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03-23-2012, 06:39 PM   #1
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How did you become a pro photographer?

I hope it is ok to start a thread like this - something for amateurs who wish to go pro, like me, can have more inspiration through personal accounts of professional photographers. It doesn't matter what brand you use (though of course, Pentax is preferred ), it's your story, your account, that will contribute for the improvement of newbies (like me!).

This will be very helpful so as to encourage those whose dream is to become a pro photographer take the right path in the industry, or know what things not to do to become a pro. I hope you could share your experiences, insights, and perhaps a piece of advise also

Thank you in advance!

03-23-2012, 07:33 PM   #2
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How to be a pro? Sell stuff. If you sell stuff, you're a pro. If you don't, you're an amateur. If you make your living selling stuff or otherwise being engaged in photography, you're definitely a pro. Long time ago, photography was my job, so I was a pro then. Doesn't mean I'm any good beyond certain limits, or that my judgment is any better than a gifted amateur's; just means that I got paid for wielding a camera and producing images.

I saw a study a few years ago that the 'average' photographic professional in USA has a lower income than a fast-food manager. The message is clear: Go to McFood U. Get and keep the day job. Shoot elsewhen. Otherwise, you're in competition with every n00b with a Rebel.
03-24-2012, 12:48 AM   #3
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Check this out.
I've moved the blog –> zackarias.com/blog

And take note of what Riorico said. You are a professional when you do stuff for a living.
03-24-2012, 01:20 AM   #4
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I'm just starting to earn that moniker. I still have 4 jobs basically and photography is only one of them though I hope it will become my main source of income eventually. I run a store online. (Not much income there yet, but I'm trying to anyhow.) I scout estate sales and resell old toys and other things at the local flea market and on CL. I do crafts and sell those at local craft shows and yes, I do the odd shoot for pay. I tend to specialize in adult oriented niche work though I also do end up doing product photography, model/actor head shots, prenatal, baby and child shoots a lot. I don't do weddings and such. I'm mostly a studio portrait photographer. I like small intimate shoots, not shooting for big events.

So far I'm not really paying the rent with my photography but word is getting around and I'm starting to field more and more inquiries so I have hopes eventually that I'll be able to have my own studio, not just rent one as I need it. I think it helps a bit that I went into this knowing what I wanted to shoot and that I went and found a couple of niche markets that are not really saturated. So far as I know I'm only one of two women boudoir photographers in my area and I'm also the only person doing the other niche market here at all. My first couple of shoots I did basically for barter but they are now circulating around and they're getting the right people interested. While I have a feeling it might take me a while to get established once I do I think I will be okay. I'm not aiming to make a fortune, but if I can quite doing anything else and just do shoots? Then I will have accomplished what I set out to do when I started training for this.

03-24-2012, 07:00 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
How to be a pro? Sell stuff. If you sell stuff, you're a pro. If you don't, you're an amateur.
That's pretty much it in a nutshell. First, I think you need to ask yourself, "How bad do I want to make a living in photography?" If all you want to do is make a living by selling your landscapes (or whatever), I suggest you keep your day job. However, if you just love everything about photography, then all you do is take a job in the field and grow from there. It's like asking, "How do I become a chef?" The first step is to stop cooking for family and start cooking for profit. Keep in mind that being successful as a photographer (if you want to be independent) has as much to do with marketing/business skills as it has to do with actual photography skills.
03-24-2012, 07:29 AM   #6
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LOL.

I'm only a "Pro" when I get paid.

I could be a "Pro" if I wanted to shoot weddings, take pictures of wannabee prom queens or promote myself, or do any number of menial photography-related activities, but I don't.

When I shot for a local newspaper, it was not fun. Once people realize that you're from the "Paper" they want to get their picture taken. Then they ask about weddings and the usual stuff. Working with a reporter sucks as he/she think they are David Lean or Fellini - all they want to do is tell you what to take pictures of.

When I shot for a national newspaper, I was tied to where I lived and realized that I was just another picture factory to them.

When I shot for a Magazine, I had to drive to the client site, and take some pictures of a CEO who was nervous and sweating. I had to set up, get my images and get out quickly. I felt like a janitor (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

When I have been asked to shoot architecture, I was never paid for my work after sending it electronically.

When I have made images for people to hang on the wall, they have asked for the digital copy of it.

When I was thinking of becoming an agency photographer, I was quoted a salary that would have been something like $30k less than I make, plus I was to buy/service my own gear.

So my advice?

Be a "Pro" only when it suits you.
03-24-2012, 08:41 AM   #7
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A simple test to tell if you are a Pro or an enthusiast is to look at the justification of buying more equipment.

If you think it will help you to sell more, sell easier or sell at a higher price, you are a Pro.

If you think it will improve your photography you are an enthusiast.

03-24-2012, 08:52 AM   #8
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Here's an old thread that discussed this in some detail: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/general-talk/32238-photography-professional.html

Indeed, it's less about skill/talent per se, and more about income generated from the venture. It's clearly advantageous to possess both.
03-25-2012, 05:53 AM   #9
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While I appreciate all the replies, I don't think the OP wanted to know when you are a pro, but how you become a pro. As in, how did you get contracts, what equipment you need to have, how long it takes to break through, etc.
03-25-2012, 06:12 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
While I appreciate all the replies, I don't think the OP wanted to know when you are a pro, but how you become a pro. As in, how did you get contracts, what equipment you need to have, how long it takes to break through, etc.
The answer depends upon what kind of "pro" a person wants to be. The guy at the mall doing assembly-line portraits is as much a "pro" as the guy who sells fine art prints of the landscapes he's taken in his world travels. The paths to each destination are radically different.
03-25-2012, 07:51 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaoMaas Quote
The paths to each destination are radically different.
You are right, of course. I guess most of us non-pros just fantasize about taking photos as we like and getting paid massive amounts of cash for it. And we hope there is a way to do that, a way that someone can just tell us. Oh well, back to flippin' burgers..
03-25-2012, 10:02 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
You are right, of course. I guess most of us non-pros just fantasize about taking photos as we like and getting paid massive amounts of cash for it. And we hope there is a way to do that, a way that someone can just tell us. Oh well, back to flippin' burgers..
Very few folks are able to take pics of whatever they like,,,whenever they like...and make a living selling those pics. Keep in mind that even Benjikan, who is shooting pics for some of the most elite mags in the world, is still shooting photos of assigned models, under assigned circumstances. He flourishes under those constraints because he loves the challenge. It's like being the head chef at a 5-star restaurant and having to come up with a great dish with the catch-of-the-day. Is it limiting? Well..yeah...kinda. But that's what the majority of being a "pro" is all about...being able to create within given restraints...in a given time period.
03-25-2012, 12:45 PM   #13
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Very true. The constraints bound the pro to producing work the client desires but with increasing reputation clients begin to want the results the pro desires.
Sounds like a self-actualising stage in one's professional career but the road to that stage is long and not without it's challenges.
03-25-2012, 06:08 PM   #14
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Thank you for sharing those pieces of advice! I learned a lot of first-hand

QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
As in, how did you get contracts, what equipment you need to have, how long it takes to break through, etc.
Na Horuk got what I was aiming for, like in magkelly's reply. Actually what I was looking for were how the pro's here handled the decision-making, etc. in the past, if it can be recalled, their "transition" if there was any, from enthusiast/amateur to being paid to shoot.

Like in the quoted sentence above, how did you get past contracts, what equipment you had back then, how long it took you to make that "big break" or something. To be more precise, just like the entries in the Pentaxian Profile section. I've been reading there lately so I thought if anybody else has his or her story to tell. Sorry if I failed to elaborate what I was looking for in the original post... again, many thanks for the advices!
03-25-2012, 07:03 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alizarine Quote
Na Horuk got what I was aiming for, like in magkelly's reply. Actually what I was looking for were how the pro's here handled the decision-making, etc. in the past, if it can be recalled, their "transition" if there was any, from enthusiast/amateur to being paid to shoot.
There is definitely no simple answer for most of us in this aspect. I'm sure the transition varies greatly from person to person. But probably the first big step most of us probably has taken is to build connections. Start with whatever small jobs you can contract and kick some ass. Provide great results and a great experience for the client. Like most other businesses, word of mouth travels and helps a lot. For a little while, you may be only doing some "small" jobs here and there, but it helps to build a great resume and portfolio you can then present to bigger clients. Plus, you never know who your "little" clients may be connected to and they may recommend you for a nicer gig.

Always be on the hunt. Look through local publishings or web sites for businesses who provide their own photography for ads. You can always approach them with your portfolio you've been building by doing the above and offer them your services to take professional photographs of their product(s) to help their ads and whatnot. Some local ads in my area are really, really lousy. The photos used for some restaurant ads are so terrible, I don't think I'd visit the place based on that ad alone.

Overall, you gotta start small and work your way up unless you have a second cousin or something who's a higher up at some corporate and wants to give you the job because you're family. I am not a pro photographer, but I am speaking on some experience for being a part time pro cinematographer and editor.
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