I was recently asked by a college student to share my top 5 pieces of advice for those thinking about becoming professional photographers. I thought I’d share my response with you as well.
1. Learn lighting, not just digital photography
There are so many “professional” photographers out there who don’t know what a histogram, loop lighting, or equivalent exposures are. They shoot most of their work on full Program mode (this is the equivalent of putting your point-and-shoot camera into “auto” mode, relying on the camera to know what the aperture, exposure, shutter speed, etc. should be), which in my book is the biggest no-no of them all.
2. Intern for a local
They know how their town responds to marketing and what clients are expecting. They also know the laws, permit requirements for shooting in public places, and taxes that are immediately applicable to you as soon as you start charging for photography.
3. If you can’t insure it, don’t buy it
Too many people have dropped a lens and then they are in emergency mode: figuring out how to purchase a $1500 lens before their next shoot. Literally, within hours of purchasing new gear, we call our insurance agent and add it.
Competition is a great thing, not something to fear. Some of the best, most rewarding relationships we have are with our competitors. They keep us on our toes and gives us someone to refer people to when we are already booked. Stay above reproach and work with integrity even if those who are in competition with you don’t.
5. Know when to say ‘No’
I am crappy at taking family photos. So I don’t do them. I say ‘no’ to cute little babies too. They require a completely different marketing system, props, and final end products. Unless you know how to handle that, it’s best to just stick to one or two main areas of expertise. Photography is a craft that takes years to hone. It’s better to not spread yourself too thin. We do 90% weddings, 10% commercial. We spend 90% of our time learning how to be great at weddings. We will be that much better than those who have to cut their time between families, children, babies, seniors, weddings, commercial, pets and anything that swings their way.