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Making the Switch from Amateur to Pro Photographer

February 3, 2015 8:00 am

As an artist, you know how challenging it can be to make a successful career out of your craft. The competitive field of photography seems likes an exciting adventure for some and an intimidating challenge for others. Deciding to take the step from an amateur photographer to professional photographer is just the first part of the journey. Becoming a pro photographer requires planning, an innovative approach, patience, perseverance and understanding of what the lifestyle entails.

Field of focus

Before you start ordering business cards and advertising online, you need to decide the type of pro photographer you want to be and figure out what clients will be interested in your work. If you’re not sure what type of photography field appeals to you, do some research to discover which market segment is profitable. Even if you know exactly what you want to shoot such as weddings or advertising photos, it’s still important to research the best way to market your services. Don’t quit your office job until you know that your chosen photography field is profitable enough to make it a main job, or if it works better as an alternative source of income.

Skill set and portfolio

After determining your preferred photography field, assess your current photography skills realistically. Examine the body of work you’ve done recreationally and for clients. Does your amateur photography demonstrate enough skill to make it commercially viable? When you can answer yes to that, the next step is creating an online portfolio.  An online portfolio displays your skill, creativity, and perspective with a combination of unique images and writing. The images speak for themselves, but the written portion describes your experience and what makes you a better choice than the competition.

Income and expenses

It’s rare to receive a reliable, steady income as a photographer even at the pro level so make sure you have money in savings to cover expenses until your business becomes lucrative. Long-term photography contracts and a consistent flow of clients are the only ways to guarantee steady income and this takes time to establish, if it ever happens at all. Sit down and calculate your monthly expenses so you know the minimum you can survive on and then accumulate enough in savings to cover those expenses if your monthly photography revenue falls short. It can take up to a year to become an established pro photographer with a regular income, but if it hasn’t happened in that time, reconsider having it as your sole income.

Gear and insurance

If you’ve been an amateur photographer for a while, you have amassed a fair amount of photography gear and have your favorite brands of camera and lenses. When you venture into pro photography, you might need to add additional gear that suits your chosen field such as wide-angle lenses for real estate photos and telephoto lenses for wildlife shots. For gear that you don’t expect to use often, look into rental possibilities where you live and online. With all the proper equipment in hand, it’s time to insure all your gear with business insurance coverage in case it’s lost, damaged, or stolen. Business insurance also includes coverage for liability issues that can arise at the professional level.

Photography memberships

When you enter the world of pro photography, you become eligible for the benefits from photography memberships. Both Canon and Nikon have their own Professional Services memberships. Other brands have membership services too; you just have to do research. Benefits of photography memberships vary by providers but they can include on-site support, equipment loans, and faster shipping on repairs. All photography memberships require proof that you’re a full-time pro and some charge an annual fee. The expense is worth it for pros though because faster repairs mean getting back to work sooner. There are also photographer associations you can join such as Professional Photographers of America, which offer benefits such as insurance and discounts.

Working as a pro photographer isn’t for everyone, but when photography is your passion, it’s worth investigating the possibilities of such a career.  Baboo Digital helps improve your pro photography business with quality digital printing services for your portfolio along with mounting, framing and laminating of your completed work.