Let's Chat About Becoming a Professional Photographer
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
I'm at this place in my career as a photographer that I OFTEN get asked a heap of questions (everything from camera purchasing advice, how I got to where I am today, what a day in my life is like, do I offer training/workshops, do I take on interns etc etc). It is incredibly flattering, and such an honour to be in a position after more than eight years of hard work to be able to help others.
I feel like I'm still working things out on a DAILY basis, still making mistakes, and still growing!
So, I wanted to draw up a bit of a blog post outlining answers to the questions I get asked most frequently, and as a resource for newbies looking to launch into this crazy exciting fun world!
1. First up, I am completely self-taught when it comes to photography. I've developed my style, learnt the tricks of the trade, and worked incredibly hard to get where I am today. I can highly recommend spending a LOT of time online - watching tutorials, learning from the experts and reading up about photography - that's how I did it!
There are endless resources (and most of them are free!) online.
Some of my favourites are: Creative Live, School of Photography, and Photography Concentrate, but there's heaps more out there - just google it! Sign up and show up for online seminars, talks and workshops - these things are a goldmine of information!
Read up more about my path to becoming a photographer here.
2. The second best step is to just get out there and take photos! Recruit your family and friends to be guinea pigs, and snap away! If you'd like to get into the world of weddings, reach out to industry insiders (florists, dress designers, venues etc) with a gorgeous reference board and ask them how they would feel about collaborating on a shoot with you for the images. Join instameets, or make your own photographic crew and all head out into a gorgeous spot on a weekly basis to snap pics of each other. The more you shoot, the better you get! Experience is everything!
Join the KIKI Gauteng group on Facebook for more resources, and other like-minded photographers.
If you want to be a natural light photographer, learn everything you can about magic hour, download the app, and learn to love this fantastic time of day. More info here.
Wondering what camera will help you get there? Tech info is changing SO quickly, head to your nearby camera store - I'm a fan of Kameraz in Rosebank and chat to them. I definitely think you don't need the biggest, fanciest gear when you're starting out - there's so much you can learn and do on a basic camera.
3. The third thing I would recommend is spending a lot of time focusing on the business side of things - marketing, advertising, financing, accounts and client service/management. This stuff is crazy important!!
Remember that as a photographer you need to do more than just buy a fancy camera and start snapping away. You need to wear many hats, and truly embrace the nitty-gritty of running your own business.
Some of my favourite brandologists are: Jasmine Star, Jenna Kutcher and Marie Forleo - make it part of your weekly to-do to tune into their podcasts, youtube videos and blog posts!
Do some research into the stuff that will make running your business easier, like apps/software programs to streamline and simplify the daily admin needs, from invoicing, client management and file sharing.
Always keep in mind that as a photographer your reputation is a crucial part of how you run your business, and a fantastic client experience must therefore be at the forefront of everything you do. Treat your clients like gold, because they are!
4. Fourthly, get inspired! Fill up Pinterest boards with images, paintings, and references. Find artwork that inspires you, and really spend a lot of time working out why it inspires you! Visit art galleries, pop-up events, musical performances - anything to get those creative juices flowing!
I really loved this quote I stumbled across on Instagram this morning -
"Success is not a one trick pony and you can't reach it with a get rich quick scheme. Success is a slow journey that starts with putting one foot in front of the other and doing the dang work. Success is following through on your promises. It's being a kind person. It's going above and beyond what people expect of you. It's failing soooo many times before getting it right. And yes, its being strategic, crafty, and smart and those are not bad things. When your heart is aligned right, and you are doing hard work with intentionality, you will be successful. But that success NEVER happens overnight."
- words of wisdom by another amazing photographer, Lindsey Roman.
So what is a day in my life like? Busy!
On admin days (through Monday-Friday), I usually aim to be at my laptop by about 8am (preferably after an exercise class of some sort most mornings), and generally don't step away from it until about 10pm. In that time I'll be sending endless emails, checking in with office manager, who handles all of our client comms, invoicing and scheduling; creating online content with my marketing manager, ensuring that our social media accounts are up to date, creating marketing campaigns for the next few months; delegating and managing the editing of all our photos with my four editors; and training, mentoring and catching up with my amazing team of associate photographers!
Meeting days are filled with coffees with clients, meet ups with other suppliers/fellow photographers, sitting down with my team to chat about upcoming shoots/projects and running errands.
In 2015 I decided it was time to start building my team, and I took on my first associate photographer. Since then the team has grown and grown, and now includes an office manager, marketing manager, six associate photographers and a few editors!
Currently my team averages about 20 photo shoots in a week!
Read up more about my fantastic associate photographer team here.
I have been approached by a lot of novices who would like me to teach them everything that I know, under the premise that they are exchanging their time as an assistant to me.
This isn't a system that works for me personally, as I very rarely need an assistant on a shoot, and the huge amount of time, energy and effort that goes into imparting my eight years of experience and knowledge therefore isn't a fair exchange. If you could offer something to another established photographer as a fair exchange - maybe a certain number of editing hours for example - that may make other photographers more willing to take you on as an intern/assistant.
Please note that we have a FULL team of editors, photographers and managers and are not currently taking on interns, novices or shadows. I do regularly add young photographers to my associate team, under the proviso that they have completed full photographic training, have a great creative eye, and have full frame gear. These photographers then receive a LOT of mentoring and training from me, as they work for me. More info about joining my team here. The best thing to do as a young newbie photographer is to get out there and do as much as you can on your own (as outlined in this blog post), and then approach seasoned photographers with your own great portfolio to work as an assistant. Thanks for reading, and best of luck! The photography world is an exciting place to be in :)
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