How do you know when you’re ready to go pro?
Written by: Tiffany Joyce
A lot of us aspire to become professional photographers. But after you have acquired the gear you think you will need, and have pestered your friends and family a million times into letting you practice on them, how do you know when you’re ready to go out there and start earning money with your camera?
Here are five things that I considered when I turned this question upon myself. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, it’s just the thought process that I went through before starting to seek out clients.
1. You have clearly defined your area of expertise. You know if you’re going to take portraits, shoot weddings, or do product photography. You know if you’re going to photograph architecture, wildlife, or landscapes. It is important to narrow your field of photography down to as specific a subject as you can manage, so that you can hone your skills in that particular area and produce client-pleasing results. Which isn’t to say that you can’t change or expand upon your area of expertise. It just helps a lot when you’re getting started to have a specific market in mind.
2. You are familiar with your market, and what they’re looking for in a photograph. Various types of photography have various features that make it marketable and “sellable”. Some of these features are tried and true, and staples of the industry. Some change with fashion, culture and whim. Some require print-ready product, and some need to be web-ready. Some will show up in glossy magazines, and some will appear in newspapers. Some will be hanging in peoples’ living rooms, others will be hanging in galleries. If you are utterly familiar with your market, you know what you’re competing against and can apply your skills accordingly.
3. You are absolutely competent with your gear. You know how to quickly and accurately set your gear up to achieve the results that you (and your client) are looking for. Whether that be lighting arrangements or settings on your camera, you need complete familiarity with your gear when you go pro. Nobody wants to wait for you on a shoot while you’re trying to figure out how to make something work! Consider this – when was the last time you had to look up how to do something in a manual or on Google? If it has been a long time, and you use your camera regularly, there’s a great chance you have the competency required to go pro.
4. You know your limitations. Along with competency comes the ability to recognize (and admit to!) your limitations. This is so important that it can’t be over-stated. If you know your limitations you won’t find yourself out on a limb (literal or metaphorical), trying to capture a shot that is just outside of your skill-set or your gear’s capabilities. Be honest with yourself and with your client on what you can and can’t do. It will save everyone time and money, and will even improve your reputation as a reliable photographer. Remember, nobody can do EVERYTHING, so it’s okay to say, “I am not able to do that,” and then offer an alternative.
5. You’re confident in what you produce. If YOU feel like you provide quality product, other people will feel like you provide quality product. Get some honest feedback of your work from the folks in your life who will give you the unvarnished truth. Accept constructive criticism. Grow in your knowledge to the point where you’re spending less time correcting your mistakes in post-processing, and more time capturing the shot right the first time. I became confident in my own photography when I realized that, instead of liking one out of every 100 photos, I started liking one out of every fifty, then two or three out of every twenty. Today, I can recognize at least something good about a large percentage of the photos that I take.
Are you considering going pro, and are asking yourself similar questions? Are you a professional photographer now, with experiences to share? Let us know your thoughts and advice in the comments below, or post to our Facebook Page.
Previous Post: Exposure Lock in Action