how to start a career in photography

How to Become a Successful Photographer and Pursue Your Hobby Full-time

What can be better than turning your passion into a job that you get paid for! This is a dream that many of us have and possible to do with almost any hobby. Photography is no different.

Think about all the people who want professional photos for anniversaries, births, weddings, and other big events. If that’s not the route you want to take, you can go with starting a photography business by selling your shots to magazines and stock photography websites. There are many selling photo apps that have popped in recent years, making it easy to connect with potential buyers. 

You might start thinking about how to start a career in photography and escalate it. Let’s talk about how to make money from photography and what you need to know to build on success. 

How to Earn Money From Photography

It takes more than waking up one day and deciding that you want to go into making money off photography. Even if it’s going to be more of a side hustle, the proper preparation will make it easier to land your first paying client. Here are the steps on how to earn money from photography that we recommend below. 

Gain the Right Skills

Learning the basics of photography is easy these days. You just need to devote some time to it. Local colleges and community centers may offer classes on photography that you can sign up for. 

This type of learning works best for you if you want to know how to start a career in photography. You don’t need to have a formal education to become a photographer. It can certainly add a ton of value to your career and experience. 

Otherwise, you can self-learn and practice to refine your skills. There are tutorials found on YouTube, online courses, or books that can teach you the basics. A lot of what you will learn from photography requires you to take practice shots to understand various angles, lighting effects, etc.  

Decide Your Focus

There are many different areas that you can specialize as a photographer. Finding your niche and understanding the photography style that you enjoy will allow you to focus on it. Some of these niches include:

  • Weddings
  • Fashion
  • Documentary
  • Conceptual fine art photography, 
  • Travel
  • Commercial
  • Portraits

Learn as much as possible about your niche. For example, if you want to be a fashion photographer, you can look at the websites and social media pages of professional photographers within that niche. You’ll pick up some things just by checking out their portfolio. 

Additionally, you’ll want to check out information specific to your industry. Read blogs that are specific to your niche and conduct research to learn more and get inspired. 

Invest in the Equipment

You can’t make money from photography by taking photos with your iPhone. As nice as the camera on these devices are, they are no substitute for the proper equipment. The right set of cameras, lenses, and photography equipment will ensure you’ll be capturing high-quality images. 

Photography equipment can get very pricey. You don’t need to go overboard by purchasing all the latest and greatest technology, though. Especially when you’re starting, it’s better to get secondhand equipment. 

Opting for a slightly older model or buying a good working condition camera and equipment can be done at a big discount. Most professional photographers will say that a good DSLR camera is a solid choice. Others may say an SLR camera is a more authentic way to learn photography. Do some research to decide which one you go with.

Another important factor in determining what equipment to buy is to make sure it’s the right stuff for your niche. The area where people often end up spending too much money is when buying lenses. Your lenses should work for the majority of your situations. 

Expensive items that you won’t put to regular use should be rented instead of purchased. There’s no sense in having a piece of equipment that’s worth hundreds of dollars or more collecting dust. 

After taking your photographs, you’ll also need to have the right hardware and software. Ensure you have a laptop/desktop with the right specs, a good monitor, and editing software that will fit your professional needs. 

Build Your Photography Portfolio

If you are curious about how to be a successful photographer, you need to work more on your photography portfolio since it is your key to getting clients. The portfolio will showcase for potential clients your artistic style and whether it’s right for their needs. 

To start a portfolio, you’ll want to create a website you can dedicate to your works. Pick the right platform for your portfolio website. The portfolio website builder should be easy to use, including features and the flexibility to put together a professional website that doesn’t require coding knowledge. 

Once you’ve built up a solid portfolio, you can register with photography associations. That will enable you to become a certified professional photographer. 

You may also consider opening up a social media account such as Pinterest or Instagram that are popular, photo-based platforms. Picking up a strong social following can lead to attracting potential clients. It will also build your credibility as a photographer. 

Offer to take free photos for friends and family to build your portfolio. If you plan to have a different niche, look for ways to gain experience by working for free or helping a professional photographer. 

Enter Photography Competitions

Another way to build experience is by entering photography competitions. Participating in a photography competition provides the opportunity to win prizes. Typically there are cash prizes, camera equipment, or the chance to have your work exhibited. 

Even if you don’t win, it’s still valuable to have your photos posted on the competition’s website. Entering a photography competition will also improve your photography skills. To make the most of these competitions, follow these tips:

  1. Read and follow the rules. The terms and conditions of a competition are boring to read. But it’s a necessity to make sure that your images follow the guidelines, or you could get ruled out. Each of these contests will use the images differently. Make sure you understand the implications of this. For example, some competitions may have a condition that gives them the right to use images in any way they want after the contest is over. 
  2. Follow the theme – Don’t leave the interpretation of your images up to the judges on how they relate to the theme. It should be obvious whether the pictures follow the theme of the competition. 
  3. Research previous winners – Photography competitions that occur annually will typically post their winners from last year. You don’t want to copy them, but you should study them to find some hints on the types of images that do well. 

Start as a Photographer Assistant

Teenagers who have an interest in photography can start making money while getting experience by becoming a photographer assistant. Becoming an assistant will allow them to tag along at events, pre-wedding shoots, or work as assistants for other photographers. 

It is also a great route for novice photographers that want to gain skills and confidence in their photography skills. The duties of an assistant vary, but common responsibilities include:

  • Checking photography gear and making sure that it’s ready. Ensuring that any extra things are packed that you might need.
  • Reviewing files on the computer as they come in. 
  • Being an “extra set of eyes” to check if anything looks off during production
  • Take instructions from the photographer
  • Taking payments and acting as customer service
  • Setting up the studio for shoots
  • Booking appointments and setting up meet-and-greets
  • Editing and distributing images to clients

To find work as an assistant, you’ll need to research to find photographers who match the style you want to learn. Reach out to them via email and phone calls and keep a professional but friendly tone. 

There are two types of assistants: The first assistant will work with the photographer regularly. The second assistant is typically hired specifically for special shoots. Working as a second assistant is a good path to take because it gets your foot in the door. 

Make sure that you have a website with a portfolio before reaching out to professional photographers about assistant jobs. Even though you aren’t taking the photos, they will be interested in the type of work you do. 

Working with a variety of different photographers is also a good idea. You can learn things and take away from assisting photography types like food, fashion, corporate, event, etc. 

Join Photography Clubs

Joining photography clubs is another great way to sharpen your photography skills and gain valuable experience. While there are many online communities out there, it’s better to join a local group. That way, you can meet up in person to share knowledge and experiences. It is also a great way to make new friends who share your interests.

Many photography clubs are competition-based, where members compete with one another. Steer clear of these clubs if this isn’t something you’re interested in. 

Different clubs may also specialize in a certain type of photography. So if you want to have a narrow focus, search for clubs in your niche interest. 

Other questions to ask yourself when considering which photography club to join include:

  • Do you want to go on trips?
  • Do you want to gain access to a darkroom to shoot a film?
  • Do you want to have access to specialist printing equipment, darkrooms, etc.?
  • What are the costs to join?
  • Do you want to join a club that invites famous and established photographers?
  • Do you want to exhibit regularly?

If you can attend as a non-member before signing up for a club, this is the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the organization. Also, check out their website or Facebook group to give you an idea of how active the club is and where their interests lie.  

Ways to Make Money with Photography

If you are interested in starting a photography business, you could start as a freelance photographer. This way, you can steadily build up your skills and clientele. Another option on how to be a successful photographer is to collaborate with more experienced photographers. The collaboration job gives you a chance to learn the ropes before venturing out as a professional photographer.

But what are other creative ways to make money working as a photographer? We’ve compiled a list below for you to consider:

Sell Your Photos Through Apps

Many selling photo apps out there give you the ability to start making money on your photos using your phone. Some of them are subscription-based, so you’ll want to select your platform(s) according to your budget. There’s typically a revenue-share model where a certain percentage of your sale goes to the platform. Here are a few apps to review:

  • Dreamstime
  • Bylined
  • Agora Images
  • 500px
  • Foap
  • Scoopshot
  • Shutterstock contributor

Sell Your Photos in Local Galleries

Check out local galleries and find out if they display photos for purchase for their galleries. To sell your photos to galleries, you must understand what types of images will sell. For example, most galleries won’t accept photos that have people in them. 

The pricing for displaying your photos is usually different based on the situation. You might be able to rent wall space with some. Others will ask for a percentage of your profits and charge a small monthly fee. 

Check Out Real Estate Photography

Interior designers and real estate agents often use photographers to capture images of homes they are working on. You’ll want to get a feel for real estate photography by studying sample images. 

Ensure you have a rate sheet, contact, and other details ready to review with potential clients to share. To find work, use the power of networking by going to local events. You can also try Facebook and Meetup groups to connect with.

Sell Your Prints Online

If you have a collection of great-looking shots, why not start selling your prints? Selling your photos online through a third party is usually the easiest way to do this. They are your selling platform, handle payments, and get your images printed and sent. For all this legwork, these third parties will take a mission.

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