How to go from Amateur to Pro Photographer
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Over the last ten years I have met and trained many photographers; most of whom started in a different career, but loved photography and wanted to take it further. Almost always, it took them ages to get to the point where they decided they could actually be a professional, usually because of lack of confidence. So how do you become a professional?
Well really, the day you start selling your pictures is the day you become professional. For most people this is the most difficult part. How much do I charge, are my pictures really worth money, who will buy them, and how will I sell them?
When I first started photography I just did it for fun, like most people do; and gradually I started putting exhibitions of my work wherever I could get a space, and trying to charge for it. I was thrilled that lots of people liked my work, and I was very quickly rushed off my feet. However, I soon realised I was selling my work, but not actually making any money - and this is where most people go wrong. I started by converting a bedroom at home, and charging £150 for weddings (this was 20 years ago, but it's still too cheap!). I then got portraits in by advertising them as free sessions, and trying to sell pictures to the clients afterwards. This was a disaster, because people loved the pictures but couldn't afford them; so I ended up giving them to the clients because I felt mean not letting them have them! Friends and family all expected me to do their pictures for nothing, and of course I felt pressured into doing so.
Does this sound familiar? It probably does, because I hear the same story so often from so many photographers.
So how do you stop the treadmill of cheap sessions, freebies, overwork and no money? Hopefully these few tips will help...
1. Decide to set up a proper business! Stop playing "shop" and start charging properly, by believing you are worth it and seeing photography as a "proper job".
2. Set your price based on what you need to earn to make a living, otherwise you won't make one. Don't just pluck figures out of the air, or go solely on what other people charge - work out what YOU need/want to live on, and design your business accordingly.
3. Offer your friends and family a free session (as they are your friends after all), but make sure they know it is worth x amount, and therefore you are doing them a favour. Tell them they can have 20% off the pictures and give them your price list. They will either go away and stop bothering you, or they will be thankful you are doing it on a proper footing, but giving them such a great discount, which makes it easier for everyone. This also helps you with your marketing, because they will show their friends, and they will see the legitimate price list, and understand that they got a discount. Word of mouth always works!
4. Make sure your product stacks up - a photography business is not just about taking pictures. It has a huge amount to do with presentation too.
5. Recognise that you will need help. Shops like "Next" don't start up a business by putting some clothes out on the pavement and charging a fiver for them. They don't start selling until they've got everything right. Find out the right way of doing things by going on seminars - we have plenty on offer to help you!
6. Get assistance from other people too. It's very difficult to run a business on your own. I started on my own and got swamped very quickly under the pile of admin. My friend helped me out by putting albums together for me, and that friend is now running a major part of my training business 20 years later! Just because you can't afford it, doesn't mean you don't need it. You'll soon find that by paying someone a small amount to put a wedding album together, or do a day's book keeping, will free you up to go out and earn money, which should pay for that extra help ten times over. The owner of a big company doesn't do it all himself, and he would never have got that big company if he had.
If you start with these first few steps, it will make a huge difference. Good luck!
Annabel Williams' reputation as both a world class photographer and an outstanding tutor is recognised across the globe. Her warm enthusiasm, coupled with an incredibly intuitive approach, is and always has been the driving force behind her very personal and unique style of innovative yet contemporary award winning portraiture.
She brings to her work an imagination and insight which is rare among even the finest professionals, all of which has contributed to her outstanding performance in her genre and it is these qualities which command Annabel so much respect from her peers.
No stranger to both TV and the press, Annabel is also the author of several books on her subject. Her passionate viewpoint engages everyone in a highly enthusiastic exchange of ideas and creativity.
Alongside her business partner Catherine Connor, Annabel also runs Contemporary Photographic Training (CPT) – a dedicated training centre in the Lake District, which runs a comprehensive range of workshops and seminars from ‘getting started’ right through to the prestigious ‘Bespoke Programme’ for aspiring professionals.
All images in this article © Annabel Williams