How on Earth, when everyone is now a photographer, are you going to become a full time professional? We share 10 lessons that I learned along the way.
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You Gotta Love it
It has never been more important to be genuine, honest and transparent. When a photography journey starts as a hobby and a passion, the credibility will shine through and connect with people.
2. Video Creation
Video is at number 2 for a reason. There might still be professional photographers out there who make a living only taking pictures, but not many new ones. I just can not see anyway in which a photographer in 10-15 years time is not doing video in addition to stills. Thankfully a photographer has a head start. They understand composition, light, exposure and the gear. Capturing great sound is equally, if not more, important than good footage.
3. Build a brand
How you brand yourself is a personal choice. Many photographers use their own name for their business. This is fine but be aware of your long term goals. To have the option of selling your business in future, avoid using your own name. My brand is First Man Photography. I use this because when people read my Polish surname, they always get it wrong. The little practicalities are worth thinking about from early on.
4. Find your niche
Life does not reward a jack of all trades. I have learned this the hard way. My interests are wide and varied and my photography is no different. When photography was just my hobby I explored absolutely all genres of the art. Even when I started my YouTube channel the videos I created mirrored this natural mindset. However people like to associate a specialism with a particular photographer so there are not many successful ‘all rounder’ photographers out there. Try and focus your brand down onto one or two genres.
5. Ignore Conservative Photographer
Conservative Photographer is a character to represent photographers who succeed by putting people down. I have written about him in detail before but he will do everything he can to stand in your way and make life difficult. He will appear supportive, whilst ripping your work apart under the banner of “critique”. He is rude, unpleasant, dishonest and does not particularly care about his clients.
Ignore him, do your own thing and send a little pity his way. Conservative Photographer, your time is done.
6. Figure out your USP
Figuring out what makes you special as a photographer is an important step. What separates you from everyone else and makes you stand out from the crowd? It is is a completely personal thing and will be discovered by exploring self awareness.
7. Ignore the Criticism but Listen to the Market
People are happy to dish out feedback and criticism freely and cheaply. You see it all the time both good and bad. An image is posted on social media and a few people say ‘great shot’. It does not necessarily mean it is. Likewise people attend camera clubs and have their images pulled to pieces by people who take one photograph per month. Both things are completely irrelevant.
It is however important to listen to the market. Take instagram for example. If you post a picture of a mountain and it gets 500 likes when the picture of park bench gets 100, you can be pretty confident people like mountains more than park benches.
8. Give more than you take
I have lived my entire life by this ethos. Most people do not because helping people is hard and can be a burden. It also has no obvious immediate benefit and will often cost time and emotional energy. However, there are long term benefits and it leads to people having trust in you.
9. Understand your own needs
We are talking pure practicality here. If you want to become a full time photographer, earning enough money to maintain an acceptable lifestyle is vital. There is no set formula because it is different in every case. An 18 year old could be a full time photographer who lives with their parents and has very little overheads. The £300 per month they make could be enough. However the person with a £2000 per month social life is going to find it much harder.
10. Work harder than the next guy
A very close and highly successful friend of mine once said, part of his success was because he always worked harder than the next guy.
Becoming a full time photographer is not easy. It might be more difficult than ever because everyone is now a photographer. It might also sound glamorous. Sometimes it is but the vast majority of the time a full time a photographer is not pressing the shutter button. That is the easy bit, that is the bit that we love already.