What You Should Remember For Your First Paid Photo Gig

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 50mm lens review (4 of 10)

Congratulations! You’ve got your first paid photo gig. This also means that you’re on your way to the dream of shooting full time and getting lots more work. But you’ll need to play your cards rights. Now what? You’re lost, right? You’re nervous, right? Well, you should be.

Just kidding. This will be a breeze if you keep in mind these simple reminders.

Draft a Contract of Some Sort

infographic the photographer and the camera

Before you even get into the gig, you should have some sort of written agreement between you and your client. The reason for this is to have proof of an agreement between the both of you in case things unfortunately need to go to higher powers. It can, believe it or not, be as simple as an email trail but the best thing to do is have some sort of mutually signed contract.

If you’re an iOS user, there is a photographer’s contact app, but we really recommend the ASMP contract and modifications for your own purposes.

In general, what you want nailed down in the contract is:

– Day(s) and date(s) of the assignment

– Who the agreement is between

– Amount to be paid and when

– When the photos will be given to the clients

– A specific method of how the images will be delivered (CD, flash drive, hard drive, Dropbox, etc.)

Then on top of all this you’ll want to consider extras such as the inclusion of an invoice with a due date for payments (and preferably late fees) and the corresponding tax documents if the client isn’t paying in cash.

Get There Early


When you get to the gig, it’s always a good idea to arrive early. If you’re doing a portrait shoot, then it will help you to deal with the lighting situations accordingly and also enable you to figure out how to make the client their most comfortable. For example, if you’re doing an outdoor portrait shoot and it’s really warm outside, you may want to move the shoot to a more shadowy area or make sure that you (or the client) has powder to hide any sweating.

Similarly, if you’re shooting an event you’ll want to scout the venue out to see what kind of a situation you’ll be dealing with. For example, if you’re photographing an event in a wedding hall and there are high ceilings, then you’ll want to figure out a way to make your flash more effective by using a Rogue Flashbender or something along those lines.

Once you have all of this figured out, you’ll have no issues with getting the actual shooting done in an ideal world.

Be Courteous and Patient

If you’re shooting an event, you’re going to encounter a wide range of personalities. The best thing to do is to find a way to always be courteous and patient to people. If you’re at a wedding and someone doesn’t want their picture taken, then just remind them that it’s so that the Bride and Groom can have all the memories possible. It will get them to change their mind very quickly.

In my career, I’ve found that it always helps to have a sense of humor. For example if you’re shooting a photo of someone eating and they say that that was a terrible time to capture them, joke back and say that it was indeed the best time.

This is just your first gig so there is no big need to panic.

Keep Your Gear on You or Nearby

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials for th Strobist Street Photographer (9 of 9)ISO 2001-200 sec at f - 3.5

When shooting, you should always keep your gear on you or near you at all times. The reason for this is because if you’re shooting your first paid gig then there is a strong chance that you don’t have photographer’s insurance yet. So if your gear ends up broken or stolen, then it’s up to you.

In general, you’ll also want to bring your primary camera and a backup. If you don’t have a backup yet, consider renting one and then eventually buying one.

Try to Interact With People

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D810 high ISO samples Speakeasy Dollhouse NYC (4 of 9)ISO 8001-60 sec at f - 2.2

In the case that you’re shooting an event of some sort, a great idea is to get posed portraits of folks in addition to the candids that you’ll be shooting. You’ll most likely be able to see another side of them come out when they get ready for their close up.

If you’re doing a portrait session, you have no choice but to interact with someone. Try giving them directions based on your own creative ideas (and you should have a number of them that you fall back on).

Remember You’re There to Get a Job Done

You’re being paid to do a job; and despite the fact that people will want to talk to you a lot, try to keep conversations short or come back to them at a certain point. Also, make sure that you’re all over the place and not hovering over just one group at an event of some sort.

You’re getting paid to do a job–and in this case you’re your own boss and need to ensure that your performance is tip top.

Get Multiple Angles and Ideas

If you’re shooting a portrait session, it’s not a terrible idea at all to go for multiple looks, ideas and angles to experiment with the person and see what their best sides are. Keep this in mind if your client doesn’t have a specific idea of what they want. But if they want a simple portrait and something very straight forward, then be sure to give them what they want.

The client is always right–and this will be your mantra.


Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.