10 Attributes Professional Photographers Need to Succeed
Written 7 years ago by Lee Milthorpe
Taking the leap from photography hobbyist to photography professional is a huge step for anyone to take, but it’s something that many amateurs aspire to! From the outside, being a photography pro might seem like a glamorous career choice, a relaxing, chilled out job with no worries or stresses. Unfortunately, that assumption would be way off the mark and in truth, being a professional photographer can be one of the most challenging and stressful jobs out there! It can also be one of the most rewarding though, which is why so many of us would be willing to take that step and tackle the profession.
Professional photography definitely isn’t for everyone, and if you are considering taking that step up the ladder, here are 10 attributes that I believe you would need to make a success from it.
If you have read this far, it’s clear you already have a passion for photography and in my opinion, being in love with what you do is by far the most important attribute you need to become successful. Having a passion also makes the job easier, it makes all the effort worthwhile and when you enjoy what you’re doing, you will do it better than something you weren’t all that bothered about.
A pretty obvious trait, but there are professional photographer’s out there who have entered the trade without knowing half as much as they really should. Some of them might actually be successful, but you’ll give yourself a lot more chance if you go into the game already having the knowledge. I’m not just talking about knowing your camera inside out, you need to know about the job itself and all the problems it could entail along the way and how you will deal with them. It might be a good idea to become an assistant before going it alone.
If you enjoy your rest, sleep and leisure time then the world of professional photography probably isn’t for you! Shoots can be long and tiring, then when you finally finish, you can’t just put your feet up as you have all the post processing to do, the printing and packaging to organise and the sales to make, not forgetting the business side of things like accounts and invoices. Photography is one of the most time consuming professions you could get yourself into. This is where having that passion for it is a must.
There are definitely more expensive businesses to start, but starting up in photography isn’t cheap so you’ll need a large chunk of capital behind you. You’ll want top of the range equipment, somewhere to store it all, you might need to buy or rent office space, possibly even more space to host viewings, not forgetting a studio. There are also many ongoing costs too; travel expenses, cleaning products, equipment repairs, replacements and upgrades! Not cheap at all!
Ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” It couldn’t be more right! The main contacts you’ll need are for the printers and framers. If your contacts are good, reliable and within budget then you’ll save yourself a lot of problems in the long run! It’s also a good idea to network with as many people as possible, you never know who might be a lead to your next shoot! If you’re in the wedding photography business, you want contacts with everyone related to weddings, such as venue’s, florists and wedding organisers! If your niche is shooting live performances, get to know band managers, gig venue’s and music store workers. Contacts lead to more contacts, so start networking!
In one way or another, you’re going to have to deal with people and having confidence will get you everywhere. Even if your path is landscape photography, you’ll need the confidence to sell your work to retail outlets and to people. It is a massive trait to have when you are photographing people directly. The more confidence you have, the more comfortable your clients will be. I’m not saying be cocky, it’s a fine line, but if you’re shy and nervous, it will show in your photographs and that’s the last thing you want!
7. People Management
This one probably ties in with confidence, but being able to manage people is a necessity if they’re your subject! You need to be able to tell them where and how to be without getting everyone stressed. You need to be stubborn with people because many WILL try to take advantage if you show any sign of weakness. If you have great people management skills, your job will be much easier and your clients will be happier.
It doesn’t matter what route you have chosen, patience is really important with photography. When you’re shooting outside, it could take hours, even days to get the perfect light for the shot you want! If you rush and settle for what is there at the time, the results might not be as impressive. It’s the same when shooting people, there might be an awkward child who just wont pose how you want them to, or it might be a group where everytime you release the shutter, one of them looks away. Again, if you get fed up and rush, you’ll end up with poor results and that definitely isn’t good for business!
9. Business Sense
Speaking of business, all the passion and enthusiasm in the world isn’t enough if you lack the basic skills to run a profitable business. Photography is a really difficult profession to stay disciplined with. It’s so easy to want to buy that new cool lens, the most expensive frames and to spend hours editing your favourite shots, but doing that will kill your profits and your business. You have to make decisions based on calculations and not on gut feelings.
Where is the work going to come from? Being a fantastic photographer isn’t always enough, you need to be able to sell yourself to prospective clients to get your new career off the ground, especially in the early days when your work isn’t well known enough to sell itself. If you think your sales skills aren’t up to scratch though, it doesn’t mean you wont succeed as you can always hire someone else to go out and get you the work, but that is an extra cost which wont help the profit margin!
If you tick all 10 boxes, you’ll have a good chance of making a success of yourself as a professional photographer. If on the other hand, you want an easy lifestyle, I would recommend keeping photography as nothing more than a hobby, maybe do the odd bit of paid work here and there but choosing to become a full time professional really does mean full time!
I’ve just launched a new personal blog where I talk more about business and how I turned my passion into a successful career at leemilthorpe.com