Do you prefer a video format? Watch the video about “How to start a photography career” at the end of the article.
I’m Elena Sullivan, a photographer, and a creative adventurer. I started my photography career in 2007, long before Instagram and TikTok were hype. Back then photographers used other ways to promote their photo art and services. Today, in 2024, the game has changed, and if you want to be a commercially successful photographer, you have to be active at least in one or two social media.
This article is intended for those of you who already have basic knowledge of photo theory, composition, and essential equipment. And just need some guidance in …
How to start photography career?
Firth, you need to decide on your niche. Ask yourself a simple question: What do I want to specialize in? Take your time to answer it. This is an important question, and it’s better to decide before buying a specific photo equipment.
Do you have an easygoing personality, and do you like communicating with people? Maybe portrait photography is your thing. Are you a party person and like loud music and noisy ambiance? Consider wedding and event photography. Do you like nature and hiking? Maybe landscape photography is your thing.
Take photos of different things: nature, architecture, portraits, macro, products, and street lifestyle. After uploading photos on the computer, go through them, consciously analyzing your feelings. Think about how you feel about each of them. Ask yourself what inspired you to take them and which one makes you feel more enthusiastic. That can help you understand what you want to specialize in.
If you have difficulty narrowing down your photography interest, just know that’s OKAY. With our multi-functioning lifestyle, when we all have to do myriads of things daily, it’s fine to feel indecisive at times.
BE gentle to yourself and give yourself space and time to decide.
2. Photo Equipment
Second is the photo equipment. When it comes to the photo equipment, there is plenty of choice. Every year, photography market leaders introduce new cameras, lenses, and other photo equipment. So, it’s so easy to get lost and want it all. And if you don’t have a lot of money to invest in the equipment, it can be disappointing. I get it. I was there.
I believe the best way to start is with what you have, so start with the camera you have now and develop your technique and your vision.
Learn to see and feel the right moment. That moment when you need to press the shutter button.
Don’t run into debt by buying all the fancy equipment at once. Invest in the photo equipment wisely, step by step.
Third step is creating a Portfolio. A collection of your photos that demonstrates your photography style. The portfolio is important for all creatives. This is how you show the results of your creative work. There are multiple ways to build a portfolio: One way is – you can sign up for photographer’s workshops and, following their instruction, fill your portfolio with excellent photos.
Second way – if you want to be a wedding, portrait, or fashion photographer, you need models, and that’s when your friends can help you. Ask if anyone wants to help you and be a model for a couple of hours. That’s how I built my first portfolio, by reaching out to my friends and asking them: Hey, do you want some nice photos? Some said yes, and they got lots of them. I tended to overdeliver at the start of my career. Not anymore.
But that’s a different story.
Be patient with yourself and with the process because it will take time to build a solid portfolio; it might take a year or more. That varies from photographer to photographer and depends on the number of hours you dedicate to the actual process of taking photos and editing them.
4. Online Gallery
Step number four – Create your online gallery.
This is an online place to showcase your portfolio, and there are several ways you can approach it. You can get a website, even a free version, with WordPress, or opt for an easier solution: create an Instagram or Facebook Page. Both of them are free, and you can set them up in one day with little effort. There are other online platforms where you can upload your photos. 500PX, Flickr, and Behance are more professional than Facebook, and their audience is people who are more interested in photography. I recently opened an account on Behance, and it seems like a place where I will stay for a while. I like its usability, interface, and variety of ways you can sell your services.
5. Business aspect
Step number five is Business Aspect.
This is optional initially but something you need to consider for the future as you start getting paid clients. Every country has its own laws in terms of setting up a photography business, so you will have to do some research. Do you want to stay as a freelance photographer or open a company? Here in the United States, you can operate a photography business under a sole proprietorship or LLC, which is the most common business structure for photographers. LLC allows you to separate your business assets from your personal, thus protecting them. I’ll share more information about this topic in the next articles.
Step number six – Marketing and promoting your photography business is a never-ending process.
No matter how good you are or how many amazing photos you have in your portfolio, you can’t sell your photography services if nobody knows about you. So, at the beginning of your photography career, marketing is as important as taking photos.
First, you work to establish your name. Later, your name works for you. This principle works in every business, including photography.
When I moved to Cancun, Mexico, it took me four years to reestablish my photography business and reach a comfortable income level. In 2022, I moved to Atlanta in the United States and am now rebuilding my business.
You can learn how to market and promote yourself. Anyone can master it with time and practice. So can you! It’s part of your job as a photographer to help clients find you.
Starting a photography career and business is a PROCESS that will give results with time.
Do one task at a time to avoid overwhelming feelings.
One more thing, when you feel like you want to give up, instead, TAKE A BREAK. Do something completely different for a day or a whole week. Go for a walk daily, read a book, watch an inspirational movie, meet a friend, visit a museum to get visually inspired, and try not to think about photography at all. Disconnect from it completely. All these pleasant activities will help to reboot your creative process and reenergize your creative thinking.
Good luck, and let me know in the comments if you have questions about how to start your photography career.