How to Become a Professional Photographer

Looking to turn your insta success into a full-blown career? In our next instalment of the ‘How to Become’ series, we look into professional photography and ask exactly how you can make the leap into becoming a budding paparazzo.


What do You do as a Professional Photographer?

What a photographer does might seem simple – you take photographs! But simply running shoots is not all you will end up doing. Once you have taken a photo, you will also have to post-process your images. You will also have to organise, market, and advertise your shoots to prospective clients, and on top of that sort out contracts and agreements with who you work with about what their needs are and what you can do to meet them.

A professional photographer’s job role also depends a lot about what kind of photos you decide you want to take. If you choose to become a wedding photographer, for example, be prepared to spend lots of weekends and evenings away from your family and with strangers’ instead. A school photographer, by contrast, can work nine-five hours Monday to Friday most weeks.

You also will have to keep on top of the cutting edge of technology in your industry, to make sure you have the right cameras, lighting equipment, and lenses to take the most beautiful images you possibly could.

As you start out, you could also fill your time not by shooting, but by supporting more established professional photographers by helping with their editing process, or working in a print or dark room.


What is Your Expected Salary as a Photographer?

Freelance photographers on average make between £20,000 to £30,000 a year, however, most fall below this figure and pad their passion with earnings from part-time jobs. Salaried general photographers earn closer to £10/hour on average, though specialist professionals can make up to £65,000 a year.


What do I Need to Become a Professional Photographer?

To get started as a pro, you need to have the right kit for the job. It is especially important you get equipment that you both feel comfortable using and is as high quality as you can handle. You can rent the most expensive items that you do not regularly need, though your camera is something you’re likely to want to own.

The most important things to get are:
* Camera
* Lens
* Tripod
* Editing software (ideally either Lightroom or Photoshop)
* A web domain for your online portfolio

You also should get a good amount of experience before starting in this role. Experts often talk about how being a professional photographer’s assistant for several years was a huge part in giving them the understanding and knowledge of the industry to work with their market, as well as know who the big names are.

You also should join a professional photography association. Most trade associations will provide standard forms like contracts at no extra cost to its members, and when you have made an agreement to work paid for a client, you should have a contract ready for them to sign.

Finally, make sure your computer is of a high enough quality to easily run industry-standard photo editing software and display them beautifully on your laptop screen. A refurbished MacBook Air 13 inch laptop is a great piece of kit to run everything you will need.


Is Photography Right for Me?

Professional photography is a difficult career path for people who love to take photos enough to be able to complete all the administrative, legal, and advertorial nature of the work while still having a positive attitude. If you’re not an avid photographer, you might struggle in this world because of the high expectations of your company and the marketplace.

Of course, where your talents lie will change what position you take. Photography means being part of a community of active like-minded people which can be a hugely rewarding experience.

To succeed as a professional photographer, you need enthusiasm, ambition, and most of all a creative spark to help you work with new clients. There is a lot of pressure to get the best pictures you possibly could, but if you can meet expectations, photography can be an immensely satisfying career.


Steps to Becoming a Photographer:

1. Complete a degree in photography. (Optional)
2. Work under an experienced photographer to gain experience.
3. Complete side projects and build a portfolio of photos.
4. Publish your portfolio online on your website.
5. Polish your portfolio to make sure it demonstrates the right skills to potential employers. Weave your portfolio into your CV.
6. Start advertising yourself as a photographer in your community and land some paid work to establish your career.

We hope you enjoyed this instalment of the ‘How to Become’ series! Please share your thoughts on social media about your experiences trying to break into the professional photography industry, and if you have any advice to share, please leave us a comment!