How to Become a Photographer
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read

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For many, photography is a fun and rewarding hobby. With the prevalence of social media and the way art and photography have become interwoven in our social and online lives, it sometimes seems as though everyone is a photographer these days. But how can you really perfect this unique art form and turn it into something lucrative? How can you take this ubiquitous part of everyday life, refine it and potentially make a career as a photographer? We're here to help you get started.

Starting Out and Choosing a Career in Photography

Career in Photography

The first step to a successful career in photography is choosing the right education. Photography is not a field that you necessarily need formal education for, but having some type of educational background in this industry is indispensable. It is vital to have at least a basic understanding of the fundamentals of photography in order to become a professional photographer.

You will also, of course, need to invest in your equipment. When you are first starting out, you really don't need anything more than a good DSLR camera and a solid, standard lens. Once you begin settling into your style and finding your voice as a photographer, then you can begin to invest in various lenses, lighting equipment, etc., but at first, just start with the basics and learn on the go with photography classes hosted by industry-leading photographers.

Once you have invested in your equipment, take your time getting to know your camera and lenses. Shoot in manual mode and experiment with changing settings in different situations to get a grasp on things like shutter speed and exposure. Know that you are not going to take stunning photos right away. Photography is a highly technical skill, and it is a skill that takes time to learn and master.

Honing Your Photography Skills

Despite what many may believe about this field and this art form, photography is just not "point and click." In order to be a versatile, dependable, and consistently good professional photographer, you must understand the mechanics behind taking photos. Having a deep understanding of angles, lighting, and shadows and the interchangeability of each with the lens and camera is paramount. And, much like the field itself, this path of learning is variable and can look different for every professional photographer.

Photography is now a digital medium. Getting a film camera and taking old-school photography classes where you learn to develop film is a great experience and will certainly help you become a better photographer in the long run; however, photography as an industry is now almost entirely digital.

Learning to be a photographer is just as much about taking photos as it is learning and using editing software, like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Trying to learn these programs on your own can be overwhelming, so taking a quick online class or attending a workshop is highly recommended.

Learn About Types of Photography Careers

More important than formal education, however, is hands-on experience. Nothing will teach you how to take amazing photos like actually taking photos will (and the first step is taking many terrible photos at the beginning!). Simply taking an online class and learning the technical basics can set you up with a fantastic foundation upon which you can build a lucrative career.

One of the best ways to hit the ground running after you have your solid foundational base of photography skills is to find a mentor. This can be someone you already know who may do freelance photography work, or you may want to set out to find a professional willing to coach, mentor, or maybe even hire you to work under them.

Photography is a skill that takes years of practice to fully develop, and starting out as an assistant or intern to an established professional photographer is a great way to develop those skills and get to know the business from the inside.

Learn Different Ways to Become a Photographer

Now that you have your basic skills down and have begun to understand the different paths that this career can take, you can begin to narrow your focus and decide what type of photographer you want to be.

Professional photographers work in a variety of settings. You might work in a commercial portrait studio, or you may end up as a photojournalist, traveling to take photos of important meetings, sporting events, and news scenes. Photographers also find lucrative work at magazines (fashion and otherwise) and in the world of advertising. And, of course, there's the prevalent freelance photography route, where you sell your services on a contract basis.

Freelance photographers specialize in fields like travel photography, wedding photography, etc. Some photographers choose to focus on the art of it all. These fine art photographers, whose work often has a very specific focus or perspective, can often be found in galleries and museums.

Learning to Sell Yourself and Freelance Photography

Being a freelance photographer is quite possibly one of the most rewarding and fulfilling ways to have a career in photography. You can cast your net as wide as you want, traveling for work if that's what you choose to do, or setting up shop and staying close to home if that sounds more your style. You can create your own schedule, choose your clients, develop your artistic style and take more creative liberties than others.

It is important to remember that being a photographer, especially a freelance photographer, is not just one job. As a freelance photographer, you are truly a salesperson, and you are constantly selling yourself and your work. You are a social media manager, a marketing expert, an office manager, and much more.

In order to be a successful freelance photographer, you must have the confidence to put yourself out there as much as possible. You will spend just as much, if not more time, promoting yourself on social media and answering email inquiries as you will actually taking and editing your photos.

Get to Work in Your Chosen Photography Field

Once you have a solid understanding of the industry and have found your footing and developed your voice, it is time to get to work. Start by creating a stunning and easily navigable website; remember: you are a digital artist, and your website may be the first impression someone has of you and your photography. Take the time to make sure your online presence is immaculate. Make sure the services you offer are stated clearly and concisely.

A social media presence is also important to represent your work and engage your audience regularly. Network with other artists, models, creators, and even event planners in your area. Being open, friendly, and approachable is also part of this path.

Get Ready to Grow

There are endless career paths down which you may gently veer from the road of professional photography. This is a constantly evolving field with continually evolving technology. In addition to being a career in which you will constantly be learning and trying new techniques as the technology develops, it is also a career that itself can grow with you. For example, you may start out as a fine art photographer and later find yourself shifting your focus to commercial photography.

As mentioned, this particular field of study is ever-changing and developing in new directions. This will never be a stagnant art form, so be prepared to continue learning throughout your career. Learn the basics, get your foot in the door, and take it one day at a time. It's all part of the journey.