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08-14-2009, 08:22 PM   #1
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How did you become a pro / semi-pro photographer?

Id like to get a sample of what the pro's here have done on there way to a paying occupation in photography. I'm not at the level yet where I could charge for the pictures I take, but want to progress to where I can (probably as a second income).

What courses, training, experience have each of you had to get to the income earning level?

What advice can you give an aspiring amateur photographer?

What fields of photography do you specialize in and what markets are available?

Thanks

Daniel

08-14-2009, 08:35 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Light_Horseman Quote
Id like to get a sample of what the pro's here have done on there way to a paying occupation in photography. I'm not at the level yet where I could charge for the pictures I take, but want to progress to where I can (probably as a second income).

What courses, training, experience have each of you had to get to the income earning level?

What advice can you give an aspiring amateur photographer?
A lot of time, practice, more practice AND then more practice. There is no substitute for hard work and dedication - this is often the best mix. Innate talent, etc. can get you there more quickly in terms of results. There are no freebies and no entitlements... if you think there are, you will likely be disappointed... Sometimes you luck out and it's "who you know" that gives you a break.


QuoteOriginally posted by Light_Horseman Quote
What fields of photography do you specialize in and what markets are available?

Thanks

Daniel
Believe it or not, even though a big chunk of my images are wildlife/nature, that's not the majority of my income. Even before I started teaching workshops, teaching/instruction, fine art print sales and event/photojournalism photography were the bread and butter of my income.

Generally speaking, photographing people often brings in the highest levels of opportunity.

Regards,
Marc
08-14-2009, 09:41 PM   #3
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I fell in love with photography. I kept shooting so much that eventually I showed some skill. That's when people started offering me money to take their picture. After a couple times of that happening I said, "This is a job I can LOVE!!"
08-16-2009, 09:18 AM   #4
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It's not really a secret, it's the same as any other business, you have to provide either goods or services that folk are willing to pay for.

Get the skill set in place, equipment required to do the job and try to produce images better than everyone else.

Then it's all about networking, networking and even more networking.

Oh and there's always a little element of luck of being in the right place at the right time, to get things rolling initially, good luck.


Last edited by Kerrowdown; 08-16-2009 at 01:54 PM.
08-17-2009, 01:06 PM   #5
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I married a photo editor for a national magazine. You should try that.

But seriously, the truth is it's all about relationships. Skills are great, you need those. But lots of people have skills and will never be able to go pro. Especially in the editorial world, it's all about relationships. But it's the same way in all areas, and in almost all professions. Most wedding shooter I know do all sorts of advertising and web stuff and whatever, and still say that word of mouth is their biggest business driver. Good relationship with clients. So much of what I've done has come from pursuing relationship with people, rather than just trying to get work from them.

Last edited by FullertonImages; 08-17-2009 at 01:48 PM.
08-17-2009, 01:12 PM   #6
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I was shooting for my HS paper. I was also the editor, and the printer. While shooting the sports photos for the paper parents started asking for prints. Told them how much and never looked back. I just charge a lot more now for my work. A whole lot more. And that really depends on what new toy I want at the time. Or if the mortgage is due.

I do a lot of product photography but every once in a while I'll do a special event/wedding to keep my skills up in that area.

Advice? Get out and shoot pictures. Let others look at them for critique. AN old joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Ans: Practice, lots of practice.
08-17-2009, 01:56 PM   #7
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It's cliche, but set a series of increasingly challenging goals and work your a** off each step of the way. For me, it started with writing. At work I'd get a lot of, "Hey John, great proposal! Well written!"

It was a nice compliment and encouraged me to do something with my writing skills. After all, I didn't want my gravestone to read "Here lies John. He wrote great proposals!" I decided to try my hand at motorcycle journalism, since the level of writing was average to middling. So my first goal in my first year was to get something published in a local/regional magazine. It was a low enough hurdle and I was fortunate enough to clear it.

The next goal was to be published in a national motorcycle magazine. My type of motorcycle travel writing required photographs too. I surveyed the field, buying books and magazines to study the writing styles and photographic styles of well-known motorcycle travel journalists. In other words, I did my homework.

And then I planned a motorcycle trip with the specific intent of writing a story and submitting it and photographs to a number of magazines. This is important I think - to turn it into a job even before you get the first job.

I came home, set myself a deadline, wrote the story, submitted, and waited anxiously for a response. Once again, luck mixed with hard work and it was accepted and published. And then I was asked to do more.

This is important to note too - publishers are always looking for good talent; someone that they can rely on for good work and will do it professionally. Do a good job, do it with a smile and no drama, keep in touch, and they'll probably ask you to do more.

I hope this helps. Good luck. It's amazing what you can achieve with a good plan of attack.
08-17-2009, 09:09 PM   #8
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Thanks for the great replies and tips all. I really do need to get out and practice more and shoot more (which is what I want to do anyway).

I'm not concerned about contacts at the moment as I will have to start from scratch when I move back to Australia next year. So I'll concentrate on my skills till then!

Is there any formal training that you have done that has helped you in a big way or given you the boost in the right direction?

I will definitely do some business training, but I'm more concerned about the technical and creative side of photography right now.

Thanks

Daniel

08-17-2009, 10:02 PM   #9
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For those thinking about going pro or basically doing what you want, a very worthwhile read by top photographer Zack Arias: How Many Of You Are Standing On The Dock?

Blog posts like these change lives.

Diego
08-18-2009, 03:27 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by soccerjoe5 Quote
For those thinking about going pro or basically doing what you want, a very worthwhile read by top photographer Zack Arias: How Many Of You Are Standing On The Dock?

Blog posts like these change lives.

Diego
I really like the Transform video from Zack Arias. I am not professional but the blog post, comments along with video gets me something to think serious about. My simple initial goal is to go freelancing when time allows while keeping a full time job that pays the bills.

Is it really feasible? Am I good enough? I unfortunately have my share of doubts. If you ask my lovely but worrisome wife, she rather paid me that minimum wage to get me to spend more time at home. At the moment, I shoot for free at moment of notice and when I can afford to make time for it.

This is a tough decision. My heart tells me to pursue something bigger in the direction of photography and yet I find the vision less clear when I am pulled in different directions. I am single earner in the family of four and I can only explore up to a limit. You should consider yourself fortunate when you are living your career path with passion.

Though all the uncertainties and doubts, I have a passion in sharing pictures with others. It is a joyous moments to capture people's life and special moments in a picture. Photography lets met get close and pay utmost attention to details, I can feel close to people with warmth and the nature with love.

I hope you all allow amateur like myself and all the explorers standing on the dock to raise questions before we make our own path leaving the dock behind us.

Warmest,
Hin
09-21-2009, 12:42 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Light_Horseman Quote
Id like to get a sample of what the pro's here have done on there way to a paying occupation in photography. I'm not at the level yet where I could charge for the pictures I take, but want to progress to where I can (probably as a second income).

What courses, training, experience have each of you had to get to the income earning level?

What advice can you give an aspiring amateur photographer?

What fields of photography do you specialize in and what markets are available?

Thanks

Daniel
I'd have to agree with what Marc said, practice, practice and more practice. You also need good people skills. Most of my work comes through word of mouth or direct contact at events. The more you are seen doing your job(taking pictures) the better the chance of getting more work. I always make it a point to talk to people when I'm out shooting at car or bike shows or whatever it may be. I've gotten lots of work that way. If you can make people feel comfortable around you it really increases your odds and getting more jobs. I do lots of car and bike shows along with horse shows and the more you are seen at the events you do the more work you will get.
09-26-2009, 06:10 PM   #12
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I was a male porn star with an interest in photography. As I matured in the trade, I decided, as a lot of actors do, that it would be fun to get behind the camera and direct. While I liked directing, one day I picked up the still guy's Pentax and was just farting around taking pictures of a couple of the female leads who were rehearsing the next scene.
I was totally hooked on photography from that point onwards and started taking pictures of anything I could.
When one of my favourite star couples decided to get married, they asked if they could use my production studio and some of it's sets for the ceremony, and would I do the still photography. I, of course, said yes, and I discovered that I actually quite liked photographing couples who were dressed more than naked couples.
That led me to a successful career as one of North America's foremost wedding photographers.

It's like anything else, you have to practice, but you also have to learn. There seems to me to be a growing, and I think wrong, theory that "anything goes". This is the new school of though that says toss out the compositional rule book and pretend that any old crap picture is a work of high art.
Learn the basic rules of composition, they have existed far longer than the new school that eschews them have, and will exist long after the new school crumbles to dust.
At the same time, don't become a slave to the rules, but if all else fails, and you still need to turn out some pleasing pictures, it gives you something to fall back on.
09-26-2009, 08:29 PM   #13
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I second Wheatfields comment about the rules. Whenever anybody asks me how I got to the point I am now I talk about the rules of photography. "You have to know the rules, f-stops, film speed, shutter speed, composition everything. Once you know the rules then you can break them. "

Shooting any old thing, in any old way isn't art. See the analogy about an infinite number of monkeys and Shakespeare. You aren't going to stumble into being Ansel Adams. You need to know what you are doing.
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