7 Steps to Success as a Professional Photographer

On this video professional photographer, Karl Taylor discusses seven different tips that can help you succeed as a professional photographer.

Becoming a successful professional photographer that can earn a decent (and above) living doing what he/she loves was never easy, but in recent years and with the explosion of smartphone cameras and the availability and apparent ease of acquiring professional-level photo gear that was once the realm of only a few there is a lot more pressure on an industry that has not necessarily grown at the rate photographers would have wanted.

This all means that if you are an aspiring pro photographer you need to put in a lot more than someone in the same position 10 or 20 years ago.

Here are 7 tips that Taylor shares based on his experience that can help an aspiring pro photographer:

  1. Understand the basics – this doesn’t mean just basic technique (shutter/aperture/iso general exposure etc. – you should know all these by now). Think about what makes a good picture, can you tell a story with your image? you need to understand these things, learn them and look at the quality works of other photographers and understand what makes them stand out. Learning as a photographer never ends – even after decades of working and creating the best photographers always keep experimenting and trying new things to keep the creative process flowing.
  2. Choose your niche – you must understand what is your niche – although it is always good to start by trying to shoot different styles and different subjects (nature/wildlife/ street photography journalistic work etc.) at the end of the day you will need to focus and specialize on one (or maybe a small number) of different photographic areas so that you can target your clients better and compete better in that niche (see also note below).
  3. Getting the right equipment – this is a favorite subject here on LensVid and you should give it some thought as an aspiring pro shooter from an economical perspective. You might really want to get that brand new camera or super-fast lens – but at the end of the day, it might be better to spend the money on something else that will be more financially beneficial (it can be more professional lighting or something that has nothing to do with gear at all like advertising yourself or hiring an assistant). Another useful advice that has to do with gear is that if you want to buy expensive new gear and you are not sure – rent it and try it out – if you like it and think that it can really help you advance your business – buy it.
  4. Practice – reading/watching video is great but if you don’t practice you will never truly advance. Practicing also involve going back to your own work and seeing what you have done right or wrong and improving the next time (also trying to look at other people’s work and getting the best out of it – and this doesn’t mean copying just learning). The more you practice the better you will become and this can take time – so be patient.
  5. Be realistic about yourself– this goes a long way – you need to compare work to the competition. Yes this is not always a fun thing to do, especially when you are only starting but being realistic will help you understand where you need to improve but also will help you understand how much you can charge and all this is very much dependent on your competition, the general economy and a number of other factors (how much are you willing to work, your expenses and much more).
  6. Know light – there is really no way around this – truly understanding light is possibly the most important aspect a photographer needs to master, cameras, lenses etc. might all be lots of fun but what can really elevate your work from best to great is correct and intentional lighting – natural or artificial. If you have time to invest in learning just one skill this year – invest in perfecting your work with light and lights.
  7. Get your work out there – there is no place for being shy in the photo industry. If you are shooting for yourself that is one thing but if you want to make money and bring in paying clients you will most likely need to put your work where people can see and these days this is mostly online. Create a portfolio of your best works (you can make more than one if you are trying to hook in two or three different types of clients (say product portfolio and food or even something like interior and exterior architecture) and make sure that people see this (this might also involve some social network work (Instagram, Pinterest or even Facebook/Linkedin), having a presence will help you get your work known and eventually might help you reach new clients.

In the video, Taylor talks about how much different types of pro photographers earn per year (he only gives 3 examples – wedding, portrait, and product photographers), the number mentioned is very rough estimates and you should not make to much into them as they really demand on where you are and how successful you are (for example a successful pro photographer in a low-income country might earn far less than a beginner photographer in a higher income country – but that’s just basic economics but it is true for different areas of the same country or even city in some cases).

You can check out more of Karl Taylor’s video we posted in the past here on LensVid. You can also check out many more videos we published in the past about photography as a business.