Introduction to Becoming a Professional Photographer
There are many paths to becoming a professional photographer and many areas of focus that a photographer may want to pursue. This article will cover many steps available online for all aspiring photographers to follow, in order to land their dream job or start a successful business as a photography expert.
The table below contains some basic information about the career of a professional photographer:
|Required Skills||Originality, technical prowess, visualization, marketing and sales|
|Job Outlook (2018-28)*||-6% (all photographers); 10% (self-employed photographers)|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$34,000 per year|
Source: *U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (Photographers)
Steps to Becoming a Professional Photographer Online
The following sections outline some of the steps you can take to land a job as a professional photographer, keeping in mind that the role of a photographer can vary greatly, from taking product shots for an online retailer, to running your own wedding photography business. This guide will outline steps that all may be taken online to maximize your chances of success.
Step 1. Hone Your Eye and Learn About the Gear
In the 21st century nearly everyone is carrying a powerful camera with them at all times - their cell phone. While professional photographers may prefer the power or flexibility of a DSLR or an SLR camera, there's nothing stopping you from honing your 'eye' with the gear you have. Concurrently, plan to learn more about the types of camera equipment that are popular with aspiring photographers. There are whole websites, online magazines, video channels, forums, etc. dedicated to testing and reviewing the best and worst of available equipment, which should help guide your future purchases. You may also want to join groups or forums dedicated to your specific photographic interest or find mentors and inspiration to follow on social media.
Step 2. Take an Online Course
Depending on whether you have any existing experience with photography or are getting started for the first time, there is a plethora of online resources that can teach basic through to intermediate and advanced techniques on lighting, composition, image manipulation, camera terminology and technology, and many other subjects. A lot of these courses can be found online for free, however they may not offer an official qualification or certification upon course completion, which could be necessary to land a job which requires formal education. With that said, there are also online schools and classes available from established colleges and universities that will provide a degree or other formal qualification. Depending on your goals and your specific photographic interests (photojournalism, macro photography, portrait or modeling photography etc.) you may want to look into specific classes to enhance your skills in those areas. The web is a huge depository of knowledge, innovation, and creativity. Make sure you keep up with trends in your industry.
Step 3. Create a Portfolio and a Personal Website
Whether you are trying to get hired as a full-time employee, work freelance, or start your own photography business, an online presence is paramount to getting noticed and having a place to showcase your work. There are websites specially designed to display photographic portfolios (e.g. Flickr or Zenfolio), but nowadays, with the comparative ease of creating a personalized website, and widely affordable hosting and domain pricing, you may find it beneficial to create your own website, with it's own domain. Not only could this project professionalism, but services like Wix or Squarespace will often include templates for displaying images and portfolios of work and will allow you to choose a theme and design that enhances and complements your photographic style. If you are looking to go freelance or start your own business, you'll want to include pages like your contact information and current rates, as well as the examples of your previous work.
Step 4. Apply for Jobs and Market Yourself
Again, this step will depend on your intended path, but whether you are searching for full time employment as a photographer or looking for freelance gigs, the process should be relatively similar. Create profiles on the main online job sites and set alerts for new postings that match your intended goals. Much like any other job search, a solid cover letter and resume are important, though hopefully the quality of your work will speak volumes about your qualifications! Similarly, you can create profiles on popular freelance marketplaces, such as Upwork or Fivver and direct folks to your website to showcase your existing work. Research market rates for photoshoots, headshots, and photo editing/touch-ups, to make sure your services are priced competitively. Aspire to take on challenging projects and think about diversifying your brand.