“How did you get started in the photography industry?”. I’ve been asked this questions more times than I can count over the past 8 years. Being a professional photographer is a dream for so many people, and for good reason – it’s an incredibly creative, flexible career – with so many different specialties. Since my experience comes from wedding and portrait photography, this blog post is for those interested in a similar path. However, most of the information can be applied across the industry.
Below you’ll find some of my most genuine, honest advice. Take it to heart – and you might just find your path opening up to the opportunities you’ve been dreaming about!
How To Get Started In The Photography Industry
Learn The Basics
Yes, cameras are incredibility advanced these days, but that doesn’t mean you should set it to Auto and hope for the best! Or even worse — not learn how to properly work your camera because you think you can fix everything in Photoshop later.
You must learn the basics of exposure in order to fully control your pictures. Shutter speed, aperture, and F-stop are going to become your new best friends. There is a wealth of FREE information online and tutorials – so there is really no excuse! Get out there and start learning!
Practice, Practice, Practice
They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. I definitely don’t think you need to be an expert before breaking into the photography industry (I certainly wasn’t!), but keep in mind that there is a lot of learning ahead of you. My best advice is to take your camera everywhere and document the world around you.
Maybe your drawn to nature, or have a love for documenting everyday life. Whatever it is – do more of it! You’ll become a better photographer – in taking the photos and also adapting to various settings and situations.
Build Your Portfolio
Early in my career, I photographed anyone that would let me – friends, their families, my family, coworkers, etc. Literally – anyone! This was huge for me as a young professional, and frankly a win-win. I got the experience of photographing people and they got free photos!
I know you might be rolling your eyes at the “free” part – but hear me out. There will come a time for you to charge for your work, but until you can deliver consistently to clients, offer free shoots. It’s a means to build your portfolio, and to learn how to cull, edit, and deliver your pictures to people in a timely and professional manner.
Now, all that said – I’m not advocating for you to post free sessions on Facebook to total strangers. But ask people that you know/like/trust and let them know it’s an exclusive offer while you are building your photog biz.
Create Your Online Presence
It’s not good enough to tell people you’re a photographer — they are going to want to lay eyes on your work! As the saying goes: The proof is in the pudding!
First step – an online portfolio. This is a less scary way to say – build a website! Now, before you start spiraling mentally on me – it’s not that hard, really! There are so many website building tools out there nowadays – and, if you start little-by-little, before long you’ll have a site you’re proud to share!
Before you get started – spend some time researching business names, URLs, etc. These will be the building blocks to your site and future social platforms – so you want to make sure the name is unique, appropriate, memorable and one that no one else has claimed already!
Start Sharing Your Work
You know that website you’re going to build and social platforms you’re going to curate? Once they are up – get to sharing them! One of the easiest ways to do this is to cross-post to your personal social platforms. Let people know your professional platforms exist and that you’re open for business!
Network & Make Friends
Regardless, of where you live – get out there and network! There are so many networking groups for creative businesses and photographers – so take advantage! Many of these groups have regular meetups, which is a great place to meet fellow photographers and learn from each other. Some of the very first weddings I booked were direct referrals from other photographers. So reach out to photographers you admire and see if you can help assist them on a shoot or wedding day. Don’t expect to be paid or given the opportunity to shoot, because really they are doing you a favor. It’s all about learning and building relationships!
Can’t find anything in-person in your area or that fits with your schedule — there are plenty of networking opportunities online! Get to Googling!
Make It Official
After doing all the work noted above you will get to a point where you’re ready to charge (well) for your services! YAY! That’s exciting stuff! Not to be a drag — but I would be remiss if I didn’t stress the importance of making your biz official. And, I don’t mean just putting a pretty post on Instagram and hanging your virtual shingle. I mean – like IRS official.
That’s right – if you’re making more than $600 a year – it’s no longer a hobby and you’re going to have to pay some taxes. Consult a tax professional to learn more. I also highly recommend taking the time to create a legal business entity. You can learn more about what that means here – or certainly consult with a small business professional.
So, you see — when people ask me, “How did you get started in the photography industry?” the answer is complicated :). Running a small business is one of the most liberating things a person can do professionally – but it can be confusing and complicated at times.
The steps outlined above are just a few things (but important things) you can do to get started. So, get to work! And let me know how things are going!