Photography – What Do I Need To Start? (As A Professional) + Freebie

In my previous post, I shared with you what you need to start photography as a hobbyist. Today, we’ll be looking at what you need to start photography professionally. This is fun for me, I do hope it is same or better for you.

By this time, you should already be able to shoot manual and are best buddies with your camera (meaning you know your settings) so I won’t talk about those, instead, let’s dig into these:

Going pro means you have become a business owner. As a result, you need to treat your craft as a business and apply proper business management procedures. This requires that you understand that you are now an entrepreneur which translates to mean that in the beginning, you are your own accountant, secretary, P.R.O, operations manager, branding expert, social medial freak, marketer, lawyer, security man, et cetera.

You will have no employer and no job. You, at best, are an independent contractor. You have to provide your own medical insurance, fund your own retirement and have no paid vacation or sick leave. You need to be able to keep books( buy a calculator.Learn how to add and subtract everything you do.Religiously balance your account as often as you can), figure out how to provide for your own retirement and most importantly, you need to market and sell yourself. Your skills at self-promotion are critical.

Don’t be too tough on yourself, you can do this.

Get Some Education

Just like medical students study to become doctors and law students diligently pass the bar to become lawyers, you need to get educated as a photographer. Some photographers are of the view that photography is not a profession. I totally disagree, perhaps I am too Ghanaian and think that knowledge maketh a man. Don’t be too afraid to learn. Embrace going beyond your limits.

I advise you really study and develop your skills before accepting too much responsibility. It’s one thing to be an “assistant” taking shots after your boss is done with the subject or taking shots for fun. It’s another to bear the entire burden of a client’s memories especially if the images turn out badly or are lost. You should know what you are doing before you start.

You may not have the funds to take a photography course yet,( I must warn you, acquiring a degree in photography is expensive) but you can acquire knowledge from the internet mostly, where you have a variety of options to choose from. Visit a library near you if you have limited access to the internet, you would be surprised by what you might find. (check out my previous post to get links to sites that offer free learning materials on photography).

Shaw Academy is offering a discount on their diploma in photography course on www.tisu.com.gh for just thirty-nine cedis. Check it out and thank me later. Other places to get an education in photography I know of are Seneca(Canada)and Photography Institute (USA &UK).

Learn how to light, that too is important. Visit strobist in your free time for your lighting lessons.

Acquire Your Gear

Getting a camera and its accessories is necessary as a professional. I love canon and might tell you to go for canon too but that’s not appropriate. Again, make use of the internet to search for what you want as you only know what exactly you need it for. Please don’t follow the crowd and buy every damn accessory, buy only what you need. For Sony lovers, here are a few tips from Brandon. If you aren’t sure what camera to get, visit snapsort to go through the reviews.

An important thing I’ve learned along the way is that the lenses you choose have a greater impact on image quality than the cameras. Get yourself a 35mm, 50mm, or an 85mm prime lens and you’ll take great pictures on just about any camera. Don’t be deceived by photography salesmen trying to talk you into spending your fortune on equipment. Go slow, only acquiring what you do need.

Get Homey With Your Clients

Are you telling your clients why you are worth so much more than the cheap crappy photographer who produces bad images and practically gives their work away for free?

If they don’t know what to look for, why should they do anything except look at the price? Why shouldn’t they hire the cheapest person available? Give them a reason. Tell them why you are better. Show them that you’re worth it. Because you are.

The clients that you really want, the ones who truly value photography and the memories they preserve will be willing to pay more to get the experience and images that you will provide to them.

They’ll know why buying a wall print or canvas from you is worth paying a fortune for instead of just getting them from some cheap traffic vendor who only downloads pictures, prints them out and have them framed for sale.

As you’re telling them why they should go with you instead of someone else, make sure to speak in terms of benefits and not just features of your products.

A feature is the “what” and the benefit is the “so what”.The features of buying professional prints are that they are printed on archival paper with archival inks. This tells people “what” the product is.

The benefit of professional prints is that their memories will be preserved for years to come. This answers the question, “So what?” So when educating your clients, tell them “By purchasing professional prints, your images will be preserved for years to come, ensuring that you won’t forget the joy of the first few days of your child’s life.”

If a client can’t see what’s in it for them, they won’t hire it.

If they want the benefit you are sharing with them, they’ll be hooked and happy to hand over their money to you.

Forget Partnerships

These almost always fail. It seems like a great idea for two friends to team up if one has the photo skills and the other has the business skills. The problem is that as things develop they both want to be in charge. You can’t have an animal with two heads. Eventually, they each want to go in a different direction, and the business falls apart. The really bad thing is that it’s not pretty, and they lose each other as friends, too. You can collaborate on projects with other people but unless you really need to, never ever consider partnering with anyone(that’s my opinion though).

Register Your Brand & Business

Most of the budding photographers do not register their business and brand yet doing this is very necessary as a business person. Registering your business is different from registering your brand. For instance, my brand is Shikaphotography and my business name is Shikakope. Upon a visit to the Registrar General’s office, you can have these two challenges solved so you can be confident in knowing you own your brand and no one can steal it from you and if should they try, you can serve them a lawsuit.

Last year, a friend was aghast and when asked why he said his brand and logo have been plagiarized by a certain group but he could do nothing except warning them which they didn’t heed to because his brand wasn’t registered.

Join Worthwhile Photography PlatformB

It’s not enough to be on Facebook where all your friends like every picture you post especially because all they see is an okay photo. If you want to grow, get on worthwhile photography platforms such as behance , photoshelterzenfolio , 500px and the many others that are available and yearn to grow as you are criticized on your work by professionals all around the world. This, I learnt from Bobbie(Bob Pixel).

You Are Not On An Island

You are in a competitive field.

With the ever-increasing technology of digital cameras and smartphones, everyone out there thinks they are a photographer. This only makes it harder to convince people they need (and they DO) to hire someone who knows their stuff. You have your job cut out for you and you need to make sure you rise above your competition.

Thank God gradually people are beginning to appreciate photographers more although they are unwilling to pay much. It sure is your job to make them understand what it is they are paying for and what packages you have in store for them as clients.

Pay For Software And Quality Storage

Photography doesn’t end with just taking pictures. This is where the task force begins – post-processing. Getting the right software for this saves you the trouble of having to do so much. From among the choices of editing software, here are two that are pretty common:

Adobe Lightroom is an incredible program. Being totally honest, if you’re a photographer who doesn’t want to do highly detailed and complicated edits of your images, this is all you need. Lightroom has come a LONG way in its capabilities. This program helps you to organize your photos, give them ratings, add creative effects or presets, adjust and correct color, use healing brushes to remove blemishes or distractions, straighten horizons that are crooked, create slide shows, create online galleries, send images to Flickr or Facebook, and so much more. Click here to buy the Adobe Lightroom Software.

Adobe Photoshop can do just about anything. The possibilities are endless, and the more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to learn! This software basically controls the market for detailed edits of images. And with the recent release of Photoshop CC, the possibilities are even more endless! With the know-how, this program can handle anything you throw at it. From removing large and complicated distractions from a scene, to completely alter the color balance of a photo, to removing a sky from a landscape and replacing with another one, to completely painting a scene by hand. There is no way, to sum up, this program in a paragraph, so I’ll just say this. Get it!

How do you back up your photos? on a card? on a hard drive? on a cloud? you don’t? Whatever the case, you should get a reliable storage space for your work.

Play On Your Creativity

What do you want to photograph? models? objects? events? food? jewelry? fashion? weddings? landscapes?

Make a niche and rule it.

Have a style. Shoot everything when you start out to taste everything but don’t set your plans in stone. Run wild in your creativity.

Being a photographer is great for mobility because your skills are useful anywhere in the world. Next time you have a crisis and decide you need to leave the country, you won’t be completely broke without an income. If you have a camera, you are useful.

Off-Season Is Real

You don’t expect to be working all year round, do you? For the times when you don’t have projects/jobs to shoot, how do you cope?

Here are some really nice articles I found on how to deal with the off-season in your business and since they are all awesome learning materials, I decided not to write anything on dealing with off-season in photography:

  1. How-to-attract-photography-clients-during-the-off-season
  2. Photography-off-season
  3. Five-tips-make-season-best-ever

Develop People Skill

At some point, you’re going to have an unhappy client to deal with. Make sure that you respond to them promptly and professionally while still sticking to your policies. It can be incredibly difficult when someone doesn’t like their images, or leaves you a negative review.

You will also get some requests that you simply can’t meet, such as significantly lowering your prices
to meet a client’s budget, requests to work for free, requests for full copyright, etc

Most of being a great photographer comes from being good with people and having a good “eye.” In the beginning, you’re often worried about people not believing that you’re legitimate so you rush through shoots, and don’t give many instructions. But as you progress, you realize that even at the highest level, there are no big secrets other than taking your time and instructing your subjects in order to get the shots that your talented eye wants to see. This is one of the few things I am personally working on to get better.

Find The Balance

Find the balance especially if you have a family to be there for. Don’t allow photography to steal you away from them so much and do make time for yourself.

Price To Suit Your Work

I absolutely guarantee that if you have complicated pricing, you’ll lose clients a lot.

You should be able to explain your pricing quickly. Make sure everything is clear and that nothing is withheld until “later”. Surprises are bad, especially when they involve money, so make sure they know how much everything
costs before booking you.

Do not offer everything you can possibly get.I know you want to make sure there’s something for everyone, but you’ll have better sales when you carefully select what you want people to purchase and simplify your listing.

Choose different types of items and only offer those. For example I offer canvas(on demand), an album and soft copies. An album to show to friends and family when they visit, a canvas to walk by and smile at, soft copies to share on social media to share your story or event.

Make your price list simple. Cut it down to only the products you really love, and then sell those like crazy. Visit the modern tog to get an education on pricing as a professional photographer.

Get Insured

If you think of your career in photography as a profession and a business, you should definitely insure it and your equipment too. All I have to my name now are my photography tools so when late last year I lost everything, I was devastated. Imagine putting my entire life’s savings into my hobby and losing it all in a night. Losing it all taught me to insure the next set of tools I acquire, and maybe, you should too before it’s too late especially if it’s your life’s only source of income.

You Can Do It

The worst that can happen is you may have to get a job again, which is exactly where you started. Several people have lost everything in attempts to start their own business but they are happy doing what they love and know that eventually if they work really smart, they’ll profit as much.

Failure isn’t you,you can do it!

Please feel free to comment with any questions or suggestions you may have. I hope you have an incredible photography career and don’t get too intimidated by all the things you see other photographers have that you do not.

Your journey is UNIQUE!

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