It’s the dream of every hobbyist with talent and a garage full of expensive camera equipment: to do every day what they love doing at the weekends… and earn enough money to pay the mortgage and more.
But are you sure you have what it takes to survive as a professional photographer?
Find out with our quick quiz. (You don’t have to answer “yes” to every question, but the more positives you get, the easier your ride will be.)
1. Can you cope with weeks without work, wondering where your next job will come from and hoping the lights stay on… and then have days of action without a break?
For many photographers, work comes in bursts separated by long periods of waiting. Can you handle the down time?
2. Can you leave for a job at short notice, take the shots fast, edit them and have the memory card on the editor’s desk by lunchtime the next day?
For all photographers, deadlines are tight and getting tighter.
3. Can you learn new skills and cope with new technology as it comes out, even though you love the way you work now?
Photography has changed massively in the last few years. It won’t stop changing now. Neither can you.
4. Would you be prepared to travel… frequently, long-distance and sometimes in the back of a truck to a place where you’ll have to sleep on the floor and shower from a bucket?
For photojournalists, four-star hotels can sometimes refer to the number of constellations they can see through the hole in the roof.
5. Can you take a creative, unique image of someone sitting at a desk, talking into microphone?
All press conferences look the same. The pictures have to be different.
6. Can you swap creativity for functionality?
Editors want shots that stand out, but art belongs in galleries not front pages. The press need pictures that tell stories not exhibit your skills.
7. Do you know which buildings are copyrighted… or at least where to look to find out?
Copyright law can be difficult and unpredictable. (Stock photographers can sell a photo of the Eiffel Tower, for example, but not if it was shot at night). You need to know what’s marketable and what’s protected.
8. Do you know the difference between RF, RM, CC, FR and RR?
As a professional photographer, you’ll need to understand royalties (and abbreviations). You’ll need to know the difference between royalty-free, rights-managed, creative commons, full-resolution and restricted resolution to name just a few.
9. Can you put together a portfolio that sells?
There’s more to a portfolio than a collection of images. Your portfolio should show that you’re not just a talented photographer but a reliable one too.
10. Can you teach and write about photography?
Having supplementary income sources will give you the power to turn down jobs you don’t want and keep you excited about your work.
11. Can you talk easily to CEOs, Presidents… and their drivers?
As a commercial photographer, you could be shooting a portrait of an executive one day and a team of blue-collar heroes the next. You’ll need to get the best out of each of them.
12. Can you maintain relationships with buyers, editors and agents?
Photography, like any business, is as much about who you know as what you know. You’ll need to know how to network and stay connected.
13. Can you take orders as well as give them?
Commercial photographers have to tell models and subjects how to pose, but art directors tell photographers what to shoot.
14. Do you know when to co-operate and when to compete?
Photographers can be a tight bunch but they’re also competing for the best shot. You’ll need to know when to work together and when it’s every man for himself.
15. And can you handle the pride of seeing your pictures in a gallery, your photos on the front page and your collected works in bookstores?
Professional photography can be tough work. But it has plenty of plus-sides too!
[tags] becoming a professional photographer [/tags]