How to Become a Professional Photographer

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200611101344The following is part 3 of my interview with a Pro Photographer.

How did you Go Pro as a Photographer?

I have always loved photography and in the early days (when I was a teenager) I never went anywhere without a camera. I must have cost my parents a fortune in film and developing but they fostered my love for my hobby.

I guess things progressed from hobby to profession in my early 20’s while I was studying at university (I was studying Engineering and hating it). I became known as the ‘guy with the camera’ and out of that was always being asked to photograph events in my friends lives.

When I wasn’t asked to photograph an event that I was going to I took the attitude that I’d do it anyway and went out of my way to give the best shots that I took to the organizers. This gets attention and when your shots are as good (if not better than the hired photographers) you get your name out there. It’s also great practice.

I also met a lot of pro photographers in that time at events and offered my services to them as a back up photographer to go with them and cover events from a more candid/paparazzi perspective. At first I did this for free but after a while they started paying me.

Over time and through word of mouth and networking I began to land gigs of my own and over a couple of years while I studied I gradually transitioned from a full time study/part time photographer to a full time photographer/part time student (I switched to study photography and did it at night school).

Over the last decade I’ve developed my own candid style (those early years of working as a secondary photographer paid off in that way as I learnt a lot) and have moved away somewhat from ‘event’ photography to portraits.

These days I still do weddings but also do a lot of family photography, usually in people’s homes.

My advice to wannabe Pro Photographers:

  • Promote yourself – offer your services where ever you can. To friends and family, to other photographers, to event organizers – to anyone. In my early days I was pretty pushy and had to sell myself hard, but it was worth it.
  • Hone your craft – take as many shots as you can but see each one as an opportunity to learn something and develop your own unique style.
  • Have a back up plan – don’t just ‘go pro’ unless you have enough work to justify it. I’ve seen a few people go bankrupt this way. While it took me a few years to build up to going full time as a photographer I always had other work to pay the bills in the mean time.

For more resources on turning your digital photography from a hobby into a money maker check out:

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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 really look forward to the tips each week. I am a “wannabe” photographer so I trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks!

  • How long have you been into photography

  • I found this blog by performing a Google search as I need/want to take my photography to the next level. And what a fortuitous find it was!

    I was recently given the role as Official Photographer of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (Australia). The MQFF folk viewed my collection of Gay Pride shots & they were sufficiently enough impressed to ask me to photographically record the events surrounding MQFF. It’s an unpaid role (monetarily, speaking) but I’ve been given opening & closing night invitations and ten film passes – wow! Then I got a little “cocky” with myself and offered my services (again for free) to the organisers of the Melbourne Latin American Film Festival (yes, I’m crazy about both still & moving images!) and they too offered me a role in exchange for a series of film passes. So, as you can imagine it was really interesting reading this interview with the pro-photographer… because he has just suggested exactly what I’ve just done!

  • Sani Haruna

    i am photographer and graphic designer anded suuport to move my business forward in with tools i needed for thr business ready to pay back please am looking for assistance he who ever to come to my aid

  • iam 54 i have been wainting to be a photographer for 32 yr every seen iam came out of viet nam i like film photos like black and white i do have adslr but i like my om10 olympus better i will take any advice thanks hope i hear from some one

  • Great info! Already booked marked. Now I have to go out and take more photos. 🙂

  • Tiffany Murray

    I am a teenager with a passion for photography. My dad teaches band and lst week he had a concert and asked me to take pictures for him. he told me that i can go up on stage if i wanted to…but i felt like i was intruding and taking away from the concert feel…have you ever been in a situation like this? what did you do?

  • Christopher Santos

    Hi Darren, great tips.
    I am a wannabe photographer and would like to know what lenses do you suggest for a person that would be taken portraits, parties, hopefully weddings, etc.
    I have read a lot and to be honest I would love to tag along with someone professional in my area, Doral, FL, just to watch and learn.

  • Emily Reath

    Thank you so much! This helps a lot! I am a teen and I absolutely love taking photos! I’ve recently been asked to take photos for a professional model in Las Vegas! All because she saw the pictures I took of my friends for fun. I never thought I could become an actual professional until this opportunity came along. This post has really inspired me to keep working on this! Thank you so much!

Some Older Comments

  • Emily Reath March 11, 2013 04:53 pm

    Thank you so much! This helps a lot! I am a teen and I absolutely love taking photos! I've recently been asked to take photos for a professional model in Las Vegas! All because she saw the pictures I took of my friends for fun. I never thought I could become an actual professional until this opportunity came along. This post has really inspired me to keep working on this! Thank you so much!

  • Christopher Santos July 11, 2011 11:14 pm

    Hi Darren, great tips.
    I am a wannabe photographer and would like to know what lenses do you suggest for a person that would be taken portraits, parties, hopefully weddings, etc.
    I have read a lot and to be honest I would love to tag along with someone professional in my area, Doral, FL, just to watch and learn.

  • Tiffany Murray December 5, 2010 12:12 am

    I am a teenager with a passion for photography. My dad teaches band and lst week he had a concert and asked me to take pictures for him. he told me that i can go up on stage if i wanted to...but i felt like i was intruding and taking away from the concert feel...have you ever been in a situation like this? what did you do?

  • Liza April 1, 2008 05:25 am

    Great info! Already booked marked. Now I have to go out and take more photos. :)

  • tony tysinger January 6, 2008 12:01 pm

    iam 54 i have been wainting to be a photographer for 32 yr every seen iam came out of viet nam i like film photos like black and white i do have adslr but i like my om10 olympus better i will take any advice thanks hope i hear from some one

  • Sani Haruna November 27, 2007 08:06 pm

    i am photographer and graphic designer anded suuport to move my business forward in with tools i needed for thr business ready to pay back please am looking for assistance he who ever to come to my aid

  • Catherine February 8, 2007 08:56 pm

    I found this blog by performing a Google search as I need/want to take my photography to the next level. And what a fortuitous find it was!

    I was recently given the role as Official Photographer of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (Australia). The MQFF folk viewed my collection of Gay Pride shots & they were sufficiently enough impressed to ask me to photographically record the events surrounding MQFF. It's an unpaid role (monetarily, speaking) but I've been given opening & closing night invitations and ten film passes - wow! Then I got a little "cocky" with myself and offered my services (again for free) to the organisers of the Melbourne Latin American Film Festival (yes, I'm crazy about both still & moving images!) and they too offered me a role in exchange for a series of film passes. So, as you can imagine it was really interesting reading this interview with the pro-photographer... because he has just suggested exactly what I've just done!

  • mylissa November 23, 2006 06:16 am

    How long have you been into photography

  • Becky McGuire November 19, 2006 12:14 pm

    I really look forward to the tips each week. I am a "wannabe" photographer so I trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks!

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