How did You Get Your First Paying Photography Job?

How did You Get Your First Paying Photography Job?

Image by Roberto Carlos Pecino

This is a question I get a lot from aspiring pro photographers – how do I get my first paid photography gig?

For me it was a close friend who saw some of my portraits of family and friends who asked me to do his wedding. Despite trying to dissuade him for months before the wedding I ended up with the job – partly due to his limited budget and partly because it was a reasonably small and informal affair.

That was back in the day of film and I remember nervously shooting ALOT of rolls in the hope that I’d get something good and was surprised to find that there were not only a few print worthy shots but a whole album full of them.

Of course once that album was passed around to his friends and families the requests for me to do more weddings began to roll in and for the next 3 years I became a part time wedding photographer. It was something I had a bit of a love hate relationship with – I didn’t ever see myself as going full time (I was studying at the time for another profession – one that led me to be involved in weddings as a celebrant rather than a photographer) but I learned ALOT in those years that has helped me in the photography I do today.

That’s my story – what about you? I know not everyone has been paid for their photography – but if you have a story to tell we’d love to hear it whether you ended up going Pro or it was just a one off thing.

I’m sure there are others with wedding photography as their first paid photography job – but others will have other fields, portraiture, stock photography, commercial work…. anything goes and I’m looking forward to hearing your story!

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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+.

Some Older Comments

  • Monte Morton January 9, 2013 10:56 am

    I have had a passion for photography for over 40 years now. I love and miss film photography and plan on getting back into it soon. My entire life people have told me my pictures were great and that I must have an expensive camera. At first I believed them even though I had at the time only a Canon AE-1 and then a Minolta 7000i (inexpensive cameras).
    I was also asked by a friend to capture his wedding in pictures and it was the most nerve racking thing I have ever done. It would also be the last wedding I would photograph as well.
    For the past 4 years I have been shooting a Nikon D90 and I put my images on a free website called Redbubble. There they will sell my work from prints to framed, canvas, post cards, clothing and iPhone covers to calenders. It's also a great portfolio to show my work.
    Two summers ago I was contacted by National Geographic Magazine by someone who noticed my work on Redbubble. They ran the shot and one year later contacted me and asked if they could put it in their first iPad issue. This past spring a news paper ran several of my images on their front page and then two magazines came calling. Since, I have been hired to shoot for these magazines in and around the Chesapeake Bay. The money is not good but it's my passion and I would do it for free anyway.
    Keep shooting and get your images in front of people any way you can.

  • Holly nelhams August 21, 2012 05:51 pm

    I got my first job when a girl saw my
    Work on Facebook she paid £40 for her and her mate, I then did a job for a new band and took photos for their album cover, and got £100. Even though my work isn't popular I'm trying my hardest to get into the photography business slowly but I hope one day I'll get there, I've also just ordered my new portable studio & been asked to do some headshots for new customers & students. I would love to try wedding photography and gain experience doing that! never give up on guys!

  • Kevin March 16, 2012 01:50 pm

    I have gotten paid for some of my event photography, mainly based in Sydney. I am by no means a professional just a strong hobby of mine and the Sydney restaurant saw my images and had got in contact with me and was my first sale!

    Then towards the end of last year my older sister had asked me to shoot her wedding, of course she didn't mind I didn't have the experience but I did have a helping fellow friend and photographer as well and she was very happy with the photos in the end! Phew! We are just getting together to get an album printed out. Once the album does get shown around let's see where this leads me.

    I am still working in IT full time with photography being a side hobby but a very challenging and interesting one!

  • Edward October 26, 2011 07:47 am

    I took pictures of my brothers sports team. Them I sold CD's of the players to parents at $10 each.

  • Sara V. September 23, 2011 02:23 am

    My first paying customer was a girl from my church who wanted Senior photos. She told me that she had seen the photographer's work that was going to be doing their school portraits and she liked my style much better.

    I was very nervous but I researched poses, lighting, etc and went into the session with an open mind. I believe I came out with some good images and the client was satisfied.

  • karla cothren September 13, 2011 07:39 am

    Tricky Pixel Photography's Spokes Model Amber McClard Coed Playboy Model

    Here are a few images that I have taken hope you enjoy!

  • karla cothren September 13, 2011 07:34 am

    My name is Karla Cothren lol You may be a fan on my page on facebook but if not then you are more then welcome to look up Tricky Pixel Photography and see my work. I started my business about a year ago, didn't have any money and I only had gotten my editing software through the school I was attending. I started with CS4 and I was going to school for Web Design and Interactive Media so photography was far from my mind. I only realized I had a nack for it when I started taking more shots of my little girl and teaching myself editing...I am not on top of the world yet but I feel that I have came along way in a very short amount of time. I have worked with models that have been in playboy, numerous website's spokes models, and a whole slu of models from Model Mayhem as well. I have been in House of Style Magazine and love there network shoot parties which is great for publicity.

    We all know this is a dog eat dog business and that the majority of photographers do not make it, so please beleive me when I say do not quit your day job....Sometimes you will be so backed up with work and then it is like someone just turned it But I wouldn't trade it for all the world...I love what I do and the people I meet. Though I started with child photography I now do more glamour and swimwear then ever before...My best piece of advice is market market market....It has taken me countless hours of dedication to my passion to get to the still small place that I am but I see bright things for my future and everyone who does this, if you focus on one aspect at a time you can make it. It is bumpy, you will feel like giving up, but just when you think no one wants to shoot with you, you will here from someone wanting your business... If you have never heard about house of style magazine then definitely look it up...if you attend one of there multi shoots you get a free add in there magazine for 2 months and get to work with hair stylists, Muas and models for a whole day and it is a phenomenal way to build your port. Very worth the $50.

    Networking sites are the best way to get the word out about your work and contests, I went from 128 people being my fans on Facebook to now having 1,218 fans in just one month so it works. Again feel free to check out my work and let me know what you think...I shoot everything so pick your pleasure in my albums...I love photography and it is what I live for lol well that and my little girl. I am a stay at home full time mom and I have a business so it is doable! You just have to want it bad enough! It is either all or nothing!

  • Mike August 25, 2011 01:44 pm

    I had people starting to see my Automotive shots and i ended up doing a shoot and article for a local hotrod mag here in Australia, not bad $500 for the job and im noe being asked about all sorts of things !

  • Keely July 11, 2011 01:41 pm

    My first paid photo-shoot was for an old friend of mine, he saw my pictures on facebook and asked me to do his senior photos. Me, being 16, having only a point-and-shoot, and no experience and no experience photographing guy only charged $50 (yeah, I know don't say it). I then acquired a Nikon D3100, was hired for a wedding at $300, and so on...

  • Keely July 11, 2011 01:40 pm

    My first paid photo-shoot was for an old friend of mine, he saw my pictures on facebook andasked me to do his senior photos. Me, being 16, having only a point-and-shoot, and no experience and no experience photographing guy only charged $50 (yeah, I know don't say it). I then acquired a Nikon D3100, was hired for a wedding at $300, and so on...

  • Kris Lozano July 10, 2011 11:20 am

    A few months back, I posted some of my photos on Facebook, like I always do, and a friend asked me to take pictures of her and her boyfriend. I did it for free because I needed the experience and because I knew she didn't have money. Because I then posted that album on Facebook, I got 5 people who asked me to shoot them as well. I went onto a photographer's website, followed her pricing structure, created 3 package deals (all pics on disk, no prints) and cut the other photographer's price down by half and half again. Then I offered my friend's a 50% discount, which worked out to about $150 for 30 edited photos. In reality I under-promised and over-delivered more than 100 edited photos each time. I also offer to be the photographer any time I think they don't have one, like at a fundraiser where I volunteer. I do anything to get my work out there. Tomorrow I'm shadowing a photog friend at a wedding for free for the experience and to continue building up my portfolio.

    I think, do what you love and the money will follow. Constantly seek to grow, learn more about your craft, and have a smart business head on your shoulders. Learn to be a good salesperson (ask for the business, don't under sell yourself, follow up on your contacts, deliver excellent product...) but be willing to do freebies when it can benefit you in other ways. If I do a freebie, I'll ask the friend to post my pics and refer me to others and I also have them write a letter of recommendation that I plan on using later in promotional materials. There should be some sort of 'payment' in that respect.

  • KarenInParis June 17, 2011 05:54 am

    I'm sorry, but ALOT should be a word! It's the english "beaucoup"... I'm very upset about learning this.

    Also, my first paying photography work was done for my ex-husband, to photograph a house he was selling (Realtor agent).. I enjoyed it alot. LOL

  • Darin June 4, 2011 06:25 am

    My cousin recently asked me to photograph her sons soccer team. A bit reluctant I thought this would be a good place to start vs weddings. It was a little bit more stressful than I imagined it might be because I was going in every direction (taking money, trying to get the tykes to pose, fillingout forms, etc..) but in the end I netted $150 as my first sale.
    Shortly thereafter, someone that saw those photos had a kids t-ball team and asked me to do theirs. I just took those last night and netted another $250!

    I decided to do this to help pay for my gear not to get into it as a profession. I feel like if I were to take photos for a living it might lose it's appeal somewhat.

    Either way, I'm $400 up and I'll do more hopefully in the near future. I'm not anywhere near paying for my gear but it's a small step in the right direction and I'm having fun with the challenge.

  • Andrés June 2, 2011 01:59 pm

    Great story, not everybody has to travel the same road to approach a new/different field.

  • Karo May 31, 2011 10:04 pm

    dear Lungi,

    thanks for your tips! i aprreciate!! The wedding is this saturday and i'm so excited that i dream at night of this special day!! i will give my best to do a good work, having fun and trying to catch special moments! i will post how it was!

    grettings from Germany! :) and thanks again

  • Brian Spillane May 31, 2011 12:29 pm

    I was doing a shoot for the choir at my church and was asked by one of the singers what I would charge to do a wedding. I was so unprepared for this that I just spit out a number, $600 I think it was. I told the lady I would put together a dvd for her and her fiance to look at so they could see my work. Up to that point I had only shot 2 weddings, one was just as a guest and the other for a woman I work with. I told them at the time that I had since upgraded the lens I had used (an 18 - 55 kit lens yech!) and that the new lens was much better. Well 6 weeks passed and I had not heard from them so I figured I was not getting the gig. Then the phone rang, she claimed to be the worlds worst procrastinator and they wanted to hire me. I said let's get together to discuss it. She reminded me about the $600 I had mentioned but said they were not going to hold me to that. I said good because it is really al ot more work than that as everyone that has shot a wedding knows. Anyway, we settled on a fee and I just shot the wedding this weekend with my new Pentax K5 with a Pentax 16-50 DA f2.8 as my primary lens and a Pentax 50-135 DA f2.8 for my longer shots. I just reviewed the shots and I am pleased with the results. I hope my clients are as well when they receive their final dvd.

  • Steve Kachilla May 31, 2011 08:53 am

    I was given two broken and recalled underwater strobes by a dive shop owner here in Hawaii that I exchanged and used to take photes that he has used in advertisements and other commercial graphics. I have continued to provide good pictures to him through my wife who does all his graphics. We dive for free, get deep discounts on gear and get tanks whenever we want. I also sold a few dozen photos at a small scale photo gallery. That wasn't worth the effort.

    Still haven't made a profit, and the gear keeps getting more expensive.

  • Singapore Wedding Photography May 30, 2011 07:17 pm

    My first few jobs were free for my friends. Then word spreads when their friends see their album and I started charging a token sum, then a more decent amount. That's how I get started.

  • Hector May 30, 2011 04:14 pm

    I'm glad I'm not the only who took on their first jobs for little to nothing? Friends and family who tried to advise that I should charge more just don't realize there is more to photography than just exposure settings or just a "good eye" or even being good at post-production (Photoshop).
    ANYWAY, my first job was just 5months ago. A family shoot at a park. There was 5 adults 2 teenagers and 2 kids under 5,.. and a dog. Anyway, it went really well. So did my second job which was 6 high school senior boys who are home school but played together on a church formed league for basketball. We did a group thing at the beach and it was a blast. I also did sitting portraits for the same boys - difficult but I got through.
    My official 4th job was just TWO DAYS AGO.
    It was a 5 hour Sweet 16 party. I haven't finished going through the images yet but the experience was uh,.. not great. Shooting a party is definitely a whole different animal - that's for sure!! I think what is going to save me though is that I shot in RAW (for the first time) and they only paid me $150. I feel very beginner again but I am still enjoying the ride. My next job next month is a 5k race event. I just have to shoot the finish line. About 300 entrants. I can't wait till I an afford a better camera!!!

  • Joni Bain May 30, 2011 09:16 am

    My first "paid" event was my husband's sister's wedding. I did their engagement pics w/ the only camera I had, a little point and shoot. I love photography and wanted to get into but like everything, it takes money to make money and I had no money for a nicer camera. I did everything w/ my point and shoot. They mentioned they wanted me to do their wedding. I told them I'd love to, but there was no way I could do it with that little camera. So they offered to buy me a camera in exchange for my photography services. Heck yes! So that was my payment. A Canon 30D. So I like to think that they started off my business. A nice little payment if I say so myself! ;o)

  • Alejandro Silva May 29, 2011 01:06 am

    I have my first payed gig coming up after this summer. I was offered the job by a woman who I met in my photography class, of all places. I'm still very honored that someone with the same amount of education in photography would want to hire me for a job.

  • Erika May 28, 2011 07:04 pm

    I'm not a professional photographer, but I've had one paid work. Last year I took my cousins one-year photos. And this year I'll be taking another of my cousins three-year photos. But besides of those I haven't had any paid sessions.
    I wish I could get some this summer, 'cause I really love doing it! :)

  • Rick May 28, 2011 01:20 pm

    I've been 'dabbling' in photography a little more seriously the last few years, but still as a hobby for my own enjoyment. The owner of the custom kitchen design and manufacture business where my son is a designer was discussing the need for having a portfolio of their work to use for marketing, and my son brought up my name. I agreed to do a few kitchens on a trial basis to a) see if I liked the work and b) for them to see if they liked my work. I did, and they did.

    I worked out what I thought was a reasonable contract with the owner. I've since completed 11 paid assignments, and there should be some more in the pipeline soon. It's enjoyable work, without the pressure of a wedding shoot.

  • Paul Langereis May 28, 2011 10:14 am

    I was asked to shoot my working partner and his family, and ended up shooting a family they knew. It is just a hobby for me as I teach full time, but I find it exciting. I have always had a passion for the visual arts, and photography is no exception. I think I made $75 dollars for an hour shoot. Mind you that is not including the PP time. No big deal. For me it is always about the experience at that moment you press the shutter release. I keep thinking about setting up for retirement, though. It could be a lot of fun!

  • Paul May 28, 2011 06:21 am

    I was shooting pet portraits when I was invited to assist on a wedding shoot and haven't looked back since.

  • fotog4310 May 28, 2011 06:14 am

    I started in photography in 1986 in college when the phone rang at my college newspaper office from a client seeking a photographer and writer for a group of newspapers. I've been photographing for newspapers, magazines and other publications ever since. I went through the wedding-photographer stage and did several weddings but quickly burned out on those. Freelance and staff photography are both very satisfying, and a great way to make a living, if you don't expect to become a millionaire from them!

  • Juliet Igho' May 28, 2011 03:44 am

    I started off photography not with a paid wedding but with shooting my twin boys 2months after I had them. And then I started taking ID photos and then my first job, a friend's baby's baptism before a wedding job.

  • dr hooper May 28, 2011 01:19 am

    Back in 1974 (yes, I've been doing photography for almost 40 years) I took pictures at my favourite cousins wedding in New Brunswick, Canada, as a gift to him and his family. My next favourite cousin saw those photos and asked me to photograph his upcoming wedding in 1975 but demanded to pay me to do it ...... $100. Yup, and that wasn't bad money back then for an afternoon & evening's work which also included a free dinner and a piece of homemade wedding cake. Then another cousin's friend was getting married and .......... the story goes on from there. My last wedding was shot in June 2010 and I again did it as a present to the bride who had worked with me and for me for several years. And guess what, she gave me a gift card for $100 for dinner at a really nice local restaurant. So "what goes around comes around" even in the world of wedding photography. To some photographers the gleam of what appears to be "easy money" by shooting weddings is really a lot of work if you do it correctly and there are a multitude of legal issues to be aware of in terms of precedent law, etc. So be careful and be sure to have fun because weddings can be great places to make outstanding images.

  • Chloe May 27, 2011 09:12 pm

    :) I have enjoyed reading everyone's stories

    My first paid job was for a friends work ‘do’ – they host an Annual Gala Event for their clients. I hadn’t been shooting long, only 5 months when she asked me to shoot the night. I was nervous but instinct told me to go with it & I loved it. They ended up with 300 photos from the night and were so impressed I got a “bonus” on top of the amount I had charged
    They asked me back for their Christmas party as well.

    I’ve also had friends & family ask me to shoot their wedding’s & new born babies, so I’m looking forward to those this year.

    I’ve been “discovered” on my photoblog & on my fan page on facebook where I have now sold numerous prints of my photography.
    I love it; it’s such a nice feeling for a complete stranger to approach you and want to purchase some of your art. It's so much fun, I love photography and I still shoot for "me" - I don't shoot with the intention of selling my prints, that's a bonus :)


  • paul webb May 27, 2011 07:09 pm

    I got my nightclub job just walking in as a customer and asking the owner. The photos are uploaded straight to his computer before I leave and he puts them on the club's facebook page. Also I took my camera along to an wedding reception and asked the couple If I could take my camera along for practise, I now have a couple of paid jobs lined up.

  • paul webb May 27, 2011 07:08 pm

    I got my nightclub job just walking in as a customer and asking the owner. The photos are uploaded straight to his computer before I leave and he puts them on the club's facebook page. Also I took my camera along to an wedding reception and asked the couple If I could take my camera along for practise, I now have a couple of paid jobs lined up.

  • Patrice May 27, 2011 11:46 am

    My first paying jobs were taking pictures for my son's sports teams. I made a yearbook for his hockey team and took individual and team pictures for his baseball team. I love sports photography. I have been asked to do a few leagues in our area but I feel that is too big of a job right now. I have also been asked to do some senior portraits but have yet to junp into that one.

  • Desertbird May 27, 2011 11:44 am

    After a few years of freelance wildlife photography, a wildlife refuge that rehabilitated birds of prey hired me to take some promotional pictures for their website. I then started volunteering at said wildlife refuge and became their official photographer. We made an arrangement that they would pay $0.50/month per picture on the website for a year. It was only $26/month but after the whole year it turned into a $312 project.

  • Michelle May 27, 2011 11:41 am

    Well, I have photographed houses for friends of friends to advertise a sale, and photographed on-set of a work colleague's film production. Got paid for both in wine, and made the decision to start getting real and working hard to get paid jobs. Last week my cameras and macbook and all my gear got stolen from my place while I was at work, and I don't have insurance. So it's back to the day job and forget the dreaming for me. :(

    Enjoyed reading everyone's stories though. Maybe in ten years when I have enough cash to buy equipment again I'll get myself started from scratch. Sigh...

  • Hannah May 27, 2011 08:06 am

    Haha, that sounds surprisingly familiar... it's the way I got my first paying photography job!! The bride went to church with me (before the newlyweds moved to Arkansas), and, originally, I was going to be only a second shooter. Then the first shooter dropped out and I was left with a whole wedding to photography - at the tender age of 16!! I had a year of dSLR using under my belt and a great friend who flew in from North Carolina for a vacation with me... oh, and we shot a wedding together. So God worked it all out - and now I enjoy a few portrait sessions each year, plus I sell my art prints on Etsy. I hope to be a full time wedding photog one day!!!

  • Lungi May 27, 2011 08:00 am

    Dear Karo,

    Regarding you shoting a friend's wedding (without stealing the pics from the official photographer), I think you are at an advantage in that you know more people that are closer to your friend compared to the official phtographer. So try and concentrate on those . Also because he/she is a friend rather create a photobook as present. Yes this is going to a labour for love - but the rewards are huge.

    Do not worry the Official photographer does not know who you are or who hired you. Also most of the Official photographers works on paid time , you are invited so you are going to stay longer to capture more photos..

    (what I am telling is exaclty what happened at my cousins 50th borth day).

    Good luck ....have fun. ! ! ! NO PRESSURE ON YOU.

  • Steve May 27, 2011 07:57 am

    For years I did weddings and portraits for family and close friends, and I never "charged" them. They would always give me something for my time, but I always enjoyed taking pictures for them. One day a co-worker came in to my office and saw a portrait I had done of my family and she asked if I would be willing to hire on to do her family (and extended family). I earned $150 for a two hour photo shoot, and from that one got hired to do 7 family portraits, 6 weddings, 2 "special events" and one fashion shoot. Needless to say it has paid for two digital cameras, studio strobes, several backdrops, and enough gear to keep me going for years to come.

  • Nancy May 27, 2011 07:56 am

    In the heat of San Antonio, Texas summer, our little non-profit community pool was ready to have photo's of their swim team photos taken, and I volunteered.
    Mom's and Dad's enjoyed the photo's of their kiddo's and soon I was asked to fo a family photo, then more, then graduating seniors, then quinceanera's and weddings.
    One of the most difficult things about doing paid photography, is placing a price on something you enjoy doing. But it sure helps pay for college tuition.
    It's been quite a ride and I'm still learning!

  • Jerry P May 27, 2011 05:45 am

    Got a email through my flickr account that someone was interested in purchasing a photo that I had posted to my flickr account of a pond and tree with fall colors. Contacted the person and they wanted to purchase several images to use as artwork in the resturant located new the location of the photo. Sold them 8 images the first time and serveral more since then. I in discussing with them now about selling 5x7 and 8x10 images in the gift shoppe attached to the resturant.

  • Tara May 27, 2011 05:11 am

    Similar story - my own photos of my family led me to doing some photos for friends who - I always felt were "forced" to see them! I'd send albums to them to share photos of my daughter, or our dogs, our family. It was fun. I enjoyed seeing other events from my friends, so I THOUGHT, "Why wouldn't they want to see ours?!" After about the 100th album I had a friend ask to cover a party for her. I too pushed her away and told her how I just wasn't the best pick. BUT, it turned out that I was the best pick - that's just how it was supposed to be. As a self-taught photographer, I quickly grew a lot more confident and a lot more camera-savy!
    I'm still in the "start" stage more or less. I don't do weddings. I specialize in kids, animals and family events. It's what I enjoy. Like most, the photos I enjoy taking come out best. Hence, I only cover events that I know will be fun for me to work with. I still have lots of learning to go - but I love it! I'm slowly building a great group of friends and clients , and it's truly the best "job" I've had yet!

  • Jackie (JS) May 27, 2011 04:50 am

    A friend of mine saw a photo I took of his daughter at a birthday party...He loved the candid photo I did for her and wanted me to do a headshot package of her. I'd never done anything professionally and was a little hesitant to take the job, but he insisted and I took the job. She was two years old at the time (boy, what a challenge THAT was) but I get get some great photos of her!

  • Ray May 27, 2011 04:18 am

    I was a paid photographer 35 years ago when I took on an assignment to write and edit a union newspaper. That encouraged me to take my Nikkormat out and do some work site photography and eventually I did a lot of shots about working conditions, not that I announced that directly. Today, after several "careers" I am an umpaid amatueur but I am again scheming how to at least subsidize my equipment costs. Still a Nikon fan, however.

  • Elyse May 27, 2011 02:47 am

    I was buying something and had my portfolio in my iPad with me. Proprietor saw it, went over to the woman in the next office and came back asking me if I could do a product shoot for $200. A bit low but she is also a start-up. Turned out to be 18 items, the promised soft-box was not there, my Vivitar wouldn't flash (PW batteries were dead), cracked my sync cord. Got the shots sufficiently well that she wants to keep working with me and I'm taking her next week to buy a continuous light softbox for her office. Didn't intend to do product shots as I think I'm not enough of a control freak but I think when I have enough light I'll enjoy it more. I was a bit stressed.

  • Shack May 27, 2011 02:38 am


    While I was in the Navy I got interested in talking photos of the different place I went to and saw. After I got out I started learning all I could about photography. I was looking for a good Stock agency to sell my stuff with but could not find one. One day a buddy of mine and I went to the movies. They were showing previews of coming attractions and also some photos from a stock agency. I told my buddy that I take better photos than those. When the previews came around again I wrote down the number for the agency. I then called them that night and told them to send me their requirements. They did and one of the photos they were looking for was of a Papaya. I had a tree in my back yard and took a lot of photos of it. I sent them in and was accepted even though I did not have as many as they required to be accepted. About 3 weeks later I received my first check in the mail for $15.00. They published the Papaya photo. Since then I have been published in over 20 different magazines, children books, and business reports. I am now photographing a lot of 5K, 10K and Marathons run in my home town. The runners then go to my web site and order photos, coffee cups, mouse pads, T-shirts or Tote Bags with their photos and race info on them. I do all my own work instead of farming it out to other people. Been doing this for now on 20 years and loving it.

    My past time photography is underwater photography, I have been doing that since 1972. Just love to be in the water with the fishies.

  • Aharon Denton May 27, 2011 02:15 am

    My first job was quite an on the spot deal. I was 17 working as an assistant manager at a Moto Photo located inside a mall. Well corporate Moto decide it would be a good idea to have mini portrait studios in their stores. So my manager and owner of this store bought the basic recommended set up. white lightnings and a few backgrounds. Well we used a Canon AE-1 (this was about 23 years ago) for copy negatives so that is the camera i started with. Heck i had just bought myself a fancy 110 camera (some won't even know what that is). It was so fancy it had a built in flash. WOW! no flash cubes... So the manger gave me the directions that came with the lights and asked me to figure it out. She had no idea about photography either. I set the lights up in a basic three light set up, according to the directions and we waited. Then our first customer. He wanted wallets for a fraternity. So off the manager went to take his picture. Well about 5 minutes later she comes back to the front, whispers in my ear and says, " can you do this? I can't get the film in the camera." Having absolutely no idea what to do. I relied on the ole school picture experiences as a kid. You know turn your head make them uncomfortable and click click.. Well they came out great! The client was very happy and Yes I WAS HOOKED. Within 2 months i owned an Nikon 2020 some lights and my own backgrounds and was working outside the store as well as managing and doing all the portraits for the store.

  • christina May 27, 2011 01:30 am

    It was an accident. I offered to do it free and she gave me $150. The shoot turned out really good. I just wish I has more knowledge of photoshop after the shoot.

  • Andrea B May 27, 2011 01:13 am

    My first ever paid shoot, I just wanted to take come candid shots of a friend and her little boy (photography was only a hobby, and I didn't even really know what I was doing!) but she insisted on paying me. I said ok, and told her $15 was fine (I was in China, so it was really worth more than that) but she insisted on that per hour. I said no, but she ended up paying me that anyway. Between then and about 3 months ago, I've done a lot of portfolio building, doing photo shoots for friends. I took photos at a friends senior piano recital, just for fun, and 3 months ago, after I officially started my business, she asked me to take her engagement pictures, and voila! My first, real paid shoot. I haven't had any other paid ones since then, but I'm also travelling right now, so I haven't promoted myself too much because I knew I'd be travelling, but once I get back, I've got a whole scheme worked out to get some more business =]

  • SJCT May 26, 2011 02:00 pm

    Well, I haven't been paid yet but hopefully soon! In a couple of weeks I will be assisting a photog buddy from work who's asked me to be the second photographer at a wedding that he's doing in the middle of June. We also have another wedding lined up for September. Fingers crossed that if all goes well we'll book a few more for this summer as well as next year!

  • Zack Jones May 26, 2011 05:42 am

    Mine was quite by accident -- literally. I was at a motorcycle race and during the race an ambulance had to enter the race course to tend to a fallen racer. Another racer ran his motorcycle into the back of the ambulance. I took pictures of the damage to the motorcycle, ambulance and the general scene. I ended up selling a copy of the images to an insurance company for a whopping $10. That was basically to cover the cost of having a 2nd set of prints developed and mailing them to the insurance company.

  • Carolyn Chentnik May 26, 2011 12:59 am


    I have yet to charge for my first job. Doing a wedding for a friend, though. A freebie. I did their engagement pictures, too. They've had compliments on them but I'm at that stage where I'm just not sure/not comfortable enough with charging. We'll see what happens after the wedding!

    Incredibly excited about my future, though. I want to be a travel photographer doing portraits on the side (to help pay for the travel).

    My FB Page

  • Gipukan May 25, 2011 03:41 am

    2 different friends asked me to shoot for their NGO here in Uganda. NGO UCI asked me to photograph their patients. Especially young kids with big cancer tumours. Was a bit shocking but I’ve seen more chocking things in Africa. 1 photo ended up in the New York Times under Getty images (Rob Gipman). NGO IAVI wanted me to photograph an island and it's inhabitants in Lake Victoria. Focus was hygiene, health care and what a group of independent people (8.000 to 10.000 any given time) (former rebels, IDP people who walked out of refugee camps in the north of Uganda hoping for a better life) and their fishing doings in this small cash economy. People even were rising their life w/o knowing how to swim. The photo's were used for a documentary to create awareness just like the Cancer photo's.

    UCI Uganda Cancer Institute
    IAVI International AIDS Vaccine Initiative

  • Karo May 24, 2011 11:00 pm

    i want to shot at my friend's wedding in about a week but i'm a beginer this will be my fist (unpaid) shoot and i don't realy want to take thousand of pictures becouse i'm no the oficial photograph and i don't want to disturb or "steal" their pics. I want to catch great moments and give them a photobook as my gift and maybe have a possitiv feedback! i'm so nervous but i'll try to do my best!
    If you have some tips for me i'll be thankful.
    i have to say that this site is a gret idea and helps people like me to lern from other experiences!! So, THANKS! ;)

  • CharlieJ May 24, 2011 10:41 pm

    Excellent question Darren. My first paid job was when I lived in Hawaii. I went to a lot of concerts. Back then, there was no big problem with taking a 35mm SLR body and 70-200mm zoom lens into a concert. So, I shot dozens of photos at each concert I attended... sometimes getting a better vantage point because security noticed me and helped me move towards the front. [Ah, those were the days] Anyway, I also worked in the largest camera store in Waikiki. Tourists would come in and see my concert photos... and buy them on the spot. The store manager liked it because she made money on the prints. I liked it because I made $8.00 or so profit for an unframed 8x10 (1982 dollars, mind you).

    That was ages ago... after going back to strictly hobbyist photography for more than a decade (lapse of years not shooting much of anything), I started taking jobs to shoot high school students' senior portraits this year. I'm also doing some model shoots, but those are TFP or TFCD presently.

    Although no money exchanged hands, I was the 2nd shooter for the Hooters Regional Bikini Contest held this past weekend in Myrtle Beach, SC [Check my flickr for select shots]. From that, I have already booked a shoot with a young lady who will appear in the October issue of Playboy magazine. IF that goes well, I expect that my portrait business will grow... and for that, I'm thankful.

  • Christian Quinn May 24, 2011 07:17 pm

    A friend asked me accompany her to the local art gallery, as her mother is a professional artist & was working on an arts installation at the time... we arrived & having been introduced . we sat with her family & chatted .. I found myself talking to a chap who was very keen on cars .. Morgans in particular ..& as i had my camera with me & had had the luck to have photographed the local Ferrari Owners Club the day before.. he was very interested indeed ..
    the conversation must have been quite animated as his partner turned to me & asked me about my photographic experience . i in turn said that i had recently been interested in low light situations .. gigs by local bands .. no flash, high ISO & permission from the bouncers etc.. I went on to explain that i was working on a portfolio . uploading to a site online .. for ease of access ..etc
    Almost from out of the blue . I was asked if i could take a few portrait shots of her sister, mother & partner .. A5 photographs .. at £5.00 a piece .. we did the shot there & then . finding a quiet spot in the building ..

  • Ben May 24, 2011 12:07 pm

    I photographed my mother's friend's dog, Bertram, years ago now. Photography was quite a pleasant way to earn some money then; and it still is today.

  • Russell May 24, 2011 07:00 am

    Word of mouth! Discounting paid employment as a staff photographer, freelancing took a while to take off financially and it was a friend who is a publisher. Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In help bolster one's hinterland but real relationships past and present are key ... that and a website portfolio.

  • qristie May 24, 2011 05:15 am

    The first paying job I got was a wedding about 4 years ago. My old roommate had a friend whose photographer bailed on her two weeks before the wedding, and I had never even attended a wedding much less photographed one. My mom (a painter) offered to come along with her film SLR and help. She taught me so much more than I'd expected and I got very lucky with the lighting situations, so my wedding jobs kept coming along :)

  • Mikell May 24, 2011 04:50 am

    Most photographers like showing their pictures to others and getting feedback. I've always emailed the photos I like best to family and friends - depicting gatherings, holidays, vacations, nature or any other meaningful shots.

    So when a relative was looking for someone to take photos of the annual garden & landscape show she was in charge of, she thought of me. She told me that they weren't happy with the photographer who had taken their photos the past two years; his pictures were boring and uninteresting. Being familiar with the kind of photos I take, she said she was sure I could do a better job. She particularly liked the way I process landscapes and nature - using HDR and similar effects filters - and I readily agreed with her that the garden show would be a perfect place to do some of these kinds of photos. I was immediately excited at the prospect of dedicating some real time to my hobby.

    The pay was $500 to provide a couple of DVDs with the best shots; I ended up including about 175 from well over 1,000 photos I took during the week. I went to the show several times to shoot different events and subjects, including private parties, entertainment, commercial landscapers, craft vendors, children's area, demonstrations and seminars. I spent a lot of time post processing the photos and organizing them into categories so I'm sure that my "hourly" rate was pretty low. However, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, learned a great deal and was more than rewarded by the feedback on the final product.

    With the permission of the show, I sent copies of good photos to some of the featured landscapers and several asked if they could use them on our their web sites offering to pay me. I declined payment since i felt the garden show really commissioned these photos and paid for them. And, a local magazine writer asked for several of my photos to run with an article she is doing on outdoor living.

    I'm not looking for more paid photo gigs but the experience gave me more confidence in my photographic skills and talent. I'm keeping track of where my "commercial" photos end up and I would consider this kind of "marketing" photography for a retirement sideline some day.

  • Sara May 24, 2011 04:49 am

    My first job was a wedding as well. They were my husband's high school students! They got married about 6 months after graduation and very obviously didn't have any money. I had worked for a photographer previously and had just got my first SLR camera so they asked me to take the pictures. I had no idea what to charge not to mention I knew they couldn't afford much, I just told them to pay me what they could. I got $100. I look at those pictures now and all I can see are the mistakes I made but I've been totally hooked from that point on.

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer May 24, 2011 04:06 am

    I responded to a post on Craigslist looking for a photographer to photograph a mother and son.

    Craigslist is still occasionally a source for finding new jobs.

    I post this at the end of every comment on dPS: please stop using fadeout popup ads trying to get me to subscribe to this website. They are incredibly annoying and ruining the experience of reading an article on this site. Is there any other site on the entire Internet that does such an invasive practice? If you feel the same way please note it in your comment as well.

  • Russ May 24, 2011 04:02 am

    I do our new member pictures & V.B.S. shots for our church. I was asked how much I'd do a 50th wedding anniversary for..... I donated my time to the happy couple, I figured that being able to take pictures for them and also being able to eat with them was payment enough. About 6 months later another couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and approached me with the same question, this time I went a different route and told them that I'd take a "love offering" but would not charge them anything since I absolutely adore them both. So I guess that was my first real "cash" paying job. The reason for the "love offering" is because they said they were going to pay me regardless, so I came back to with the "love offering". I allowed them to pay what ever the LORD placed on their hearts........ The enjoyment of it was payment enough.

  • z. lynn May 24, 2011 03:00 am

    Thank you for all the awesome tips!

  • helen sotiriadis May 24, 2011 02:58 am

    i had just started shooting regularly as a hobby while working as a CAD manager for the olympics in beijing, when i was asked to be photographer for my organization during games-time... this meant that i got access to both opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the events. i had zero experience, and only my enthusiasm to go on. i've gained a lot of experience since... wish i could re-do it now.

  • Esther May 24, 2011 01:38 am

    I had been taking family pictures for several years and entering local photo contests with 1st and 2nd place wins when my SIL got into a bind and could not shoot a wedding she had set up. I took it last-minute because the bride just wanted some 'snapshots' and I felt that was within my amateur realm. They turned out very well and on a whim, I filled out my next medical form with a new eye doc with 'photographer' in the slot instead of 'homeschooling mom' thinking "who really reads that?"

    A couple days later, the receptionist called to ask about my rates! She was remarried and they had no shots of their whole blended family, so I did it (at a local park) for $75 an hour and gave them the cd to make their own prints. It got around the office and I did 14 families that holiday season, just in their own homes next to the tree kind of thing for the same rates per hour and no prints, just the cd. Now I do several holiday shoots each year and have added in local homeschooling families for 'school' pics to send relatives. All very low-key and simple, I am not a pro and don't advertise as such, it's all word of mouth and I do nearly as much free work as paid or work in trade for other things, homeschoolers in particular are nearly always single income and on a budget, I love being able to give people really good photos, whether they can pay or not. Once I got paid in cookies. Reminded me when my father told me his mother gave the doctor a piglet and a pair of shoes for delivering him.

  • Steve M May 24, 2011 01:20 am

    I joined the Army. When other guys in my class and I would go up to New York City on the weekends we would use a pickup line that we were professional photographers currently working on a three year government contract and we were looking for models. It worked more often than you'd think.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck May 24, 2011 12:37 am


    First paid gig was through word of mouth - but actually much of the hype was generated through Social Media such as Facebook. We were recently promoted by Social Media Guru Donna Newman - the responses have been overwhealming!!/notes/webuildyoursocialmediacom/meet-this-weeks-fan-friday-fan-kathleen-and-erik-kerstenbeck/10150182317118742

    Having a blog has helped enormously as well

  • timgray May 23, 2011 11:56 pm

    By getting my name out there. Art events for the public? submit photographs. People see your name. Newsworthy event? send the paper your photos. Got published in several magazines for credit, etc... Build your rep in the world first. Wedding photogs only need friends and relatives. Pros need recognition outside the community and to the world. It's how I landed my first paying gig in the Midwest for a magazine on the west coast. They have seen my work and contacted me as I was close to the even they wanted photos of. It snowballed from there.

  • Kris Rodriguez May 23, 2011 10:44 pm

    I started out taking pictures of random things and people at parties. My first paid job, I was so nervous I don't think I talked to the client. It was a co-worker of my wife and they loved my photos afterwards! They did mention I never said anything and thought that was weird. Now we are good friends and they are my regular customers! I do talk to my clients now and people have asked me to take pictures all the time.. I've gotten a lot of business from that first shoot. I never thought my what started as a hobby turned into a business. I am currently working on getting my photography biz up and going! Wish me luck! and keeping shooting, you never know who is looking at your pictures!

  • Tony Page May 23, 2011 10:32 pm

    When I was doing Trans-Africa trips in the 70s one of my jobs was to take pix on the road for publicity use, but the first job I did that I was actually paid for in a formal sense was when I was pitching to write a brochure for IBM during the time I was living in Hong Kong.

    My graphic designer partner and I had basically landed the brochure, which was to cover several Asian countries. IBM had already assigned a film crew, and commented that all they needed to sort now was the still photography. Naturally, I put up my hand and volunteered my services, and that was that!

    I might add that the first thing I did was to go out and buy a second F3 and a few more lenses, not to mention some more substantial strobes...:-)

  • Sarosa May 23, 2011 10:30 pm

    When I moved to Morocco almost 4 years ago, I decided to go pro. My first paid job was to shoot a hotel. The job was given to me by a small web designer company, where I introduced myself a few weeks before.

  • Ann May 23, 2011 10:27 pm

    Similar to many of the above stories, I had friends see my work (on my facebook page) & a couple of months ago a friend asked me to take some shots of her baby-bump. I then did a photo shoot after her son was born (of her, her husband, newborn son & their dog). After I did those, I posted on my Facebook page that I was looking to build my photography portfolio & had a couple of friend's volunteer (eagerly) to pose for me. This past Saturday I did my first outdoor shoot at a park near the lake with old friends I hadn't seen in over 7 years (& their kids). I had a blast. Now (after posting those photos on Facebook, & creating my own Facebook page for my photography) I have people (friends of mine but also friends of the family I photographed)
    asking how much I charge, & people requesting prints (of the family I photographed 2 days ago). Until now I did it for free (the 3 photo shoots), as I feel they've helped me (my friends) to build my portfolio. And this summer I will begin to charge. I'm currently finding out from other photographer friends how much they charge. By the way, like others on here, I'm 100% self-taught.

  • Andrea May 23, 2011 10:19 pm

    I still remember that I got my first "job" as a photographer through my wife. She was called by a friend who needed someone to make her mother's wedding photo album. I say "make" but I mean that she needed someone who could put the photos in sequence and with an artistic feeling. This friend also asked my wife if she knew a good photographer but not to spend lots of money.

    My wife knew a person, a lady who did some shoots here and there, and so she called her. Well this lady told my wife she needed an assistant though because she was afraid of not beaing able to make it on her own. And that's where I come in.

    I took my D40 with my only lens at the time (the 18-55 mm). And it's good I went because I took all the shots about the details and stuff like that. Those creative and artistic shots that she didn't take. The album came out great, the friend's mother was very happy and my wife and I got a little money for our "job".

    Yesterday I did another shot for the same friend. It was a ceremony for her son and it came out great fortunately. I was the only photographer and unfortunately not paid, but that's ok. I actually wanted to take some photos anyway.

  • Greg May 23, 2011 08:52 pm

    @ Lis: Yes, you are being a jerk. Nice piece Darren.

  • kidoh May 23, 2011 08:48 pm

    cool posting..thanks..:D

  • Sheri May 23, 2011 08:30 pm

    I was paid $60 for a real estate shoot of a very large home. I learned that isn’t much money for all the work it takes. I probably spent about 3 hours editing the 100 or so photos, drove about 1.5 hours round trip. I would not do that again unless I did not have another job that I rely on for support.

    I shot a wedding for a friend’s daughter and they provided all expenses for 3 day weekend at B&B in Asheville, NC as well as gave us $125 gift cards. Altogether, they spent about $600-700 in payment so I think not bad for a nice shoot and a nice weekend~ albeit quite a lot of work involved. I have given them the disc as promised but also set up a SmugMug website for future projects. I am hoping this family might purchase a few SmugMug site prints as well. :) I hope the pictures I post to FB will help get my name out there for more!

  • Ros Gasson May 23, 2011 08:29 pm

    I'm just at the start of that process. I've started making more connections (on and offline), so I've spoken to a lot of folk about the fact that I'm doing more photography, and investigating where it might go. I set up a website earlier this year, a Facebook page and Twitter account, and registered myself with Linked In. I also registered a company name. I've printed business cards, and have been on a number of short business startup training courses, and a weekend photography course. Oh...and last week I ran a slideshow at a friend's CD launch event.

    I do a lot of landscape photography, and love photographing gigs/events. As a traditional musician, I get plenty of opportunities to take photos at trad music gigs and have often been asked to photograph events as a favour.

    In the last couple of months I've started getting enquiries about doing paid shoots (and strangely 2 enquiries about building websites!), so it's beginning to look like the legwork might be starting to pay off!

    [eimg url='' title='Ali-White01resized.jpg']

  • Chocoholix May 23, 2011 08:00 pm

    My story is similar except it was the baby photographs of my sons and the self-taken pregnancy shots I took of me that stirred interesetd in a parents' forum I was involved in.

  • Cathy May 23, 2011 05:12 pm

    First paid job was found through an online photography portal which match-makes photographers and clients. It was to cover a street protest in London. I then got work for a local magazine by taking the potentially ego-destroying step of contacting them to see if they hired freelancers. They did!
    Other work has come through word of mouth, self-funded projects that have opened doors and generally developing a thick skin for rejection.
    No weddings, though, but weddings are not my thing.

  • Naomi May 23, 2011 04:49 pm

    Off topic, but the caps ALOT reminded me of this...

  • Kenneth May 23, 2011 04:13 pm

    I did a wedding for a friend back in the days of chemical processing. Joined the US Air Force in 1989 as a Still Photographer and have been shooting every since. It's been a fun ride too. I have plans to open up my studio in Spring 2012.

  • James May 23, 2011 04:00 pm

    I started emailing local sports teams asking for shooting time in a prime location in exchange for free digital shots. From there it was a good "internship" that led to my first paying job shooting AHL hockey.

  • Focx Photography May 23, 2011 03:17 pm

    I would really like to hear more about people from other fields of photography, especially nature photography (assuming anyone is getting paid there ;) )!

  • Mirko Herzner May 23, 2011 02:51 pm

    Good friends asked me to shoot their wedding. I did not really want to be in a position with so much responsibility but accepted in the end. Then came the next friends...

    After doing two wedding for free I decided to ask money for it. Two paid weddings for friends later I got the first gig with people that I did not know. In 2011 I am having six paid weddings so far...

  • Jack Foster Mancilla May 23, 2011 02:37 pm

    Every time some one asked me to shoot something, I quoted a price that I stuck by.

  • NgeeJee May 23, 2011 02:23 pm

    Did portraits for RM80 (AUD24.90)/roll for my fellow schoolmates back in the old days of film (1993) to fund for my expensive hobby back then. we just shoot the roll, supplied by the subjects, and will hand the roll back to them, without being developed or printed. Was a great deal for me (16 yo back then) that I was able to buy more films, and do more shoots.

    My "clients" usually will be made up of 3-5 fellow schoolmates who shared the RM80 "professional" fee.

    Later, my foray into DSLR started when I was given a job of doing catalog for an online store, shooting 1000+ items offered, at a price of RM10/item, so I bought my first uysed DSLR after doing 300 of the contracted 1000. =)

    Now, am doing freelance portraits and wedding works. I supposed that not being doing photography professionally (as in, not my bread winner), gives me the edge to charge higher than normal for all my works. My charges now are about 30-80% higher than normal market rates.

  • KristinaB May 23, 2011 01:14 pm

    My first 'paying' job was when a local snowmobiling club was having a weekend event. They provided me with a sled, fed me and gave me some swag. From there I've been doing other events, family parties and have sold some nature photos.

  • stargazer May 23, 2011 11:58 am

    I shot a friend's wedding as a favor. Then a friend's daughter's wedding as a favor. They showed the photos and that led to paying jobs. Good stuff.

  • Joe Dyndale May 23, 2011 11:03 am

    Wow. I'm not quite as far along as you - but my story is almost exactly the same, except I didn't start with film 'cause it was only a couple of years ago :O) Still doing the part-time wedding thing besides my day job (as a computer programming consultant). I've had some inquiries about doing some architecture photography, but I just haven't found the time for that gig yet. Hopefully I'll get some studio work in the near future. Concert photography is great fun too.

  • Sheri neville May 23, 2011 11:01 am

    As a former newspaper reporter and sometimes photographer, I was known to many people in the community. When one woman, who was starting a new business, needed photographs and a press article featuring her and the business, she contacted me to see whether I'd be interested. I rushed out and purchased a 35mm Canon (film back then), suitable lenses and a dedicated flash and took the paid assignment. I freelanced after that until taking a magazine editorship.

  • AJ May 23, 2011 09:46 am

    I bought my first SLR a couple years ago and started shooting as a hobby. After about a year, people started asking me to shoot for them. They offered to pay, but I didnt feel like it was right to take their money in exchange for what I considered to be a non-professional product. I am completely self taught, and still learning. Which I tell all my potential clients from the get go. But, IN the last year, I have shot a couple weddings and have started booking weekend shoots for high school seniors, couples, children, and families. I did the weddings as wedding presents, so I guess you could say I got my first paying gig when a friend of a friend asked me to take her sons senior pictures. I quoted her $60 for the session and free rights to the image disc. She was so surprised, she booked right away. I have since also taken his bff's senior pictures and gotten re-orders from both of them. The first boy became the homecoming king his senior year, and ended up ordering over 700 wallets alone, I would say that means they were satisfied with the outcome ;-) Since then, I have finally started to launch a bit of a part time business. Its stressful, as I am sure you all know, but completely worth it!

  • Mark May 23, 2011 09:09 am

    I had posted some photos on Face Book and a woman who is a friend hired me to shoot a Hockey game for an online community journal that she does.

  • fantasmic2tek May 23, 2011 08:42 am

    I had a friend at work that does Civil War Reenactments. He asked me to shoot a reenactment that his Company was sponsoring in the area, The deal was I would be paid $50.00 for pictures to go on their website. I also sold some pictures to some of the other people in the Company. At another CWR I shot a wedding for a couple whose cameras broke. I ended up getting about $300.00 for just the pictures.

  • Rachel May 23, 2011 08:35 am

    My boyfriend had bought a dSLR and his coworker convinced him to shoot her wedding. He didn't know anything about photography but I did from a class in high school, so he dragged me along. Made $300. Looking at those pictures now is so painful, I've improved a lot in the last ~7 years!

  • Maurizio Lodi May 23, 2011 08:34 am

    Well... My first paid pic was a macro shot. I had shown my still life portfolio, full of colours and inventions to get the important annual budget publication of a main pharmaceitical industry, here in italy. I had been phoning for three months , twenty calls a day to different firms, factories , corporations, to get that chance. After I decided to try and open my studio in a dark but 50 square meter underground cellar , the phone at the third floor I had finished all my money left.
    To get the job I had to pass an exam before. So, that morning, led by the marketing director, I drove my inherited from my dad peugeot 504, to a near town where a poor lady, affected by cellulite, had accepted to act as a model, in exchange of two pairs of graduated compression stockings.
    So I shot that macro, focusing five centimeters from her skin disorder.
    It was my first invoice. I was willing to do anything!

  • Andrew MacDonald May 23, 2011 08:23 am

    Well, I have been paid for my first paid gig, but haven't done it yet. I see myself between newbie and pro. So Im by no means an expert, nor am I a total novice. I had no intention of doing photography for a living, but my sisters wedding photographer let her down a couple of weeks ago. After me trying to persuade her that she should try and find another pro, and not rely on me in the 'hope' ill do a pretty good job, she still insisted shed like me to do it.

    I told her I didn't want nothing for my time, but that id need a tripod, and a specific lens I was looking at. She agreed to buy both of those things in return for me doing her wedding day. Her wedding is 3 weeks from today. Having read every single book out there, trawled dozens of blogs and how-to sites, and gone out and done test photoshoots with my sister and her fiancé, I can honestly say Im confident my first paid gig will go well. But I'm not arrogant enough to presume all will go to plan, but I will do my utmost to make my sister proud.

    And Im really excited and looking forward to it too.

    Wish me luck.

  • Jai Catalano May 23, 2011 08:22 am

    Craigslist... Before photographers advertised that they shoot 2000 photos with 600 looks for only $19.99. For the last 9 months it has been all word of mouth.

  • Rich Copley May 23, 2011 08:15 am

    I was actually doing a volunteer gig, shooting portraits for our church's online pictoral directory. A couple in our membership are realtors, and she mentioned they needed new business shots, so we set up a shoot for a few weeks later.

  • Lis May 23, 2011 08:09 am

    Not to be a jerk, but please grammar check before publishing. "ALOT" is not a word.

  • Ed May 23, 2011 08:03 am

    My 1st payment was also a wedding. I asked not much, spend days of work on the book and was hoping that the family wanted some prints. The family's get into a fight, nobody ordered a print. So... I get payed but it costed me more. :-( I did some more weddings and asked for a fee for a day, give the negatives to the couple so I earned some money (yes, that was in the analoog world) . I did that a couple of times but I don't do weddings anymore.

    Last year I won two tickets to any place in the world with a contest, worth about 2200 US. That was the best payment I have. ;-)

  • Kyle May 23, 2011 07:56 am

    About 5 or 6 months ago a close friend of mine was going through some of my photos and offered me $200 to do portraits for her. I declined at first because I felt like I would be cheating her because im not a "Professional" but she insisted. I agreed and told her I would do it for $100. We agreed and did the shoot. After that it seemed like people just started to come out of nowhere offering me jobs. I've done a shoot for a Woman's two little girls ( About 5 and 6 years old) and I have a wedding scheduled in june. Its not enough to cover all my bills but it sure does help.

  • Josh Sorenson May 23, 2011 07:54 am

    I had shot for about a year and posted my stuff on facebook and was none as the kid who could make anything look cool with my camera. So I decided I would do senior pictures for friends for $25 a piece at 5 different locations. Did I rip myself off? YES I DID! but I learned from it big time. Never let somebody talk you down in price ever if you feel you are worth it.

  • Scott LaPaglia May 23, 2011 07:42 am

    Kinda similar story, friend saw my work and asked me to do her wedding. As much as I tried she wouldn't let me do it for free.

  • Gustavo Pugliesi Sachs May 23, 2011 07:40 am

    I had been shooting for a while in the field of disablities in Brazil. It was unpaid since I worked as journalist for the government and we didn't have an official photographer by then. I contacted, about a month ago, the organizers for the Défi Sportif to see if I could photograph the event to build up my portfolio. Two days later they contacted me again to offer me money to work for one day as one of the official photographers for the event. Some of the final photos are in my Flickr account and my work in this field is in my portfolio:

    I am still looking for more gigs in this field anyway and photography is not my main income yet.

  • TracyLynn May 23, 2011 07:39 am

    I posted on my photography Facebook page. I offered a graduation spring special, and 2 of my friends hired me. I'm hoping word of mouth and the results of those 2 shoots will bring in more business.

  • Chio May 23, 2011 06:58 am

    Started out with the word of mouth, from $10 to $100 for photo shoots, like parties, birthdays and anything, then as people recommend you to their friends, or somebody notices you, it is excellent. I think that's how most of us started out.

  • Sally Wehner May 23, 2011 06:50 am

    My 1st paid gig was a friends wedding. She didn't want to pay a lot, most photographers in the area charge $1500 on up. So I did it for $500. It was suppose to be at the botanical gardens, but it poured down rain and got changed to the reception hall. Bad lighting, bad background, not at all what I was expecting or had planned for, but it turned out ok and she was happy with it.

  • Dawn May 23, 2011 06:37 am

    Wow, I'd love to get paid! I'm just a hobbyist though. I did get a nice gift bag yesterday with a couple bottles of wine and various other items for shooting a friend-of-a-friend's 10 week old. Does that count?

  • Donna Rowe May 23, 2011 06:37 am

    Hi, my first paid photography work was for a friends wedding, i was thrown in by a friend who said i took good photos. I was so nervous but thought just do what you enjoy and snap away. I did and the bride and groom loved the photos. The hardest part was to organise the photo shots. Ive since then gone on to do a photo shoot in a park with a family, they like my style of capturing natural shots in natural surroundings. I enjoy to take photos with a story running along side the shots.

  • HAbed May 23, 2011 06:33 am

    I was invited to one of my best friend's wedding but didn't had any money for a present, so I gave them a DVD with a slide show of the photos I took at their wedding. Another friend came to my place just when I was rendering the video, she saw it and hired me to shoot her nephew 1 year party. Just 2 days after delivering that video, a friend of the couple who was getting married saw it at their place and hired me also. I didn't know how much to charge so I charged them about $200 USD for the kids B'day and $300 USD for the wedding. Talking about hiting 2 birds with one rock... The rest is history