How Do You Turn Yourself into a Pro Photographer?
“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.”
— Alfred Eisenstaedt
It doesn’t take long for the serious beginner to ask themselves the important question; would I want to take photos for a living?
And it’s when you say; Hell yeah!,
That’s when the fear kicks in, and you’ve set yourself a big task.
The first thing to know, is yourself. That’s universal wisdom that has been handed down through the ages. And it’s surprising how many people don’t take it seriously enough.
Secondly, take a long hard look at your photography skills, and ask yourself honest, pointed questions about what type of photographer you really are.
Alfred Eisenstaedt said, When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear. Said in an interview about his life and work; he worked for Life Magazine when it was just taking off, known then as Project X.
I can only imagine that he felt no fear when he was photographing what he loved photographing.
He was a master of candid photography — a photographic style that transcribes well into the realms of portrait, and event photography.
Wedding photography seems to be the go-to area of commercial photography when you want to make some money.
I’ve done a few weddings, and I asked myself honest questions, and afterwards, I answered that I-do-not-want-to-be-a-wedding-photographer.
When I started photography, I didn’t pick up a camera and think, “right, where’s the next wedding party?”.
The only thing about wedding photography that can be fun, is when you get paid and go home, and the part when everybody is a bit drunk. It’s then that you can let the cat out of the bag, and start sneaking in a few creative, “drunk uncle dancing,” shots, and more seriously, take photos of people laughing and weeping, joking, and dancing. Once the formalities are over, that’s when people become relaxed and let themselves be themselves. Otherwise, wedding photography can take the love out of photography. It’s stressful.
I wasn’t going to allow that to happen to me. So, I photograph portraits for people who want to capture a traditional feeling about themselves. The dignity and nobility that we all have some place inside ourselves.
A portrait that is positive, real, and expresses the real self of a person, it is worth keeping and hanging on the wall. There’s a market for it.
And I love to search for that in a person, and when I find it, I capture it and show it to them. Sometimes, there are red faces and gentle tears.
In successful portrait photography there is always a client feeling of wanting to share the photo with lots, and lots of friends — good for business.
Talking of Markets.
Photography markets are everywhere. Food, portraits, headshots, events, weddings, and many more such as product and specialist photography in industrial situations.
The beginner, who is thinking about getting serious and going professional, has a lot to think about. Thinking too much about which market and delving into the pros and cons of that market can easily lead to a negative viewpoint about it; it looks full up, saturated and worn out with thousands of photographers scrambling for contracts.
Markets are saturated. The internet made sure of that. Everybody tries to be everything all at once, we see all the other photographers striving to get the same business as we are.
Business was always hard. Even before the internet. It’s just that now, we can see it all happening in real time with a few clicks of a mouse button. Don’t fret, if you know yourself, and what you love to photograph, you’ll head into the fray without fear.
It’s for this reason that your skills, your strongest skills are important. If you cringe at the thought of weddings, if the amount of energy needed to do a three-day event makes you baulk, then don’t do it. You’ll never get used to it if your instinct tells you that you belong somewhere else. Don’t forget, there are other areas that need photographers.
Work on your skills, then your confidence in working professionally will rise like a fiery rocket.
Confidence plays an enormous role in getting it right. The friendly, authorative, and skilled photographer who has put themselves into the right market according to skill and personality, will get the contract, and do a great job; this follows up with increased referrals, as time goes by.
In every market, there are many people fighting for business, but few contenders.
To get business enquiries, I have used all the advertising and marketing methods that are recommended.
FB adverts work well, if you know how to work them.
Google is hard on the wallet, but it’ll get your name out there — it won’t work if you try and skimp on how much it costs; if you can’t use Google adverts to their fullest, you will probably spend money, and end up out of pocket after a couple of weeks.
Advertising on the internet is a hands-on operation. That’s why we call it a “campaign”. It doesn’t matter that your budget is small, you should constantly monitor, and tweak your ads until you get it right, and you see positive results.
If you use FB or Google advertising, you should know who you’re advertising to, weddings, portraits, and event photography means that you must direct your campaign at those separate audiences. You’ve got to think hard about where they hang out, who they are, and why they are meeting up on Facebook.
Often, with portrait photography, the person who contracts you isn’t the sitter. They are thinking about their family, or a special portrait for a family member or friend. Portraits are presents, and a great way for people to give something of great value.
On the other hand, there are groups of people out there who are totally, and utterly nuts about themselves. They love to look in the mirror, post shots of themselves on Instagram every few hours, and they worry about their “public image”.
Some of these people are a pain in backside as clients, but many of them know that their constant updates on Instagram and FB, are all about generating new business, and staying in touch with their present clients; they need professional photos. They are also interested in action shots if they are fitness coaches, or something similar.
So, Instagram is another hunting ground for all types of new clients. You just need to be confident, and post great work — your top notch work, that shows off your main skills.
Instagram is a sliding glacier of photography. I post now and again, these days. I used to post each day, three times a day. Then I realised that I was getting good feedback, people see my work and send occasional enquiries about collaborations, and possible photo work, but I don’t use it as an advertising platform.
I use Facebook, and have used Google, both successfully. Each time, I kept my eye on the campaign daily to see how much I was spending, and whether the results were worth the spend.
It’s important that you have a place to send the click-throughs on your advertising. A website page that contains your offer. A place where the client can contact you through email, telephone, or messages.
That part is a whole other story. Setting up an attractive landing page, website, and monitoring its effectiveness, is important. It’s another article.
When you think about becoming a professional photographer, you can be presented with so much information, that you suffer from info-overwhelm. And that can lead to negative ideas about the whole thing. It can make you back down, and shy away, where you hide under the kitchen table in a safe place — far away from the raging business world. Comfort zones are just great, aren’t they.
Netflix, coffee, and a sandwich, and our world is back in order.
It helps if you make a good list with the answers to those precise questions about yourself as a person and photographer.
- Which type of photography do I love doing — what gets me out the door and into the world? Most important.
- What am I doing to improve my photography skills? Practising my skills regularly, Visiting exhibitions, reading books and articles written by other photographers in my niche, and working hard at overcoming the blurred spots in my skill sets; Like when you don’t know how to do something, so you avoid doing it; learn how to do, study it, get over it, and grow.
- Find a mentor or coach. Feedback with skills in both photography and the business of photography is a high value component of your life. If you know somebody who gives honest feedback, and is already a professional photographer, then their advice, and questions about what you are doing are invaluable to your growth. Listen to smart people, surround yourself with smart people.
- There’s the business side of photography, and the skills-art side of photography. Marketing and business skills can come from every good angle. Read and listen to good business people who have a few good nuggets for you to chew on, just one thought, one idea, can change your day from sitting around twiddling your thumbs, to a day filled with useful actions.
- Do your best to make friends with other photographers. Find out what they are doing in business, and how that might help you. Friends like to help friends, somebody might ask you to help them out on an assignment. Wedding photographers are overwhelmed with the size of the event, a second shooter, at a low price, can be very handy. A portrait photographer who trusts you, and knows his client won’t mind, could invite you along on a couple of shoots.
Get involved with people who share your enthusiasm about the particular area of photography that you like. Be honest with yourself, then you’ll learn.
Authority means being open, honest, and in charge of your situation — not in charge of the client; you need to develop people skills to have happy clients who don’t feel pushed around the by the photographer, then they’ll comply with your suggestions happily.
The world is full of nay-sayers.
Try any service business idea, photography, clothing, selling cat food to cats, or setting up a coaching business, if you listen to enough people who are not in the business, you’ll hear that them tell you, authoritatively, that it doesn’t work, the future is doomed, etc, etc.
Stay clear of these land mines. All these people know is that the world doesn’t work, and that we are all going hell in a bucket. They know nothing. Zilch, and zero. Their advice will only serve to make you angry at yourself for having listened to them.
If you think you can do it, you probably can.
If you put the work in, you’ll discover that the probably can part, becomes definitely happening.
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