On Being A Professional Photographer

A few days ago someone asked me what did I think takes for someone to make it as a professional photographer, especially nowadays when literally anyone with a smartphone is able to take pretty decent photos. And to me, the first misconception that every non-photographer has is trying to equate the craft of photography to the business of photography. You can take very good photos without understanding how photography works, but you can't make it as a professional photographer if you don't understand the business.

Uncle Pete might shoot the most beautiful photos during someone's wedding, or co-worker Martha might capture someone else's real essence with her smartphone for their LinkedIn profile, sometimes they might even know how to retouch them themselves for that extra kick and someone might even argue that they do a better job than most professional photographers out there. But the keywords here are the "might" and the "sometimes" because being a professional photographer means that what you deliver has to be consistent with what your client needs, it means that the client can rely that you are not only going to be on time and deliver on time but that you are also going to in fact deliver, it means that every time that they hire you they will get the same quality and reliability that they got before.

Being a professional photographer means that the days that you are not photographing for your clients you are either meeting with clients or looking for new clients, or working on personal projects, or working on your self-promotion, or working on your accounting, or working on other administrative tasks. Professional photography means having to get and take care of photography equipment, computer, external drives, backup servers, website, domain name, business email, insurance... and the list goes on.

Working as a professional photographer means dealing with people, because people are at the core of the business in the form of clients, subjects or peers, and if this fact is ever ignored then the business is doomed to fail. Being a professional photographer means that we don't sell photos, we sell expertise, we sell solutions, we sell the ability to awaken emotions, we sell the feeling that someone gets when they see themselves or their products in images, we don't sell just a digital file or a printed piece of paper.

And finally, to finish answering the question I think that to make it as a professional photographer you have to understand that it is a job, and like with any other job you should get paid for it to cover your expenses and hopefully earn some money. Because professional photography is a career, it's a long-term endeavour to fulfil your passion.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Andrzej Gruszka

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