The beginning is always the same, for all of us: we somehow have a good eye for images, we get really passionate about taking photographs and we buy a camera. Then many of us think that that is enough to call ourselves photographers and, when we step into the professional world, with out pretty portfolio online, we get slapped in the face.
The truth is that becoming a professional photographer is a lot harder than you think and it requires more than just a good eye.
If buying plumbing tools doesn’t make you a plumber, then buying a camera doesn’t make you a photographer, right?
It’s like any other job: people go to school for years in order to get good at something, so why should you be fine with that 2hours class on YouTube? Nothing against YouTube, it’s a marvellous learning tool, and many photographers are self taught. What I’m trying to say is that - whether you go to photography school or you decide to learn on your own - you’ll have to dedicate A LOT of time to improving your skills.
Do you think that Picasso pulled his creativity and technique out of nowhere? Or that he studied and practiced every single day?
It’s a common - and naive - belief that if you’re good at taking photos you’ll be soon discovered and appreciated by people. I’m certainly guilty of it too. The thing is, your shiny website’s got zero value if nobody knows it exists. And - frankly - out there there’s plenty of other photographers.
So roll up your sleeves and start asking yourself why people should invest in you.
You need to know how to run a business
Running a photography business is not only about taking photos. In fact, taking photos is just a fraction of your daily life. We talked about marketing already, but there’s so much more: you have to find new clients, be active on social media, write emails, take care of your website, stay updated with the new trends, study, read magazines and books, deal with your finances, be a book keeper and report your taxes, etc.
If you can’t be bothered with all of it then I’d suggest you keep photography as a hobby.
Working conditions are crazy
Some photographers work in uncomfortable, or even dangerous surroundings, especially news photographers covering accidents, natural disasters or conflicts. Many photographers must wait long hours in all kinds of weather for an event to take place and stand or walk for long periods while carrying heavy equipment (we all suffer from back pain). News photographers often work under strict deadlines.
We can’t always decide when to shoot, because sometimes things take place during holidays, weekends, evenings: most weddings for example take place on Saturdays.
But beside the fact that we have to be able to work at any time of the day and in any weather condition, we often find ourselves voluntarily sacrificing our own safety just to get “that” shot. LOL.
You are in charge
There is a nice sound to it and - yes - self-employment offers autonomy, freedom of expression and flexible scheduling. The down side of it is that income can be uncertain and the continuous, time-consuming search for new clients can be stressful.
Among all the aspects of running a photography business, I believe this is the scariest, because being your own boss also means that you are the ONLY ONE responsible of how your business goes: every success and every mistake is on you and there’s no room for blaming other factors.
On the other hand, every success will be your success, and - trust me - that will be priceless.