A Huge Consideration Before Deciding to Become a Full-Time Pro Photographer

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 35mm f2 R WR review sample images from X Pro 1 (10 of 10)ISO 64001-50 sec at f - 2.0

There are loads of you who read this site and that want to quit your day job and shoot for a living. That’s completely commendable and wonderful. However, there are a couple of considerations you should be making.

Most of those considerations have to do with an income and knowing and understanding that professional photography is like any and every other industry: it’s about the money and marketing. You can’t pay your rent with a portrait session, you can’t trade Polaroids at the grocery store in order to eat, and you can’t place a print in the bank to accrue interest.

Here are a couple of realities:

  • If you are a hobbyist photographer, then your income currently comes from your full time job.
  • If you’re a semi-professional photographer, then your income comes from both your full time job and your photography. To that end, you’ve got two sources of income to help you out.
  • If you’re a professional photographer, you’re responsible for ensuring that the income comes in.

See how that jumped from living the high life to “Holy crap, this got real” very quickly?

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 35mm f2 WR product images first impressions (1 of 9)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

When you become a full-time photographer you need a plan. You need to find a way to consistently do gigs and ensure that you can keep charging at a rate that helps you live. Beyond just living though, you’ll be paying a self-employment tax and that takes a large portion of your income each quarter or year.

So what does that mean? If you’re making just enough to survive before taxes, you’ll need to find a way to double that. And if you really want to grow as a business, you’ll need to figure out a way to triple that. All of this requires a plan.

I like to think of plans in terms of growing your photography business in the same way that we think of books or video games. But for this audience, let’s use the books example–and let’s specifically use the Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings is made of three main books that were made into movies. These books are major parts of the story. Each book has chapters. Chapters find a way to break the book into smaller pieces for readers and help to progress the story along.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 90mm f2 review photos portraits (7 of 11)ISO 2001-3800 sec at f - 2.0

That is the same way that you need to think about your goals: your photography business. For nomenclature reasons, we’re going to cite progressions being likened to the volume, goals are likened to books and stages are likened to chapters. To meet your goals, you’ll need to get through these chapters. But here’s the thing: you’re writing the story. And you’ll have to be the one to find and plan a way to reach those goals so that you can move onto the next big progression of your business.

Make sense?

Further, all of these will have to feed back into the main mission of your business: to get you revenue. Let’s do this as an example:

  • Progression: Get clientele with deeper pockets so that you can charge more for your services.
  • Goal: Improve the work and reach of your business so that you target those folks
  • Stages: Finding a way to create better work, marketing yourself to those people and making them justify spending the money on you, networking with others that can help you achieve those goals, doing research on how you can target those folks, etc.

This is just one example, but it goes to show you just how much work this can all be on top of all the other big things involved with making sales happen, blogging, social networking, etc.

Chris Gampat

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