If you’ve ever thought seriously about making the transition from amateur shutterbug to prospering professional, you’re far from alone. It’s the most natural thing in the world to want to do what you love best in exchange for an actual living and thousands of photographers successfully make the transition every year. It is possible if you work hard and strive tirelessly to be good at what you do.
Even so, it’s important to realize that all the guides on how to become a professional photographer sometimes leave out a lot of the little details. There are plenty of tasks you can start working on right now to get the ball rolling in the right direction. The following are just a few of them.
Photo Credit: Mohammad Ashkanani
- Master your camera’s manual mode.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many amateur photographers dream of going professional someday while still being completely reliant on auto mode. Learning to shoot in manual mode puts you in full control of your shots – a must for any serious photographer, professional or otherwise.
Start by learning all there is to know about shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and so forth. Then start experimenting with different settings in regards to each, as well as taking notes as to how they affect the outcome.
Photo Credit: Max Ozerov
2. Become a crack shot at editing.
Inexperienced photographers dream of one day capturing a pristine and perfect image that doesn’t require any post editing. Professionals know that editing will always be a necessary part of the equation, so they make it a point to become really, really good at it.
As with learning manual mode, be sure start by learning a bit about professional photo editing software. Start simple and small. Play around with each of the settings so that you can grasp how each can change your images and take it from there.
3. Build a dedicated photography website.
No one’s saying you need to get rid of your Instagram or your Tumblr once you decide you’re focused on going professional one day. (Even professionals need a strong social media presence.) However, it’s important to realize that free social media accounts are no longer acceptable substitutes for a bona fide website.
If you haven’t done so already, start looking into hosts for your soon-to-be site and purchase your own domain name. Invest in a really fantastic web theme or hire a professional web designer to put one together for you. Make sure your finished site also includes pages on who you are, how you can be contacted, and where you can be found on social media.
Photo Credit: Maciej Duczynski
4. Get a professional email address as well.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your email address is an insignificant detail that doesn’t really matter. It’s a large part of how you’ll be presenting yourself to potential clients, publications, and corporate entities. As such, you’ll want it to make the right statement about who you are and how seriously you take what you do.
Ditch the Yahoo or Hotmail email address you’ve had since forever. Skip the silly, raunchy, or flirty handles as well. Go for something simple and professional – preferably along the lines of firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Make a commitment to showcase only your best work.
Now that you’ve got your sights set on becoming a professional someday, you want to make sure that every shot you’ve got “out there” in the big, wide world is an example of your best work. Think quality over quantity all the way! Better to have only 10 or 15 jaw-dropping images out there than 150 that are just OK.
The idea is to make sure that potential clients, publications, or companies that do come to check you out are absolutely blown away by what you can do. Every shot they could possibly see – whether it’s on social media, on your website, or somewhere else altogether – should be capable of making that impression for you.
6. Start conducting yourself like a professional.
Make sure your behavior and code of conduct matches the professional, polished image you’ve begun creating elsewhere. When dealing with potential clients or reps from publications, always be polite, friendly, and cooperative. Format professional emails properly. Avoid using text speak at all costs.
Respond to any inquiries or communications from clients and customers as soon as you possibly can. (Within 24 hours is considered the professional standard.) Dress professionally when meeting or working with clients in person. Be punctual, reliable, and professional at all times. In other words, if you want your photography to be your actual job someday, start treating it like one now.
7. Be proactive about pitching your services and pursuing opportunities.
Once you reach a place where you feel like you’re really ready to make the jump from amateur to professional, take the initiative. It’s not enough to put up a website and wait for clients to come to you. Get your name out there under your own power. Start knocking on doors, so to speak.
Email companies or individuals that you’d really like to work with and present them with a pitch. Introduce your services and tell them what you can bring to the table as far as their company goes. Be sure to focus on pursuing the type of photography that interests you the most as well – fashion, music, nature, etc.
Photo Credit: Krishanu Sarkar
8. Keep your creative juices flowing constantly.
Even professionals fall into ruts sometimes and have trouble staying inspired and you’ll be no exception. Comb the web for new photographers and techniques to fall in love with. Read photography magazines and make it a point to socialize with other photographers as well. Even watching movies or television shows regularly can help keep you exposed to imagery you find interesting.
Entering photography competitions is another great way to keep your creativity in full bloom. They’re also a stellar way to get your work out there in front of people that can help you succeed. If you win, you can walk away with incredible prizes, as well as tons of exposure that can only help you build your budding career. Explore the possibilities today!