Do you have friends that are asking you to take their family photos? Maybe a cousin that just had a baby and wants newborn images? Or maybe you’ve even been asked to photograph a wedding, but you are still feeling a little bit nervous to take the leap and call yourself a professional! Here are our top five tips for turning your photography hobby into a full on career. Please note that this list is not all encompassing. Rather, it should serve you as a to - do list to get going.
1. Take a ton of photos.
Yes, obvious. Or maybe not so much. Either way, it is absolutely VITAL to take tons of images before you decide to take this to a professional level. It will help to have varied experience and try everything to get clear about exactly what type of photography you want to be doing. In photography school, we had to try everything, including things that we weren’t exactly comfortable photographing. In fact, almost everything is guaranteed to be out of your comfort zone when you first start out. You might even really dislike the photos that you are getting at first trying out photography. DO NOT GIVE UP. We would be totally lying to you if we said that we don’t look back on our first few years of photography and think, “Hmm, what was I thinking?!”. We actually cringe at some of the first photos we ever took. After a few years, and before we even started our photography business, we had each separately taken tens of thousands of images, all leading up to deciding to start a wedding photography company. Everybody needs to start somewhere. Why not start now?
2. Decide on a niche, create your brand and portfolio.
Now that you’ve taken a ton of photos, and decided which genre (portraiture, landscapes, long exposures, food, macro, wildlife, to name a few) you enjoyed enough to pursue, it’s time to choose your 15-30 best images. This will be a forever evolving set of images. Get people who’s opinions you trust (we are happy to offer our opinion if you want to hear what we think!) to help you choose your best of the best. You’re only as good as your weakest images, in some peoples eyes! Display your selected images on a professional website (we have used Format since day 1, use discount code JULIA10 to receive 10% off! We also use Pic-Time to send our galleries out to clients.), matching your brand. When deciding on a brand, you need to do a bit of thinking and a bit of research. Our brand has already evolved over our 4 years of business, and it will continue to evolve! Are there certain colours that continue to pop up in your photos? Are there certain colours that are sitting in your closet or around your house? These are the colours that most likely represent you and so by including these in your brand, you will be authentically representing yourself as an artist and as a person! You can try creating a logo on your own, but unless you are talented in graphic design, I would suggest hiring a pro (we used local Ayden Creative and absolutely love our new logo)! If you are on a budget, you can attempt to trade services with a new graphic designer, or you can try out fiverr (I’ve never actually tried this, but I’ve heard good things about it).
3. Do your research, and become involved within your industry.
Are there expos or networking events happening in your city for your industry? You’d better find out, and you’d better be there. If you can’t afford to purchase a booth at an event, just attend the event and introduce Research who is absolutely crushing the industry that you hope to be in, within your area, and study what they do differently. Reach out to them (instagram is a great tool for this!) and ask them if you can buy them a coffee or beer and pick their brain about how to be better. You can even ask them to volunteer to help out at a shoot so that you can observe what they are doing and try to incorporate it into your own business. Even if you reach out to ten and the first nine don’t reply or say no to you, maybe the tenth will say yes :).
4. Get your business paperwork in order right away.
Sign up to be a registered business. Buy Photographers Insurance (we get ours through Harvard Western). Create a separate bank account. Keep track of your expenses for tax time. Consult with an accountant and lawyer. Have a set list of prices that you can send to potential clients. This will save you a TON of time. Be willing to customize based on peoples needs / budgets, but know your bottom line and stick to it. Do all of these things before you need to, and create healthy routines to set you up for success when your business is going strong.
5. BE YOURSELF, and be patient.
The best thing you can do in any industry, is be yourself. Don’t feel like you have to imitate everything you see on social media. If you don’t like posting instagram stories, then DONT. If you enjoy studying algorithms and want to know the best times to post for your ideal audience, then DO! Invest in educational books and study Youtube videos and take courses. Just know that there is no “all-in-one” book that you can purchase or no workshop that you can go to that will instantly make you the professional that you want to be. It will take time, it will take patience, it will take a grind. I think the best piece of advice we can give you, is to constantly reflect on your own life experiences, and bring that into your art. That will make you become the best, most authentic professional that you can be. Know that there will be ups and there will be downs, only the best succeed, and there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.