Before anything else, I would like to say that there is no right or wrong way to become a “professional photographer”.
There are, yes, several ways that can lead you to be a “professional photographer” – and that’s what I’ll explain here based on my experience.
A lot of people want to start, but few know how to do it, so I came here to help you take this first step to start photographing professionally soon. Let’s go?
Study: and leave laziness aside
This is the fundamental part: studying. There is no other way to be a good photographer if you are not studying. You can become an average photographer without studying, not a good one.
By study, I mean not only reading a good book but, watch classes and tutorials on Youtube, observe the work of other photographers, read texts on blogs, any contact with photography.
Study about art, photography, editing techniques. Be curious and observant. Understand how light works, the difference between each type of lens, how to position a model, etc..
You don’t have to go to college. Register for a beginner’s course and understand your equipment and photography. Or commit yourself to daily searching for videos that teach you something without having to leave home.
Leave laziness aside even if you work in another job. Work a little harder and study in your spare time. This effort pays off.
Choose and buy your equipment
Do extensive research on equipment and keep in mind your financial limitations. You don’t need the most expensive equipment to get started.
At first, we usually don’t know how to handle the equipment we have, and most likely, we won’t notice its limitations. If you do, it won’t be something crucial for you.
Start with the basics, choose a camera and lenses that fit what you can afford and meet your initial needs.
I, for example, started shooting with a Canon T3i + kit lens (18-55 f/4-5.6), which was great for me for 3 years. A year after I bought the camera, I bought a 50mm f/1.8 lens to get a bigger blur in the background.
Know that the equipment is not the main one when you’re starting out. Of course, you need to have the equipment, but you don’t need to have the best equipment.
In this post, I talked a bit about the equipment I use and why I use it. Take a look. 😉
Use your camera and learn all about it
Before anything else, use your camera a lot. Read the manual. Don’t forget that it exists. It will teach you what each button and configuration is for.
Understand exposure, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Learn the basics of photography so you can control your camera and get the results you want.
Shoot in manual mode, take photos at home, on the street, on the move. Test all the possibilities and get to know your equipment very well. PS: You don’t have to go through work using manual focus, let the camera do this work.
At first it seems to be very difficult and you’ll have to think about it a lot before messing with the settings, but believe me, it’s the same to drive. After a while, you enter automatic mode and are adjusting everything without noticing.
Why do you need to know very well how to operate your camera? Well, when you’re shooting professionally you won’t want to worry about anything else but creating beautiful photos.
Learn how to edit
The simplest photo always needs a good edition. Editing is the part that will turn your photos into something amazing. As much as you already like your photos the way they are, edit them. Believe me, they’ll look much better.
Use good editing software. I recommend Adobe Lightroom. Photoshop is also good, but it’s more complex and less user-friendly.
Learn how to tweak adjustments, tones, curves, shadows, and highlights. Try and look for tutorials on Youtube.
What’s more, in Lightroom you have the advantage of being able to buy presets – or presets – that is like the filters in image editing apps. As soon as you apply the preset to an image it’s edited with one click, and you may just need to make a few adjustments.
Photoshop, on the other hand, is a bit more complex and offers numerous possibilities for retouching and other features, such as removing unwanted people and objects from the image.
Editing is an important part of photography and can make your work look much more “professional”. Study, practice and don’t force the bar on the effects. This will make your work stand out.
In this post, I talked about the programs, applications, and filters I use. Take a look. 😉
Choose an area of expertise
Until I started photographing, I didn’t realize that there were so many possibilities within photography. You can be a photographer of food, nature, boudoir, marriage, graduations, pregnant, documentary, newborn, among others.
Choosing an area is something that can happen before or after you start, but before you start in professional photography you can already think about what it has, or not, to do with you. But how so?
Think of yourself, what you like to do, what your style is. Do you like to create and do something freer or do you mind having to deliver something within what was requested by the customer? Don’t mind staying up late? Do you love parties? Do you love children?
Your personal tastes interfere a lot with your satisfaction as a photographer. A lot of people start working in the wrong niche – me, for example – and get frustrated thinking they don’t like photography anymore.
The truth is that you won’t always love what “makes the most money”. Keep in mind that art should be made with the heart, and if not, you won’t be able to deliver excellent work, much less love what you do.
Love the niche you choose. If you love babies, it might be a great option to photograph newborns and escorts. If you love to party and stay up late, being a wedding photographer shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Get ready to start
Getting started seems to be the biggest obstacle, right? When we get into a job we always have someone to teach us, but with photography, working alone, everything seems more difficult.
If you don’t work or have never worked with photography or with a photographer, the doubts are countless. What to do, how to direct a model, how to deliver the photos?
Many of these doubts you will only be able to take in practice. But how? Well, I believe that there are two ways to gain more security before starting to photograph professionally, without really photographing.
You can choose to do one of them or none at all, and simply get started.
Observe, how the photographer works
Do you know someone (a friend, a cousin, an uncle, etc.) who has a photo shoot scheduled? Ask to go along and observe how the photographer works. See how he directs the models and tries to understand how he works. If you have an opening, ask him questions and tell him that you would like to become a photographer too.
Talk to a photographer and accompany him or her
Do you know any photographers? Do you have any friends who work with photography? Ask if you can accompany him in an essay or event for you to gain experience. If you want, ask to photograph along with him or accompany him only as an observer.
How does most business start? Well, most businesses start with a large investment of money. In photography, however, beyond the equipment, you do not need to invest anything else. This is the best part of photography. You can simply start.
I personally recommend that you start doing work for free. You will tell me: “But how? Do works for free? How absurd!”. Well, it’s not that absurd.
Consider your “free” work as an investment. You’ll just be investing your time and, by the way, you’ll gain a lot of experience. Call friends, relatives or anyone you find interesting to be photographed and do it.
But you will tell me: “Isn’t it better to charge little but to charge something?”. I don’t think so. By charging little you will be known as that photographer who is “cheap” and not that amazing photographer who makes wonderful photos.
Think of people who will take your ideas and help you build a cool portfolio and ask them out and take pictures. Choose people who line up with the kind of content you want to produce.
This investment is a great way to get started. In addition to building a portfolio, there are things you only learn in practice. Being in charge of an essay is very enriching.
With each rehearsal, you learn a little more about light, direction, what to do and what not to do, your time to shoot, your preferences. In short, everything that can only be learned in practice, you will learn.
PS: I need to open a parenthesis here for Newborn Photography. Don’t start without taking a specialized course first. Newborn Photography is very delicate, you need to learn several techniques (how to position the baby correctly, how to make him calm down) and some safety rules to not hurt him. In this case, look for a qualified photographer and study with him, do a workshop and understand all the techniques very well before you start.
Should I drop everything to be a photographer?
No. Actually, I advise you not to drop everything to be a photographer, at least at the beginning.
Let photography be your second “job” until it can support you and you already have a good customer base. This may take a few years, but be patient.
Once you begin to charm your customers, they will return or refer you to whomever you need. Your name is gradually being built and you will have more customers. But this is a subject for the next post.
So, did you like the tips? I hope I helped you somehow! Do you have anything else you’d like to share? Write here in the comments!