When I was first starting my photography business I had SO many questions. I hungered to learn and I wanted soooo badly to know how to turn this thing that I loved so much into a business. Because of my hunger to learn, I get excited to help newer photographers with this as well.
I recently was asked the following question from a young girl:
I was just wondering if you had any tips for wanting to become a professional photographer. I want to go to collage and get a degree in either photography/ fine art or get a business degree and start a photography business. You are and have a great photography business so I was just wondering if you had any tips?"
I'm happy to see you pursuing your dreams at such a young age. If I had to do it over again, I would have started sooner. There is so much to be said about starting a photography business. I can only advise you on what I know and what I have learned. I haven't done things perfectly and have made many mistakes! As one of my favorite photographers says, "My way is a way, it's not the only way". With that, I will share as much as I can with what I know and has worked for me.
I didn't go to college for photography, or business for that matter(more on that here). As you may know, I went to school for nursing and graduated in 2008 with my bachelors degree. I have been working as a nurse ever since, but have dramatically cut back my hours as my business has expanded.
The only education that I had in photography were the 3 years in high school when I took photography as a vocational class (2000-2003). To me, those years where enough to ignite enough passion and instill a basic knowledge about photography. But it wasn't until I decided to peruse a business from photography (2014) that I realized I had so little knowledge.
And with that, here's my tips:
Start Your Edu-bacation
There had been a large gap of years during which I had not picked up a camera and was busy going to college. When I decided to pick up the camera again, I realized so much had changed in the digital world and I had so much to catch up on, not to mention the skills that I had forgotten and had to re educate myself on(basically, don't stop taking photos!). CreativeLive is a great resource for that!
I joined photography forums such as Shoot and Share, and The Rising Tide Society. And, I also found a mentor. This was a game changer for me. There's nothing like learning from someone who has years of wisdom to bestow. My dad used to tell me to find a mentor and hang on to them, best advice ever!
Shoot For Free
Yes, free. (Don't worry, eventually this will pay off in huge ways!) But when you are first starting out and getting the hang of having subjects in front of your camera is priceless. There's less pressure to mess up and shooting for free is a good way to hone in your skills and get comfortable. I'm not saying to do any major shoots for free, but 15-30 minute sessions, why not? You can always have the client pay you for prints :)
Study Your Bad Work
I learned this one from Roberto Valenzuela who said he would go home and study his bad images so that he could figure out what really made them bad. Doing this makes you aware of what you are doing so that you can reconstruct better images next time.
I hope that this helps guide you in the right direction and lead you towards your goals! I'm happy to answer more questions, send 'em my way! :) firstname.lastname@example.org