I should start by saying that I am not a professional photography instructor and that I don’t know everything! I am constantly learning new things about the business of photography. What I have here are 5 tips for new photographers. These are general tips for newbie photographers who are wanting to get into the world of professional photography. If you are a newbie photographer, feel free to post any questions in the comments! I hope that these tips help you in your photography adventure!
- Photograph friends and family for free. Just remember that your friends and family are probably not your ideal clients.
Generally speaking, your friends and family are not your ideal clients. They probably won’t value your work, and they will always want a hefty discount. When you begin your journey as a photographer, you’ll want to shoot your friends and family. Actually, you’ll want to shoot anyone who will let you! Make sure that they know that you are starting a business, and want to build your portfolio. Unless you plan to photograph the same people for free for years to come, don’t lead them into thinking that you will do free photography forever. Practice, practice, practice. Photograph your kids, your dog, your neighbors, your cousins, etc. You will become more familiar with your camera, and your photographic style, without the pressure of doing paid work. You don’t want to be the $25 photographer on Craigslist. You will gain more respect in the photography community by building your portfolio than by shooting cheap sessions. Respect in the photography community DOES matter. There are some photographers who are competitive, or just plain mean when it comes to newbie photographers. There are many others who will gladly help you along the way, and even send referrals your way when you are ready! It makes more sense to work for free and gain experience. Another alternative to working for free (preferably after you have some experience) is to create a price list and offer a temporary discount. Set up reasonable pricing and offer a “grand opening” special or something along those lines. You don’t want to devalue your work, so only offer the special pricing for a limited time.
2. If you want to shoot weddings, become a second shooter first.
If you’re not interested in weddings, this this part! If you’re interested in shooting weddings, ask yourself why? Is it because you’ve heard that wedding photographers make more than portrait photographers? Keep reading! It’s true that weddings generally pay more than portrait sessions. When you sit down and look at the time put in to photographing a wedding, you may realize that on an hourly basis, you aren’t making as much as you think. There are also successful portrait photographers who make more than wedding photographers! I am not trying to say that weddings aren’t worth it, because I love shooting weddings! Just make sure that you WANT to shoot weddings, not because there is more money in weddings. More money = more stress, when it comes to weddings! Join photography groups, you will often see more seasoned photographers looking for second shooters or assistants. Assisting does not pay as much, but it can be a good way to understand what goes into shooting a wedding. If you have good work, you may be able to get second shooting jobs with another photographer. I had only shot one wedding (free, for a friend) when I started second shooting. The photographer liked my portrait portfolio, and was hired me because she knew that I was capable with my camera. The first photographer that I worked with as a second shooter did not allow me to use the images for my portfolio. I strongly suggest finding a photographer who will let you use the images. I am going to do a longer post about being a second shooter sometime in the near future. If you are allowed to use the images, never post them before the main photographer has delivered all of her images to the client. Never tag the clients, or pretend like you shot the wedding by yourself. Some photographers appreciate a tag when you post them on social media, such as “Shot with so-and-so from so-and-so photography” and post a link. Following the rules of the first photographer and helping wherever you are needed is likely to get you hired again.
3. You don’t know as much as you think you know (I didn’t!)
Observe, take classes, practice. I wish that I knew as much now as I thought I knew when I first started. I read a DSLR book and assumed that I was an expert. I shot completely in manual (I mean completely, EVERYTHING. Even some pros use some automatic settings on occasion!) and I thought I was a creative genius. I was not. Read your camera manual, take some CreativeLive classes, check out photography tutorials on YouTube. There are so many online resources to take advantage of. It didn’t take me long to figure this out, and I’ve been constantly learning more since then!
4. Get everything legal.
This can mean different things in different states, counties, and cities. Look for photographers groups or small business groups in your city to find out the exact requirements for running a business in your area. If you make money, you are a business, make sure that you’re doing everything legally.
5. If full-time professional photography doesn’t work out, it’s 100% okay for photography to be a hobby or a side job.
The business of photography is difficult. Sometimes we just want to create art and take pretty pictures, but there is so much more to it than that! If you start feeling like you hate what you do, consider continuing photography as a hobby instead of a career. Photography can bring in a part time income, and still be an enjoyable hobby. You may be able to shoot what you love, perhaps making a little bit of extra money, without stressing over whether or not you can make enough to live on. If pursuing a career in photography is really what you want, just keep trying! Join photographers groups, hire a mentor, take some online classes. There are so many available resources for photographers in the areas of both photography and successfully running a business.
Are you a new photographer? Comment here and let me know if these tips help you, or if you have any other questions. Experienced photographers, feel free to leave tips that have helped you!