What you should know when transitioning to professional photography

Scott Schuman Sartorialist photographer

The rise of digital photography has created a boom in photography, as a creative art form but also as a career choice. With so many resources available online, it may sound easy to become a pro, but the truth is not that simple. 

The field of photography is extremely competitive, demanding not just exquisite talent and skills, but also marketing acumen and self-discipline. To become a prolific professional photographer, you need to possess more than sheer talent – you also need to put in long hours, have the X factor that gives you the upper hand and manage your photography business as a true entrepreneur.  

Here are several basic tips that can help you pave the way to your professional career.

Acquire knowledge

You can do a lot of research on how to become a good photographer both online and offline. There are numerous photography talks, exhibitions, and seminars you can take part in as well as many online photography communities where you can get excellent information and advice. 

Being a professional photographer does not necessarily require structured education or training as you can do a lot of self-learning and practice. But, getting some formal education can add a lot of value to your skills and career once you turn pro.  

Invest in yourself

As in any business, pro photography requires a certain investment. Primarily, you need the right tools and your camera is where you start. Consider choosing one of the Canon cameras until you find a model that best suits your hand and eye, and has features you find desirable. Then, make a checklist of everything else you’ll need, from the right set of lenses to lights and software. 

However, don’t stop there. You want to be a pro and run a business, you don’t just want to be a shooter. Get a good computer, hard drives, high-quality equipment cases, and set up a marketing budget. As the saying goes, you need to spend money to make money, but do make sure you invest in high-quality gear as you’re most likely to use it for many years. Most pro photographers do so as they stop chasing the newest cameras and rather focus more on the essence and simplicity of their photo assignments. 


Establish a fool-proof routine

In addition to great equipment, pro photographers need a solid routine as well. Professional shoots are typically very fast and dynamic so to be able to experiment, you need to have your equipment ready from the get-go and running smoothly. The same applies to the post-process that gets your images done quickly and set off to your clients efficiently.

Constitute your professional set-up and don’t change it up until you need to. Do the same with your importing, editing and outputting process in such a way that it works great for you and can be your go-to routine year after year. Also, pay attention to your lighting process. If you’re going on location to do a session and you need to bring everything yourself, being able to set everything up in less than an hour is crucial for being efficient and consistently successful.

Find time to network

Networking is essential for your business and it can take many forms, the most effective being in-person meetings. Start looking at every event as a potential lead for your next job. Don’t be aggressive about it, just mention that you have the skills and abilities should anyone need them. Hand out your business card anywhere you can, be it at dinners, retail stores, exhibitions or shoots.

Social media is another valuable tool. It may not be as good as in-person meetings, but you can still make great connections by getting tagged in other people’s posts. Your feed matters as well, but being endorsed by others, such as your models, clients and crew, is a great way to find your next employment. 

Build your photography portfolio

Your photography portfolio is probably the most significant tool that can help you become a successful professional photographer. It allows your potential clients to get to know your work and judge your skills and talent, so make sure you select prime images that showcase the full scope of your work.

It’s also critical for your success to have an online portfolio website as well so you get the necessary exposure, attract your clients and projects beyond your local area and network. Your website with your content and brand should reflect the nature of your work so you can draw the right customer base.

Like any other passion that becomes business, it takes time and loving effort. These tips are just the beginning. Becoming a pro means you’re taking it to the next level and stepping up to the demands of the market. As you go, you’ll slowly discover more tricks that will lead to your success.