I get asked how to become a professional photographer nearly every week. There is a very simple answer as well as a very deep, longer, more honest answer. I’ll detail some bits in this post but you can find the rundown on this YouTube video (make sure you subscribe you wonderful human being!):
What is a professional photographer?
A professional photographer isn’t a protected profession, which means any Tom, Dick or Harry can go around calling themselves a professional photographer. However, there are a couple of industry definitions which can be useful, these are:
Someone who earns 50% of their income from photography.
Someone who earns all of their income from photography.
and a lesser-trusted version which is…
Someone who makes money from photography.
Now we have the vaguest definitions out of the way, I have my own definition of a Professional Photographer, which is someone who:
- Is accepted into a professional photography organisation/association (earns $$ and has all relevant insurance)
- Can consistently produce work that is of an incredibly high technical standard without really thinking about it
- Can consistently produce work that the general public cannot create themselves (at all)
How to become a professional photographer:
In brief, to become a successful professional photographer you need to:
- Get a tough and grounded mental outlook – this job is not for the faint of heart
- Plan your business carefully and ensure you have 6 months of cushion income before jumping into it
- Ensure your technical, editing and business skills are solid
- Get business insurance – as a minimum: Public Liability, Camera and probably Professional Indemnity insurance
- Build a portfolio of the best of your work, but make sure it is replicable work. 10 dogs in 10 locations as a minimum – Ensure it is consistent and has a clear style so customers know what they’re going to get when booking with you
- Have a beautiful website. If you are going to build your own website, use Squarespace (not Wix!)
- Look at your costs in huge detail. CODB, COL and COGS all need to be detailed to assess what your pricing needs to be and how many shoots you need to take to make a living
- Create a price list based on your COGS and CODB, laid out with IPS and sales psychology in mind
- Prepare for IPS (in-person sales). If this is completely unknown to you, keep an eye on the workshops page for an IPS workshop coming soon. These are online and cover everything you need to know
- Market your business with a good brand – that’s your logo, colours, fonts – everyone’s marketing plan is going to be different because of your own target market, location and price list. It’s best to get individual advice on this topic from an established marketer with knowledge of the industry. I can help with this but it doesn’t have to be me
- Finally, make more than 50% of your income from photography – congrats, you did it!
That makes it sound so simple, but really those are the steps that are involved! If you take it seriously, nail them all, there’s no reason why you can’t do photography full time. If you miss a step or have a gap in the process, you’ll struggle to close the income-gap that appears as a result.