How do you become a professional photographer?

I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs, and over the past year have spent lots of time travelling and photographing. But up until now it’s just been a hobby - if I did want to see if I could do this professionally (or at least make a little money to fund the habit), what do I need to do? I have done some dark-room developing classes, but no other formal training. It is about further education, the right contacts, or luck?

I’m pretty sure formal education is most/all of it. Photography isn’t a great field to go into anymore, IMO, because most of your work’s mileage comes from royalty-free digital theft. Music’s the same way these days, but at least you’re already rich by the time people want to steal your work, plus you still make buttloads off radio, record sales and concerts. My cousin is a professional skiing photog and says business is really shitty for that reason.

I dated a photographer (a couple, actually). There are ways of getting into the business. First, you could apply for work at a photo studio. I had a friend who was an assistant to a photographer first. Got her foot in the door. One of the guys I dated worked for a photo studio taking pictures of kids. If you put a portfolio together and peddle it to the local studios, there may be someone out there who needs you for weddings and the like.

I don’t think its all that glamorous, though. Weddings will kill your weekends and cute kids…well, they’re not always cute during the entire shoot.

You might want to enter your work in local shows, as well. Someone may see it and give you a call.

Good luck!

To make a bit of money on the side, you could contact companies that might want to use your photos in advertising. What do you like to photograph?

Buildings? People? Nature? Do you have a hobby or special interest?

For example: Maybe you like backpacking. Take some great photos on you next trip that put some focus on the backpack. Now contact backpack manufacturers and show them your work. Tell them you have a trip planned, and if they give you one of their backpacks to use, you will photograph it in some cool setting for their consideration. They may or may not buy a photo or two. They may also want to trade product for photos.

If you can find out who does their advertising work, go directly to them.

You mention that you do a lot of travelling. This is a plus. It is very expensive to hire a professional photographer and send them out on location.

Tell me more about you interests, and I’ll try to help more.

I’m not a photographer. I’m on the advertising end, and work these kind of deals with photographers all the time.

First off, learn how to take pictures. I know that sounds silly, but when you are about to snap an indoor portrait with intense lighting or a landscape scene on an overcast day, do you instinctively know what f-stop and shutter speed is the correct one or do you allow the camera meter to dictate those settings?

Knowing how the camera works can make the difference between an acceptable picture and a breathtaking one.

And be careful of Euthanasiast’s law, which dictates that anytime you attempt to make a profession out of a hobby, there is a high probability that you will no longer enjoy the hobby.

One wedding nearly cured me of the photography bug forever. One.


A very good point.

I hike and ski a lot, and take photos on all my trips for my outdoors website. Over time, without any effort on my part, I’ve been contacted by many companies and organizations who saw my photos and wanted to purchase them. As a result, I’ve sold probably about a dozen photos, some a few times. It’s some nice extra income that I don’t really need, but it keeps me in beer at times.

Take lots of photos. Obviously digital is cheaper but there are things you can do in film that you can’t yet do in digital. But the gap is shrinking rapidly. Learn the rules of good photography and when to break them.

To add to the other fine comments…

Luck can indeed be a part of it. Or maybe I should say timing. Timing and presentation skills.

Remember, most of the business of pro photography isn’t about photography, but simply about business. Learn how to sell yourself and you will sell your stuff.

Plus, be darn sure your phtos really are high quality. How? Look closely at examples of top people’s work, whatever field it si, weddings, stock, art, etc… Then compare what you consider you best stuff with those superlative examples. Be honest. Be critical. Get down and dirty with yourself and really learn the specific field you are wanting to be in.

And as some others have said, things they are a changin. This isn’t the 70s or 80s anymore. The business of photography has changed and si still changing. Adapt and keep up.

Also, be positive. You can make it as a pro. Really. If you’re willing to work at it as hard as you would work in any other business. Good luck! :wink:

A friend of mine was always a shutterbug. I always liked his work, and he had used his best photos to decorate his house.

He became a professional through casual contacts. A friend came over to his house one day, noticed the photos on the wall and said he knew someone who was looking for photographs to use for a commercial website they were putting together. The website ended up being a bust, but someone who knows a guy who publishes a little magazine in that field saw the photos and suggested that he might want to do some freelance work for the magazine.

He has no illusions about getting famous from this, but he makes a decent living with it now. The magazine and other opprotunities it’s led to have given him a small income, and he sells some of his framed photos at garden shows and the like.