The decision to move from talented amateur to professional photographer isn’t an easy one. There’s a big difference between shooting what you like, when you like it because you like it, and shooting what people tell you to shoot because you need to pay the bills.
The work can be hard, the clients difficult to find, and the commissions can leave less scope for creativity than you might want.
And then there’s the rising competition, the declining market, the falling prices and the capital outlay to consider.
And that’s before you reach the question of whether you really do have the skills and the talent to produce images that people will buy.
On the other hand, you’ll be making a living doing what you love to do in your spare time — and there’s no better job.
If you really love photography and can’t think of a better way to spend your day than taking pictures then maybe it’s a step you could consider taking.
Here are seven signs that show you should be a professional photographer:
1. You regularly sell pictures
The first photo sale is always a thrill. As a professional though, selling images happens every day so a good sign that you should be a professional photographer is that you’re doing it, you’re used to it and you know how to handle it.
Regular interest from buyers shows that you can produce images the market wants but it also shows that you know how to negotiate, can turn interest into a deal and win back satisfied buyers. It’s a good sign you can cut it.
2. You regularly win commissions
Many professional photographers start by shooting weddings and anniversaries for friends and family. Word spreads, more requests come in and people start offering money. Soon the photographer has a portfolio to show, starts asking for money — and receives it too.
If that’s happening to you, you’re just a short step from being a pro… and are being shown one more sign that you should make the jump.
3. You get a kick out of the marketing
Professional photography isn’t just about taking great commercial images. It’s also about finding buyers and bringing them in. That’s work but it can also be pleasurable too. It is possible to get a real kick out of setting yourself goals, saying that you shoot great pictures — and finding that people believe you.
4. You’re inspired by others’ images…
Sure, we all love looking at great photographs. When you’re a professional photographer, the work of other photographers isn’t just something to admire. It’s something to compete against and improve upon. That means recognizing what makes a great photograph great, understanding how the photograph was created and not being afraid to adopt some of those techniques in your own images.
If you’re accepting the challenges laid down by other photographers — and meeting them — then that’s another good sign that you could make your living from photography just like them.
5. But Add your Own Twist
Of course, anyone can copy an image; professionals have to produce something original and use the work of others to inspire them not just to take more pictures but to build up their own skills and contribute to the genre.
As a professional photographer, everything you create adds to the profession. That’s a responsibility you have to be prepared to shoulder. If you’re feeling that burden already, you’re well on the way.
6. You Understand the Technical Stuff
Making a success of professional photography means being creative with your images and smart with your marketing. But it also means getting the basics right. Professional photographers have to act professionally. They have to know how to get the lighting levels right, set exposures and create exactly the effects they want.
Hobbyists experiment; professionals get paid to produce — and they do it against the clock. You will need have a good grip of the numbers and science behind photography if you want it to pay your bills.
7. You Really, Really Want to Do it
Photography isn’t an easy way to make a living, especially at the beginning when incomes can be low, clients demanding and work hard to come by. What can get photographers through the tricky times though is the knowledge that they’re still getting paid to take pictures.
And there’s nothing better than that.
If that’s how you feel about photography, then maybe you should think about doing it all day too.