Dear Aspiring Professional Photographer: Please Realize What You’re Getting Into

Dear Aspiring Professional Photographer,

You’ve got some mojo! You are a photographer so imbued with creative energies and drive that you believe that you’ve got the know-how to become a professional, full-time photographer. Congratulations in the most sincere and honest way possible. You’ve got the aspiration to do what so few believe that they’ll ever be able to.

With that said, I should inform you a bit about the paths ahead in that twisty curvy road that ends up arching out into various stems and branches. Some of the terrain will be rocky, while others are expected to be smooth sailing.

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Photography these days isn’t just about taking pictures. Well, let’s honestly start there. You may love landscapes or street photography, but what you’ll realize very fast is that it probably won’t bring you a lot of money. Instead, these mediums will just be your passion. As long as you are alive and there is still a breath in your abdomen, you should never let this fire burn down to anything smaller than embers. This creative passion is what will keep you warm during those cold, lonely dark times you’ll experience as you grow as a photographer.

Everyone needs to grow, and to that end you should always feel some sort of discomfort. If you don’t, then you’re not growing at all.

Your chosen path as a professional photographer needs to involve working with people in some way or form. Some of the most common paths involve portraiture, weddings, studio, and lifestyle product photography, etc. This will earn you direct sales and gigs. Folks may even buy a print or two.

For this, you’ll need people skills. You’ve surely got the talent (as you believe since your aspirations are leading you here), but can you actually convince someone to give you money for your art? I mean come on, anyone can shoot a portrait, right? But see, you’ve got something special. People can look at the images you create and really tell it was shot by you. It’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen out there. You’re a step above all the rest out there–you’ve got a creative vision to sell. Of course, your clients know that your images are going to rock, but they need to tap into your creativity. It should work out, right?

Well, not really.

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Are you going after the right people? Let’s be honest now, that’s tough. What justifies your price points? Some folks may understand it, and others won’t. If you don’t have those people, how are you going to get them?

But also, how are you going to market yourself to people? Arguably, the best way is through Instagram because everyone has and understands it. So how will you get more fans and referrals?

You also know that it can be a goldmine, right? A photographer can create a platform that uses photography and their social media influence to attract sponsors and brands to pay them because they take amazing images. In a way, you’re a content creator then. And it will pay.

This is just a little bit of what you should keep in mind and figure out as you traverse this path. And by all means, Godspeed.