thread: How did YOU get started as a professional photographer?

  1. #1
    Matryoshka Guest

    How did YOU get started as a professional photographer?

    I would love to hear how you got started?

    I've been in to photography since i got my first camera age 12. Taking photos is a part of my every day life and anyone who comes in to my home can see how much images mean to me. I would love to make my passion in to something professional because i need an outlet that is not my children. The only thing is i don't know if i can justify doing a paid course financially at the moment, and i suppose i'm wondering if anyone made this their business without actually having done a course??? I've got a great artistic eye and am a visual person, logistically though i realise i don't know everything so a course would probably help.... anyway these are just thoughts i've been mulling over for a while, i'd really appreciate your feed back

  2. #2
    Registered User

    Jan 2007
    where cosmopolitans and margaritas flow all night

    I have wondered the same kind of thing too many times so I'll be watching this thread.

    I've been told by several people I network with, a number of whom are considered professionals (in that they earn more than $10,000 from photography), that it's not always necessary to have a qualification to be able to call yourself professional. If you have a good portfolio and people want to pay you to take photos then I think you can start considering yourself a "professional" when you're earning enough and working enough to consider yourself so.

    I have heard that the hardest part is getting started and marketing yourself as there is so much competition.
    Many brides and grooms are looking for cheap photographers though and most of the well known photographers charge so much that it often becomes the major cost in a wedding, so researching a range of photographers from the most well known down to those who are just starting up would be a great way to set your base price for things like weddings, then as you get more experienced, increase your price. That's the kind of thing I'm planning to do based on advice I've received from other photographers.

    But I'm in a similar boat to you so please don't take my advice as the right thing to do as I know that it might not be. I'm just thinking out loud, so please, if anyone disagrees with me due to professional experience, I am happy to take the correction.

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Add Kazbah on Facebook Follow Kazbah On Twitter

    Sep 2006
    Dandy Ranges ;)

    I started off by pestering a local photographer to act as their assistant - I did a lot of unpaid work to learn the ropes. within a couple of months I was getting paid to "assist' and within a year was the second photographer on a wedding. During this time I pestered to learn how to put wedding albums together and also learnt darkroom technique. (showing my age here!!!). Not long after that I was shooting weddings solo (with my own assistant!) and I think it was about 2 years from first pestering them to getting paid $500 for a Saturday's work.

    I then applied for a job with a local paper, as a "darkroom tech" and worked there for 3 years. I didn't get a cadetship (shoulda applied!!) but I did some shadow-work and learnt a heap. Only one of the photographers had a degree in art - her photos were very diferent from the rest.

    I guess it depends on what kind of photography you want to do.
    weddings? portraiture? products? fashion? landscapes?

    I do recommend you find someone near you and pester them to help - if you can afford it, don't ask for a wage, you'll find they will help you a lot cause they don' have to pay you, and then they will.

    Oh, and if you're going to do a course, look at the state courses available for business - local councils often have community courses which are cheap and will help you with business plans. A business course might be more benefit if you already have the eye & flair, as it will help your business succeed.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    Registered User

    Jul 2008

    Hi ! new here

    I would be what I guess i'd classed as 'professional' in that i've moved beyond the doing photos for friends and friends of friends (i'm in my first year so couldn't tell you just yet if i am above the 10k mark). The 'strangers' are now booking :P Scary !

    You're right that you don't need qualifications. Honestly i did a quick intro course (told u pretty much how to turn the camera on and compose a shot ) and the rest I have learnt through hours and hours of online research and reading (including lots of "argh why don't i understand it!!!!").

    The rest of being a photographer is having the eye ! know when / where to take an image to get a certain result / effect.

    I started by offering free sessions as a way to practise and build my portfolio, from there i asked for a small amount to cover my time. Its only now that i am getting to a point where i feel my work is of a certain standard that i'll be raising my prices (i'm still much below others in the same field).

    Good luck It's such a rewarding 'job' and i couldn't imagine doing anything else

  5. #5
    Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

    Jan 2005
    Funky Town, Vic

    The market is also flooded by those who consider themselves a photographer and believe they have an 'eye for it'.

    Do yourself a favour and do a course first off - it doesn't have to be a very expensive one

    I've been bitten on the butt by a so called 'professional' and I will always ask to see quals in the future. I think there is more to it than merely calling yourself a pro...

  6. #6
    Registered User

    Jul 2008

    Yes but thinking and having are 2 different things. I will admit that the majority of my work is from basic ideas that have been done before so not really my 'eye' at play. It seems to be what people want and to be honest i'm feeling a little uninspired by it (I do natural light studio work).. I'm desperate to get out and try new things and new ideas but everyone wants 'those' (don't know what the rules are yet on naming names when it comes to other companies) kind of pics / poses. Makes it hard to develop your own style.

    Anyway.. sorry i'm rambling and going on a bit about unrelated stuff ! Yes a course will definitely help but its not essential. It all comes down to how you learn.. takes a bit for things to sink in with me if i'm the teacher :P so i opted for the basic intro course. It helped me understand a lot of the mathmatics behind photography and made it less of a 'point, shoot and hope for the best' hobby.

  7. #7
    Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

    Jan 2005
    Funky Town, Vic

    Yes but thinking and having are 2 different things..
    Oh yeah, totally agree - but how do you know? I think the biggest problem I have with untrained snappers is the obvious lack of technical knowledge - and I'm not trained either

  8. #8
    Registered User

    Sep 2007

    It depends on what area of photography you want to get into.

    If you want to get into commercial photography employed in a studio, you will need industry standard training and / or on the job training (ie: starting as an assistant. Some studios will take on un-trained assistants, the larger ones generally don't). You can start up your own commercial studio with the right equipment and not much else, but it is difficult to get clients unless you are also offering graphic design services or on-sell to designers. Generally you will also need high level photoshop skills to work commercially as many clients require their shots to be retouched, colour corrected for print and deepetched.

    Photojournalism generally requires degree level qualifications, although it is possible to get into niche market and regional publications without qualifications if one has the appropriate technical skills.

    Art photography requires no training, but like any form of art, a broad or formalised skill set will help attract a wider market. With the advent of digital photography and online gallery communities such as red bubble a huge number of hobbyist photographers have the capacity to sell their work - making money is extremely difficult and the quality of amateur work extremely high.

    Portraiture & personal photography (including wedding photography) is where a lot of people aim to enter the market. True, you can enter it and be successful without formal qualifications, if you can shoot at the standard of a professional and have the portfolio to prove it. This means having a professional level understanding of lighting, composition and photographic theory, as this is what you will need to be able to walk into any location and take professional shots. You will also need professional equipment beyond hobbyist standards if you are charging full rates, if you charge discounted rates and target the market wanting good quality shots at a cheaper price you can get away with a good digital SLR body, a minimum of good lenses, and minimal flash/lighting equipment. If, for example, you are relying on natural lighting (which can be sold as an artistic quality and often is) then it is important to know the limitations of your set-up and the chosen locations and to ensure that this is well communicated to your client.


  9. #9
    Registered User

    May 2009
    Bendigo, VIC

    My husband is a professional photographer and it amazes me how much goes into getting excellent quality photos. He mainly does weddings and the detail is awesome. From how people are holding their sholders to how far apart their fingers are on the bouquet. Lighting is always an issue... Fore ground lighting, background lighting.... Knowing how to pose a tall thin groom with an overweight short bride.... The list goes on.
    I personally would do the course. To get the really good pics you need to know more than just standing people next to each other and snapping away. Especially if you are wanting to get paid for it.

    As for your question about getting started, my dh's parents are both professional photographers so he started by working with them from his teenage years. Now he has an assistant that he is teaching. So if you could work with an already qualified photographer that is possibly another great way to get into it.

  10. #10
    Registered User

    Jan 2005
    Down by the ocean

    I would say first off to do a short course to learn how to use your camera manually if you don't know already. A whole new world of creative possibilities opens up for you once you know that. You don't need to spend a lot. I did a short course at my local community centre for less that $100 and spent the next 4 years practicing...practicing...practicing before biting the bullet and doing more specialist courses.

    You haven't said what type camera you have either. If you don't have an SLR/DSLR already then maybe aim for a good mid range one. The entry level ones are fine but you may outgrow them quickly or find the lack of functions frustrating.

    Also find out if you have a local camera club and join it!

    Then there is photoshop, which is something else entirely
    Last edited by ~Raven~; November 18th, 2009 at 10:06 AM.