would make all of the difference. If you can develop a REALLY TOUGH SKIN try joining and submitting a few at http://www.photosig.com if you dare. It is possible to get a free account. No one is vicious there, but they are very direct and critique in detail most images. You can learn a bunch there if you don’t get defensive. One defensive reply will stop the critiques on your photos! You will get very few fluff comments on that site, they truly try to help you improve your image and almost any image can be improved. By the way no ones photoshop actions can replace learning to manually edit your image. Once you learn to do it manually, actions can speed things up, but you need to learn to see what an image needs first before you can chose the BEST action to use. This is offered as a true critique and I truly wish you the best.

  • Wonderful advice. My wife and I operate a professional photography business, with 99% of our work being weddings. With every shoot, we learn something new, either about our techniques or ourselves. There is no single “formula” that makes everything perfect. Instead, each experience brings it’s own set of circumstances that require some on-the-spot maneuvering to get the shot desired. Different perspectives add to your knowledge.
    This is what makes these types of threads invaluable. Sure, a lot is common sense, but if common sense prevailed over all things, we wouldn’t need to learn, just think. A little extra nudge of knowledge shared, can sometimes be the difference in complacency or stepping it up a notch. If I already know it, fine. If I don’t, then it’s my gain and thank you! Personally, I’ll stop learning when I’m six feet under.
    My contribution…always, ALWAYS, get a delivery confirmation when mailing pix on CD’s or DVD’s! Just sayin’.

  • Is it okay to want to be “professional” without being paid? I want to be professional in the sense of being really good at what I do, but being paid turns a fun hobby into a painful job. When I’m not charging, I feel like I can do what I want and edit the pictures however I like and such, but once there’s money involved, it’s all about pleasing the customer instead of myself. I don’t know, it just feels stifling to me.

  • I know exactly what you mean, Eclaire. I feel the same way. Now that I’m focused on being a professional blogger, I feel much more relaxed. I don’t mind charging companies.

    If you want to take pictures, but not charge people, why not become the family photographer or the photographer in your circle of friends? You can also have portrait parties where friends bring friends and you take everyone’s picture and everyone has a great time.

    This way you can do what you love, not charge, and no one is getting the impression that photography services are being over charged by everyone else 🙂

    Good luck!!!

  • Tip 11: Network loads, because advertising in such a competitive sector is very expensive!

  • Lettisa

    Kimberly Gauthier is the writer behind the photography blog Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier; blog written for amateur photographers who didn’t read their manual.

    ===============================================================

    blog written for amateur photographers who didn’t read their manual.
    ==============================================================

    YOU SHOULD COME TO INDONESIA! and found that most photographer here, didn’t even touch the manual!

    i didn’t read any manual for my fisrt ricoh KR5, because my mom inherit it to me, she taught me hard! but i did read the manual for my first DSLR!

    i really gratefull this post exist!

  • Wow, great article. I read through the entire thing twice!

    I’m am a hobby photographer that just wants to get out there and shoot. A professional photographer told me to just get out there and practice ,and that you’ll get better at it. So, I went out and practiced on all my friends and family…until I was comfortable enough to test myself with strangers. I offered 4 free photo sessions and I had a wonderful experience! Every single person showed up and they were all so grateful and most of them sent me thank you cards and have been extremely supportive and encouraging. They even forwarded my website link to their friends and families. It makes me feel good to make other people happy. I have been working on my portfolio and my new photography website for over a year now.

    I have a full time job, so I want to keep photography as a side hobby. My photography project is about offering free photography sessions to kind hearted souls that volunteer their time helping society in a way and/or donate to a charity of their choice. I was nervous to launch my site at first because I’ve spoken to many photographers about this, and they said some professionals would be pretty mad about this. But, I just want to give and volunteer my time to give back to society in some way with my hobby that I am passionate about.

    I hope my photography idea spreads by word of mouth. =)

    thanks again for this wonderful article!

  • Lucy – I love your idea. I don’t see why anyone would have a serious issue, because you’re focusing your photography on a group to celebrate what they give back. I know many photographers who volunteer for rescue groups to get pictures of dogs and cats out there so they can find their forever homes. How can anyone do anything BUT celebrate such a wonderful way to give back.

    Thanks so much for the comment. I’m going to go over the check out your site now!

  • Lucy, It was funny to see your comment right after watching a documentary on a highly-successful Louisville photographer named Julius Friedman who does quite a bit of pro bono work: http://www.ket.org/muse/friedman/ He says in the show his main criteria is it has to be something he believes in and wants to support. It was really a refreshing perspective, and I agree with Kimberly that a directed approach to giving back is not only legitimate but commendable. I believe there are many pros and highly-skilled hobbyists who do this. Keep up the great work.

  • Christina

    Very Helpful. Thank you!

Some Older Comments

  • Rich Copley November 23, 2011 03:26 am

    Lucy, It was funny to see your comment right after watching a documentary on a highly-successful Louisville photographer named Julius Friedman who does quite a bit of pro bono work: http://www.ket.org/muse/friedman/ He says in the show his main criteria is it has to be something he believes in and wants to support. It was really a refreshing perspective, and I agree with Kimberly that a directed approach to giving back is not only legitimate but commendable. I believe there are many pros and highly-skilled hobbyists who do this. Keep up the great work.

  • Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Kimberly Gauthier Photography November 23, 2011 02:55 am

    Lucy - I love your idea. I don't see why anyone would have a serious issue, because you're focusing your photography on a group to celebrate what they give back. I know many photographers who volunteer for rescue groups to get pictures of dogs and cats out there so they can find their forever homes. How can anyone do anything BUT celebrate such a wonderful way to give back.

    Thanks so much for the comment. I'm going to go over the check out your site now!

  • Lucy November 23, 2011 02:17 am

    Wow, great article. I read through the entire thing twice!

    I'm am a hobby photographer that just wants to get out there and shoot. A professional photographer told me to just get out there and practice ,and that you'll get better at it. So, I went out and practiced on all my friends and family...until I was comfortable enough to test myself with strangers. I offered 4 free photo sessions and I had a wonderful experience! Every single person showed up and they were all so grateful and most of them sent me thank you cards and have been extremely supportive and encouraging. They even forwarded my website link to their friends and families. It makes me feel good to make other people happy. I have been working on my portfolio and my new photography website for over a year now.

    I have a full time job, so I want to keep photography as a side hobby. My photography project is about offering free photography sessions to kind hearted souls that volunteer their time helping society in a way and/or donate to a charity of their choice. I was nervous to launch my site at first because I've spoken to many photographers about this, and they said some professionals would be pretty mad about this. But, I just want to give and volunteer my time to give back to society in some way with my hobby that I am passionate about.

    I hope my photography idea spreads by word of mouth. =)

    thanks again for this wonderful article!

  • Lettisa November 9, 2011 10:29 pm

    Kimberly Gauthier is the writer behind the photography blog Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier; blog written for amateur photographers who didn’t read their manual.

    ===============================================================

    blog written for amateur photographers who didn’t read their manual.
    ==============================================================

    YOU SHOULD COME TO INDONESIA! and found that most photographer here, didn't even touch the manual!

    i didn't read any manual for my fisrt ricoh KR5, because my mom inherit it to me, she taught me hard! but i did read the manual for my first DSLR!

    i really gratefull this post exist!

  • Paul September 18, 2011 08:35 pm

    Tip 11: Network loads, because advertising in such a competitive sector is very expensive!

  • Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Photography Blog September 14, 2011 12:29 pm

    I know exactly what you mean, Eclaire. I feel the same way. Now that I'm focused on being a professional blogger, I feel much more relaxed. I don't mind charging companies.

    If you want to take pictures, but not charge people, why not become the family photographer or the photographer in your circle of friends? You can also have portrait parties where friends bring friends and you take everyone's picture and everyone has a great time.

    This way you can do what you love, not charge, and no one is getting the impression that photography services are being over charged by everyone else :)

    Good luck!!!

  • Eclaire September 5, 2011 10:22 am

    Is it okay to want to be "professional" without being paid? I want to be professional in the sense of being really good at what I do, but being paid turns a fun hobby into a painful job. When I'm not charging, I feel like I can do what I want and edit the pictures however I like and such, but once there's money involved, it's all about pleasing the customer instead of myself. I don't know, it just feels stifling to me.

  • Wayne August 26, 2011 11:36 pm

    Wonderful advice. My wife and I operate a professional photography business, with 99% of our work being weddings. With every shoot, we learn something new, either about our techniques or ourselves. There is no single "formula" that makes everything perfect. Instead, each experience brings it's own set of circumstances that require some on-the-spot maneuvering to get the shot desired. Different perspectives add to your knowledge.
    This is what makes these types of threads invaluable. Sure, a lot is common sense, but if common sense prevailed over all things, we wouldn't need to learn, just think. A little extra nudge of knowledge shared, can sometimes be the difference in complacency or stepping it up a notch. If I already know it, fine. If I don't, then it's my gain and thank you! Personally, I'll stop learning when I'm six feet under.
    My contribution...always, ALWAYS, get a delivery confirmation when mailing pix on CD's or DVD's! Just sayin'.

  • Mark August 26, 2011 03:12 pm

    @Susan Morgan - While you have an eye for "the shot", you need a little work on the technical: both shooting and post-processing. You are very close, but even a small miss is the same as missing by a mile when you are professing to be a pro. I see some minor depth of field issues, some too shallow and some too deep. I also see some images taken in shade but little light break-outs cause hard shadows. This is where some post-processing magic can help like dodge and burn, but better to shoot at a softer time of day. No one likes "raccoon eyes" on a child. Cutting the shadows by half would make all of the difference. If you can develop a REALLY TOUGH SKIN try joining and submitting a few at www.photosig.com if you dare. It is possible to get a free account. No one is vicious there, but they are very direct and critique in detail most images. You can learn a bunch there if you don't get defensive. One defensive reply will stop the critiques on your photos! You will get very few fluff comments on that site, they truly try to help you improve your image and almost any image can be improved. By the way no ones photoshop actions can replace learning to manually edit your image. Once you learn to do it manually, actions can speed things up, but you need to learn to see what an image needs first before you can chose the BEST action to use. This is offered as a true critique and I truly wish you the best.

  • jim nay August 26, 2011 02:28 am

    as a professional, you need 2 sets of equipment or you will be stymied when something needs to be repaired.

  • John August 26, 2011 02:19 am

    I left the business an eternity ago - but to quote Al Pacino "Just when I though I was out - they drag me back in".
    So my experience as a Old Newbie
    Models are even flakier now than they were before!
    Don't give stuff away (If it is for a not for profit - send them an Invoice and make a donation equal to what you would have charged). If you don't you will always be the "free photographer".
    It is exactly the same in other businesses (catering which I did - Oh this such a great opportunity for you to get exposed - give me the names addresses and emails of all the attendees then).
    Sorry If I am sounding Jaded.
    Have a plan!
    Have a budget!!!!
    Have an exit strategy (If it goes Snafu know when to bail)
    In the US - have insurance!!!!!!!
    Keep records of how much you get as income and how much you spend!
    Separate business income from personal!!!!!
    Put aside a % for Uncle Sam - or Revenue Canada
    Most importantly HAVE FUN!

  • Greg Aitkenhead August 25, 2011 11:13 pm

    Thanks for the great advice. I second your comments about meeting local photographers. I just had an opportunity to assist a pro on a shoot for an upcoming magazine article. (You can read the post at http://canyonartphotography.blogspot.com/2011/08/5-things-i-learned-freeworking-with.html.) He's a friend, but I had to bug him for a while until he incorporated me into his professional doings. It payed off. Watching him shoot for 3 hours and then having the road-trip time to ask questions was a huge boon to my photography.

  • SJCT August 23, 2011 01:00 am

    Great advice. Some of it is common sense, for sure, but sometimes common sense goes out when window when we become passionate about something.

  • Ivaylo August 22, 2011 11:19 pm

    If you don't have a pro photographer around you can spend some time reading pros blogs and forums, where they discuss a lot of problems. You can even ask some question, but if you haven't done your homework, you'll probably end up with nothing. There are also some good books out there for the basics and advanced techniques - you can try them also.

  • Susan Morgan August 21, 2011 09:33 pm

    Thank you everyone so much for your feedback to my question. I plan to go through and weed out the similar photos and hopefully (my birthday is coming up), I will get a subscription to lynda.com to help me in my post-processing.. this place is great (dps) and I love all the tips and comments. Thank you again, your time and input are so valuable to me.

  • lucy jane barton August 21, 2011 02:23 am

    Excellent advice! I think the most important message here is to remember that having a good head for business is just as important as having a good eye for photography.

  • Michel August 20, 2011 06:07 pm

    As I'm a beginner pro myself I sometimes have to search for certainty. Every time I do a session I'm thinking 'wow these pictures are going to look spectactular'. 'Yes I finally am mastering the system'. But when I get back at my desk I'm mostly disapointed of the results. Probably because of to high expectations (I hope :-)) I suppose.
    So, since I'm constantly updating my portfolio: http://rtvpix.com/slideshow/12621
    I'm considering cold calling prospects and tell them to make an offer on the pictures I take for them whenever they have a project for me. For example I give them 5 ready to use pictures and the client pays whatever he wants for them. This idea came when 2 years ago a few blocks away from me a restaurant opened its doors with a funny formula: people could just pay any amount they want for the meal they got served. Strangely enough the restaurant still exists and I heard rumors they want to start a second one.

    Maybe this is a more pleasant way of getting into the market without getting frustrated by price wars. Sometimes you win sometimes you loose. But at the end you get to know much more how to deal with people.

    What do you fellow photographers think?

  • Mike Krebs August 20, 2011 04:42 pm

    Not much I can say that hasn't already been said, but but I'll say it anyway, number 10 hurts everyone in the business. Thanks for the list.

  • Reddy August 20, 2011 05:01 am

    Hi Jason,
    I would love to sell some of my photo but the one I just put on under the flickr and I even email the images to KOA and for some reason they turn my offer down. I dont see anything wrong with these picture that I took. I have been doing this for nearly 38 yrs and plus working with the us army. To me like they are looking for free so they can sell it for themselves with their own money. I went by their store and someone took the pic of swan. Oh my goodness they had it on the wall with 5x7 the color of quality and the pictures were all blurry, was so so so terrible. None of them came out great like I offer them.

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer August 20, 2011 04:40 am

    For sure, do not do photography for free once you decide to become professional, and I think in general even if one is not a pro portrait type photography should not be done for free unless it is your immediate family. As the author states, people then ask for more, or do not show up, etc. Plus, giving photography away for free just perpetuates the thinking that photography is something that does not need to be paid for, especially in the digital age. That's why like the author says, get to know pros in your area and build your portfolio by assisting them and second shooting for them. If you live in the Tampa Bay area, feel free to contact me for such opportunities.

    I would add to the above list: NETWORK!!

    For me, that meant joining the local Chamber of Commerce, but there may also be other business organizations in your area, like a BNI chapter, etc. Not only is it a chance to meet other business owners and network your business with them, my local Chamber had very valuable business seminars and consoling all for free.

    Also, the common thought is to specialize, specialize, specialize. I even mostly believe that myself, but I have for the past 1.5 years been a full-time pro photographer and do any and all type of photography. This may just be how my case and situation worked out. Maybe others found a niche right away and were able to generate enough business just from that, but I was not able to. Plus, I like to do all kinds of photography and would burn out doing just family portraits every week.

  • P.A.Chacko August 20, 2011 03:16 am

    Good ideas for constructive photography!
    Chacko

  • Kate Benson August 20, 2011 01:14 am

    This was a great read. There are some really good points in here and if anyone has read this far down into the comments perhaps another piece of advice will help them. I am a pro. My business has been paying my bills for the last 5 years and I hope it continues for many more . That said, it was a massive struggle at times.

    Advice to anyone who is serious about starting their photography business. Go intern. Unpopular idea. No one wants to work for free, and honestly I'm not even sure it is legal for a photographer to use your help and not pay you (unless he or she can prove that they are teaching you enough to make it a fair trade, or something legal like that). But that is how your going to learn to make your business work. By working next to a photographer who already has his or her business you learn the gear, client negotiations, back end business, front end business, editing, retouching, etc. For this reason most photographers don't pay interns. If you get past that, next work with a big enough photographer try and be a first or second (or third) assistant once you know enough about the gear to work it on set. Then decide to go start your business, after you've worked for a few years on getting to know the in's and out's of the industry. It's not a quick road. Whether your goal is to shoot weddings or advertising your going to get to a point you don't know what to do unless you've been properly prepped.

    Best of luck~

  • Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Kimberly Gauthier Photography August 20, 2011 01:08 am

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment.

    There needs to be more education. When I bought my first DSLR, I'd never heard of full frame, I thought the exposure compensation scale was showing me the distance I was standing from my subject, and I thought DOF was created during post.

    I had a business license, website, and I was advertising on Craiglist.

    There are a lot of amateurs out there who aspire to be a professional and because the affordable DSLRs look like the ones the pros use, they have no idea that they can't just step into the role of a pro. Sounds naive, I know. So now I try to gently direct people to the pros, because that's who we should be speaking to first. If I had taken the time, I would have bagged my business shortly after I started it.

    Thanks again for all the great comments!!!

  • lilgamoma August 20, 2011 12:40 am

    Great article & I can agree on most except the last: No free photography. "offering free photography to gain experience and build a portfolio.". Sorry, but I'm not paying professional fees to someone who just got a camera & started taking pics. A majority of professionals are just that & have gone to college for photography. There's way too many out there. I can understand a discounted rate, because everyone time is worth something. Take performers for example, when starting out you have to do it for free or cheap just to get that experience & your image/name out there. Just my 2 cents anyway.

  • Reddy August 20, 2011 12:26 am

    Hello everyone.... I did some awesome shots and I called one of those KOA Campground asking them if they wanted to see the photos that I took of the Swan, ducks and all that. So they told me to email the images... Guess what!!!! They email me back and telling me they wont take my offer as they are afraid that I would charge them way too much. ahhhhh What a dumb azz sorry to say this.... I ain't worry about it as I think they are looking for free photos so they wont have to pay me. I've been a photographer for 38 years. I kept wondering what's with those people as they expected some free photos. Y'all can look up the picture I put in with Flickr.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7363677@N04/6058740123/in/photostream

  • Andrea Smith August 19, 2011 11:13 pm

    @Lara - you are 100% correct. You do have to build that portfolio but you need to find it in your inner circle of friends. You shouldn't be advertising FREE to strangers. It really kills me when I look on sites like Kijiji (I advertise on there a lot) and people will put up ads asking for a photographer to take free photos in exchange for the rights to use them in their porfolio. Obviously any photos we take are going to be in our portfolio. That's the point but thank you for your generous offer ;) - I personally have enough friends and family around. If I want to try out a new technique or idea then they will be the first person I call. Photography can still be a hobby and a business.. in that sense.

    Anyway - I hadn't done free work other than friends / building porfolio at the beginning. My last "free" job was supposed to benefit me in the way of free advertising in a weekly paper (and a full page AD about myself and my business as the last photo run in the paper). It wasn't the "free" aspect that bit me - it was the lack of business insight and the trust in others and I simply doubted myself and did't pull it together properly. I have a business degree (eek!) and I've always worked in sales. Photography is a part time gig that I love and I happily add to my income with but I am self taught.. so I feel like a fraud a lot even though I konw my work is quite good. My problem with the business side is confidence. I'm getting there though.

    I think people get frustrated with people who buy a DSLR, put a few photos on Flickr and then call themselves a photographer but I also believe if you work hard at something you can achieve your goals... there are a lot of impressive photogs out there who started out that way.. and why not. I also see a lot of people start a Facebook page and then a year later they don't have anything but the cheesy blurred photos they took of their family anyway and they quietly give up - the work in the end speaks for itself.. we all learn as we grow and we all get places in a different way.

  • OsmosisStudios August 19, 2011 11:11 pm

    It baffles me that this list even needs to exist. Common sense isn't so common, it seems.

  • Gavin August 19, 2011 08:55 pm

    Interesting read indeed. I am a newbie in the field, and some points I knew about and others I didn't. I am in South Africa, and reading about point 8: Joining an organization, my brain was running away to find out if there's any such facility in South Africa.
    If other South Africans or anyone else know or can recommend such organisations, please feel free to let me know. :)

    Point 6: Local Professional Photographer: Wow has this helped me!! I have a friend that helps me out a lot with her knowledge, successes and failures. Not to say that I will not fail either, but to hear that others (this post included) made mistakes, you don't feel alone in a dark room. So thanks to everyone that helps and contributes.

  • Fábián Gábor August 19, 2011 07:02 pm

    I've quit my job 3 years ago to start a photography business. With almost no budget, just a low-end dslr camera. I started photographing my friends to build a portfolio. A few months later I bought a better lens then my kit, and started earning some money too, but only $20 - $30 per session.

    Half a year later I launched my website and orders started to come. Now I charge at least $100 per session but still struggling to pay the rent and put away some money to buy new gear. A separate account seems to be really a great idea, I have to try it.

    Thank you for the tips!

  • Lara August 19, 2011 05:18 pm

    @Susan, I took a look at your Facebook page, and I thought that a lot of your photographs were great. The only thing that I might recommend is not showing as many photos, since a lot of them tend to be very similar. Choose some of your favourites and show them on Facebook. This was the advice that I was given by a photographer in my area. You don't want too many pics that look similar. You want pics that look different, so use one photo per pose in your portfolio.

    As I said, I am also starting out and considering going into business (but busy building my portfolio first). You can see my work here: http://www.facebook.com/evanescentza

  • Lara August 19, 2011 05:02 pm

    Thanks for the post Kimberley. I am still an amateur photographer building up my portfolio, and I still have a LONG way to go before I go pro - I don't have a business plan or any clue of how to go about making one (though I will take a look at the site that you linked). The only one that I slightly disagree with is the free photography.

    When you start out, it is almost impossible to charge for your services. You have nothing to show your clients to prove what you can do, you have no credibility and there are tons of other photographers out there who DO have these things and are all fighting to get work. I have approached friends and asked if they wanted to do free photoshoots. I haven't done too many of them - a couple of individual shoots, one family, one couple and a wedding on the way. Now that I have these shoots in my bag, and have built a portfolio to show what it is that I can do, I feel more comfortable charging for my services because the clients will know what they are in for and what they will be getting out of it.

    Of course, I didn't just advertise "free photo shoots, come and get em." I found friends who I thought would be interested, and it worked out very well for me because it meant that the shoot was benefitting both of us, and it was a lot of fun to do. It also takes away the problem of people not pitching up or expecting more than you are offering, because they were people that I knew, that I trusted and they trusted me to do what I thought was right.

  • Stephanie August 19, 2011 01:21 pm

    thanks for the post. It's nice to be able to take your learning experiences (good and bad) and be able to help others with them. haha all that to say, thankfully I've realized that I've much to learn before I have to learn some of these lessons the hard way. :)

    Susan, I've been playing with the idea of starting a semi pro very very very part time photography business myself. I checked out your fb page. You have the beginnings of some really nice work but (like myself) could really benefit from a more experienced eye giving constructive feedback. I just started posting my photos to the critique forum on DPS and have gotten some really helpful insights. If you are not doing already, it has been really valuable to me and I"m sure would prove to be the same for you. Perhaps the photographer you contacted would even be willing to offer some critique of you're photos if you offered to buy them lunch at a nice place and brought a couple photos. Or see if they offer a workshop..? Feel free to check out my fb page as well if you want. Smiles Photography. Not everything there is golden (as a matter of fact, I just took a look and could pick apart every photo I have there for various reasons of what I'd like to improve) I have been using friends for practice and to build up my experience and portfolio and fortunately I've never had a bad experience with them (I have some pretty awesome friends. :). Or even highly recommended friends of friends so I can become used to working with photographing people I've not had much interaction with prior too. Occasionally they've really liked the photos and paid me even though I wasn't asking for it... I've been investing that $ in books and or equipment that will help me improve. I would like to specialize in children photography, and of course the families of... so I have found several children photographers that I admire there work and I stock there web sights to see what they are doing... get inspired and just appreciate the creative eye of another photographer. sometimes I get discouraged when I see how awesome they're photos are esp compared to mine but it also encourages me to strive towards learning how to get to a higher skill level.

    Anyone have a fav business book they would recommend for someone dreaming of opening up a business someday? While I'm working on #1 it probably wouldn't hurt to figure out the practicalities of what I need to do for the "not so fun" part of a photography business (taxes, insurance like mentioned above, paperwork... yada yada, etc... and so forth). Thanks! :)

  • Wizurai August 19, 2011 01:02 pm

    I'm just using easy digital camera...
    Professional like use DSLR but I think using DSLR limit my movement...

  • Erik Kerstenbeck August 19, 2011 12:20 pm

    Hi

    These are great insights! This is a tough business as I am learning, It seems that EVERYONE is a Photographer now that digital photography is ubiquitous. I started with hand held meters and B&W film several years (cough) ago and have kept up with new developments over the years. Being an Engineer by trade, I like the tech of new stuff, but learning about the Biz, it is all about People, aka The Client!

    I have found that you really need to establish your name, network like mad and keep abreast of trends. Then ask (with proposals) what your clients are looking for. One corporate client is a Surfer and wanted surfing shots for the office...a tricky challenge, but you must deliver what the customer wants and then some!

    Here is one: http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/longboard-vs-shortboard/

  • BFeldman August 19, 2011 11:59 am

    Man... I thought these were going to be worth while, and still have hopes... But to read number 7 and find (as an accountant) you thought write offs were a reimbursement??? You may have lost all credibility here.

    I think the fact is MANY people shouldn't be in business, period. The only hope to having a photography business failure is perhaps you can still have 'priceless' moments doing something you truly loved.

  • Rich Copley August 19, 2011 11:00 am

    I have been amazed to read several books on starting a professional photography business - a few by nationally-know photographers - that start with discussions of aperture and shutter speed. I'm thinking, "Really? You're thinking of becoming a professional photographer and you need a primer on aperture and shutter speed?"

    That said, No. 1 is an incredibly important tip and why I always say getting the best gear is not as important as knowing what the gear you have can do. (That said, knowing that may well make you long for better gear, thus putting you in danger of getting mired in the pitfalls of lessons 3 and 4.)

    Excellent post with many important points to note, Kimberly.

  • Barry E.Warren August 19, 2011 10:10 am

    I enjoyed these 10 tips, they have given me some good tips. I'm getting ready to go Pro.

  • Stan August 19, 2011 10:09 am

    Man oh MAN! #10 is SOOOO true! If it's free people just don't value it! They will disrespect you and take advantage like there's no tomorrow!

    On #1... There really aught to be a certification in order to become a "Professional" photographer and promote yourself as a Pro! True, before digital there were many cameras with full program or auto modes so you could use them as point-n-shoot cameras, but these days it seems everyone who can afford a decent DSLR thinks they're a photographer! LEARN THE SCIENCE of photography and study the ART before billing yourself as a Pro! (Sheesh!)

  • Andrea Smith August 19, 2011 09:54 am

    We live and learn! I started out having fun with photography and then I realized I had a portfolio and started to charge when people started to ask me (as opposed to me asking them to come over and have some fun). My last "free" job was my biggest regret. Strangely enough I blogged about it today because it has resurfaced to kick me in the butt yet again: http://andreasmithphotography.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/usually-i-just-take-photos-but-sometimes-i-grumble/

    But I've learned.. and I'm moving along. I'd never do a shoot for free. Again. Ever.

  • Scottc August 19, 2011 09:35 am

    Great points. The first thing I thought of when I saw the title was "Don't quit your day job", though the writer is obviously beyond that stage.

    My "day job" is a bit more than just a job, so I don't have thoughts about pro photography. Good thing, it's just a hobby and my skills aren't even close.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5710067909/

  • Martine August 19, 2011 08:56 am

    I have to say one of the hardest things for me was doing photos shoots for friends and what to charge, at the beginning I felt 'bad' for charging my friends so would undercharge and then not be consistent with all my contacts. It wasn't until a friend pointed out to me the need to value what I did and most people are prepared to pay for quality. I then had to decide on a discounted price for friends and stick to that.

  • Susan Morgan August 19, 2011 08:52 am

    I'm stumped. I contacted a local photographer to see if he was interested in a 2nd shooter. He looked at my photo link and said he was sorry, I didn't have enough experience for him.. He told me to continue to do free shoots and when I had a better portfolio contact him.. I have several free shoots lined up now.. I have 2 $50 gigs lined up.. but my confidence is way down and I just want to become better.. Now I'm fearful of charging $50 although it is my time and wear on camera and I will soon need an external hard drive to compensate for all the photos I'm taking.. Anyone have any advice? And, by the way, if you would, please look at my albums at http://www.facebook.com/soulssscapes . Thank you.

  • Tam Steele Daly August 19, 2011 08:19 am

    Great article Kimberly,
    In my opinion point #10 needs to be hammered home to EVERYONE in the photographic business. Charity shoots and events are the way to freely give to gain.
    Thanks
    Tam

  • Shannon August 19, 2011 08:13 am

    Thanks for the great advice. I love this site, something new to learn every day!
    I have had really good luck doing the free photography thing. Every person I booked with has shown up. Everyone has been really stoked about the images and happy with whatever I give them. I take the images for free, they pay for developement. For me it has been a really great learning experience.
    I hope one day to be good enough to go pro, but for now I am content to learn and share.

  • Christopher Santos August 19, 2011 08:07 am

    Recently talking to two of my friends they told me that both were exiting the business of professional photography due to the tremendous competition and price war. I am not sure if any of this is a fact since I am an amateur and never charged for anything but I have noticed more advertising of professional photographers now than ever before.
    Anyhow, great article, I am very glad you shared your experience with us; these are certainly very important points that one has to take inconsideration if going pro.

  • Rabi August 19, 2011 07:45 am

    If you haven't already figured out #1, then I don't think you have much business in photography. It's a tough world, and I can't imagine trying to get into it if you are not already a proficient, passionate photographer.

  • Brooke Worley August 19, 2011 07:02 am

    Would some one mind sharing with me info on CNA? Where can I research this further?

  • Carrie Jo August 19, 2011 06:36 am

    Great thoughts...and some apply outside of the photography field! Thanks for taking the time to write down your ideas.

  • Dewan Demmer August 19, 2011 06:24 am

    I am quite intrigued by the number of people that do not have a plan, somehow it will come together. That said I have learn't the hard way and even when I had a plan, sticking to that plan and realizing its value is something I have had to teach myself to appreciate

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