How to Become a Professional Photographer - Complete Guide

Updated: Jun 24

Photography has always been in trend, and there are a lot of people who do own a DSLR these days. Clicking pictures on the go can be a hobby but, that would not make one a professional photographer. To become a professional photographer, there are a lot of things that have to be considered. There is a huge difference in just clicking the picture of a river and trying to click the same picture by keeping the angle in mind. Here, we have listed down a few important things that can help you in becoming a professional photographer.

Photography has always been in trend, and there are a lot of people who do own a DSLR these days. Clicking pictures on the go can be a hobby but, that would not make one a professional photographer. To become a professional photographer, there are a lot of things that have to be considered. There is a huge difference in just clicking the picture of a river and trying to click the same picture by keeping the angle in mind. Here, we have listed down a few important things that can help you in becoming a professional photographer.


Part 1: Improving Your Photography Skills


1. Developing Photography Skills


The first and foremost thing that you mus. t focus on becoming a professional photographer is to focus on your photography skills. Getting to know everything about the camera and also understanding things related to photography becomes highly essential. (You can also choose to improve your photography skills though our special online course.) In past few articles, we have covered all Basics and Fundamentals of Photography which will help you improve your skills further.


2. Research and invest in the right camera


When you want to become a professional photographer, the camera that you have is going to play a major role. The pictures taken are largely dependent on the creativity and the imagination of the person for sure, but the camera also has an important role to play as well. It is very important for you to understand which camera is suitable for you.


3. Know your genre


There are different genres in photography, and one must certainly get the genre right. One can invest in the right camera or accessories. There are different kinds of camera bodies, lenses, and accessories that can be bought for specific purposes.


4. Make sure to get the right accessories


Some people end up investing a lot on the camera accessories. Some of the accessories may never be used at all in the kind of photography that you want to excel in. Hence, buying all these accessories unnecessarily would only end up burning the holes in your pockets. So, this is another thing that you must certainly keep in mind if you are planning to become a professional photographer.


5. Try different angles and keep practicing


You may end up enrolling in several photography classes but, the final output is totally dependent on the amount of hard work, practice, and also knowledge on the photography techniques. Unless and until and you keep practicing often, you would grow out of touch. Getting a nice photograph once in a blue moon can happen out of fluke. But, getting the best pictures always would happen only when you practice well.


6. It is good to understand the post-processing techniques


There is a lot of photo editing software available these days. With the boom of such software, most of the people end up modifying the photographs a little too much, and this would kill the beauty of the real picture. Hence, knowing the fundamentals, the do', and don'ts of the software is highly essential. That would allow you to make the necessary corrections. Please note that the editing software is used only to make the necessary corrections, not changing the details of the original photograph.


7. Get a portfolio done


If you want to become a professional photographer getting a portfolio and using a few marketing strategies could actually be of great help. This would enable you to go out and experience the real-time photo shoot. This would increase confidence and also helps you to build contacts.


Part 2: Establishing Your Business


1. Develop your “People Skills


Much of running a photography business is working with people. You should work on your ability to talk to people about their visions and goals for a photo shoot, to calm down clients who are angry or disappointed, and to build repeat business

2. Set goals

Create several long-term goals. Then, short-term goals that will bring you closer to achieving the long-term goals. The short-term goals should be measurable and have a time frame or deadline. For example, a short-term goal would be to book 5 new clients in the next three months. This could help you achieve a larger goal of having an established clientele within a year. Be sure to write down all of your goals.


(Studies have shown that you're more likely to complete goals that you've written down.)


3. Set up a Work Schedule


This will largely depend on your client's needs so you'll need to be organized and prepared. When setting up a schedule, consider how long the shoot will need to last and how much time you'll need to edit photos before delivering a product to your client. Realize that some types of photography will demand specific schedules. For example, you'll probably work lots of weekends and evenings if you shoot weddings.


(Remember that one photo shoot includes drive time, photography time, editing time, meeting time, etc. Therefore, it is more than just a “1 hour shoot.”)


4. Advertise Your Business

Create a website, make business cards, network with locals, and talk about your photography business with everyone you meet. Being active on social media will also help you make a name for yourself. Instagram is a great way to post pictures that a lot of people will see.


Create a watermark to protect your photos so that you can advertise them online. Allow your clients to use your watermarked photos for their own social media sites, essentially doing your advertising for you. Make sure your search engine optimization (SEO) is high for your website so that your business rises to search engine queries.


5. Network With Everyone


You should take every opportunity to network. If you are working towards a specific specialization, such as wedding photography, network with everyone in your town who has an association with weddings. Talk to and give your card to wedding planners, cake bakers, caterers, other photographers (they may have a conflict and be asked for a referral), wedding dress shop employees, etc.


Be prepared to network (professionally) at an event as well. For example, if you do a photo shoot for a wedding, take photos of the food and give them to the caterers. They may use the photos as advertisements themselves, and could recommend you as the photographer who took them.


(Riding on the bus, standing in line at the store, or sharing a table at a coffee shop are all great times for you to advertise your business.)


6. Ask for Referrals and Repeat Business


If someone is happy with the photographs you took for her, ask her to refer you to her friends. Additionally, try to build repeat business; if you took 6-month portraits for a baby, contact the family 4 or 5 months later and ask whether they would like to book a 1-year portrait session. Your business can snowball through word-of-mouth


Part 3: Achieving Growth

1. Organize Your Documents and Files


Before you can begin working as a professional photographer, you need to get your business license and start making yourself a business. Research your state’s or county’s requirements for a business license and the documents you need to have in order to legally call yourself a professional.


Speak with a small business attorney for a better idea of the specific things you need. For example, if you plan on doing photography solely, make sure you have insurance covering your business. This may include equipment and health insurance for you and your employees.


You should be meticulous about your record-keeping. Keep contracts, receipts, client emails, and invoices. Organize everything in a way that makes sense to you (by month, by client name, or by location) and consider keeping both electronic and paper copies of the most important paperwork.


2. Manage Your Money


Set up a business bank account, create a ledger, and balance your budget. Every week, you should update your ledger with all monetary exchanges you made throughout the last seven days.


Make sure that you have enough money saved away to pay for at least one entire year’s worth of expenses. This way, should your business fall through or you have a business emergency, you'll have enough money to live on until you get another job.


Be sure to keep receipts for all business-related expenses. Your accountant can use receipts to calculate tax deductions for your business expenses.


Remember that (depending upon how your business is legally set up) your income will be subject to self-employment taxes; consider setting aside money from every photo shoot to pay taxes the following year.

3. Create a Contract


Before you agree to go into any photo shoot with someone, make sure that you have a business contract that they must sign. This should include everything that their money is paying for and the things you are and are not liable for. For example, make it clear if you hold liability for photos that are accidentally and irrevocably deleted, or if after signing the contract it is no longer a problem of yours.


Have an attorney write a contract for you if you want to take the safest path. Joining a photography group also often gives you the opportunity to use a pre-written contract available for group members.

4. Set your Rates

Consider the amount of time required for each shoot, the cost of your gear, the cost of the prints or CD of images as the end product, and your experience. Avoid pricing your photography sessions too high or too low. A price that is too high will scare away most clients, while setting a price very low makes you seem desperate or unattractive as a photographer.


Look up other local photographers and see what they charge for their own businesses. Then, base your own pricing based off your skills and abilities in comparison to theirs.



Well, these are some of the most important things that every aspiring professional photographer can try. Everything big would have started with small initiatives. So, focusing on these smaller things would make your dream of becoming a professional photographer into reality.


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