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How to Become a Photographer: Turn Your Hobby Into a Profession

How to Become a Photographer: Turn Your Hobby Into a Profession

Learn how to become a photographer and make money doing what you love. Plus, find out what skills you’ll need and about common niches in the field.


Picture this: you started clicking images with your iPhone, and your friends and family enjoy your unique perspective on the world. To upgrade the image quality, you bought a DSLR. But you only use it during your free time or between work. While you want to explore the new camera’s features often, you just don’t have enough time. The good news is you can pursue your passion and turn it into a full-blown profession. And something even better: photography jobs are on the rise. With a 17% projected growth rate, the photography industry is a promising career option. 

The industry also includes a solid percentage of freelancers. Nearly 70% of photographers are self-employed, making this profession an even stronger bet for creatives who want to build their own path (and schedule). 

The only question is how to get your start and transform your camera enjoyment into an income source. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a photographer and what you’ll do on the job.  

So what exactly does a photographer do?

You might wonder if there’s more to a photographer’s job than clicking excellent pictures and helping others create lasting memories. In reality, these professionals shoot and edit event photographs, marketing images, and nature snaps. Their work ensures others have pictures of products and significant life moments. The following are a few common niches in the industry: 

  • Wedding or event photography
  • Product photography
  • Architectural or real estate photography
  • Food photography
  • Stock photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Fine art photography
  • Fashion photography
  • Sports photography
  • Aerial photography

Whether a photographer captures weddings or food images, their tasks might include:

  • Scouting for photoshoot locations 
  • Meeting with clients to understand their needs and aesthetic
  • Running a photoshoot 
  • Selecting the best images from a shoot 
  • Editing photos
  • Creating a work portfolio to share with buyers or clients 
  • Showing images in galleries 
  • Teaching photography workshops or training others to use tools 

4 must-have skills for any photographer

If you’re considering a career shift into professional photography, chances are you already have experience behind the lens — and enjoy the art form. That means you tick off two major skill boxes for this job: know-how and creative instincts. As you form a career from your hobby, you’ll also need to learn to communicate well with your clients to mesh your creativity with their vision. Here are four skills you’ll need to become a successful photographer: 

  1. Know-how: One of the grand differentiators between amateur and professional photography is proficiency. While amateurs typically play around with automatic features, professionals understand their equipment inside and out and can control manual settings on their cameras to expose images correctly, manage contrast, and prevent errors like blurring. Photographers also know how to use professional editing software (such as Adobe Photoshop) to correct hues, sharpness, shadows, highlights, and advanced issues like perspective or dust and scratches on film scans.
  2. Creativity or artistic ability: Photography is an art form, meaning anyone who practices it should work with a keen sense of aesthetics. Photographers should understand color theory, composition, light, and perspective as well as feel confident arranging scenes and directing people in photoshoots. 
  3. Communication skills: Some photographers create artistic works to show online and in galleries, but those who work for hire must communicate well with their clients to understand the project and desired results. A person may prefer a certain angle and lighting for their headshot, or a couple might want to control the “feel” of their photos on their wedding day. This strong communication must translate to a photo shoot, as a photographer should be comfortable telling a client what looks best while considering that person’s input. 
  4. Collaborative: Photographers often work with other professionals, such as makeup artists, hair stylists, editors, and directors. In these cases, paying attention to each individual’s instructions is important. For example, if a photographer works on a magazine shoot and the art director wants to place an art piece differently, the photographer should be open to the change. 


How to become a professional photographer

Good news: if you’ve been a hobbyist for some time and worked hard to understand your equipment and develop skills, it won’t take long to become a photographer. You could start marketing your business almost immediately. If you need to polish your skills to get to the professional level, invest more time in your studies, but you’re still just a few steps away from launching a career in the field. Here’s how to become a pro: 

  1. Determine your industry niche: Professional photography can be a one-person army or social art. If you enjoy working with people, consider delving into the fashion industry. Or, if you like events, perhaps weddings are your calling, go for it. Consider product or landscape, aerial, food, or product photography if you don’t prefer human subjects. 
  2. Perfect your skills and vision: Every photography niche requires different skills. For example, if you plan to take pictures of people, you’ll need to understand portrait lighting, studio photography, and event composition. Consider enrolling in a course or degree program to become a better photographer. Attending school will not only teach you how to shoot photos in a variety of settings and conditions but also help you learn to edit. You’ll also discover aesthetic trends and photography’s history, which will help you define your style.
  3. Get equipment: Invest in professional equipment like a versatile camera with multiple settings, several lenses, a flash, and a tripod, and set yourself up with editing software. Analog photographers will also need film. If you plan to develop your photos, you must set up or rent a darkroom. 
  4. Create a portfolio: Compile the best photos you’ve taken into a portfolio to share with future clients. Create a digital version, even if you take analog images, so people can appreciate your work on social media and your professional site. 
  5. Market your services and find gigs: Social media is an excellent place to start marketing a photography business. Since these spaces focus heavily on visuals (such as Instagram posts), the professional quality of your images will attract attention. Plus, social media profiles act as your secondary work portfolio. Set up a website that details your services and pricing, linking all your socials. And help future clients find you organically by claiming your Google Business profile so people searching for services in your area find you. Encourage satisfied clients to leave you a stellar review. 

Interested in images but not photography? 

Working as a professional photographer is the right path for those willing to take the leap as a freelancer or launch a side hustle. 

But a career in freelance photography may not be the course for someone uncomfortable with the fluctuations of gig work. And anyone who doesn’t have the time to perfect their trade or the resources to buy equipment may have to slate the dream of becoming a professional photographer. But there are several other ways to stay close to the photography world. Consider work as a: 

  • Camera operator
  • Photo editor
  • Creative directors
  • Product stager
  • Stylist
  • Darkroom technician 

Freelancing is challenging, but Practice can help 

Whether it’s managing a wealth of clients or calculating expenses at the end of the month, running a small business is hard, and we understand your challenges.

That’s why we created a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to help freelancers and small business owners streamline their administrative work and client interactions. Freelance photographers can use our Client Management Software to store client data, send messages and documents, and receive payment –– all in one place. 

But that’s not all. We’ve also created a library of resources for business owners on our blog. Aspiring freelancers can read up on how to find new clients, look for referrals, and establish excellent relationships with them. Try Practice today.

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