So you want to be a photographer? Your clicks have gained appreciation and admiration and you want to take it to the next level. You have got your gear, you have done some assignments and you think you’re set. The question is ‘Are You’? Is taking good pictures all you need to make it as a photographer? Unfortunately, that’s an extremely small part of the whole enterprise. Sure, making great images is what got you here in the first place. But as a professional photographer you have to account for many other things. So what does it really take to become a professional photographer?
The first thing that you need to decide is what are you going to shoot? Who are you going to cater to? Who are your clients? Do you want to do weddings or travel? Your assignments may merge into each other but you should keep your niche exclusive. It is not recommended to spread yourself across genres. The reason being it will be difficult to advertise yourself and create a brand name. Your expertise should reflect your chosen genre.
Next comes pricing and marketing. How you price your service and products will depend on your area and the demographic that you wish to sell to. Is your customer the average man or high net-worth individuals? There will also be competition to look out for. It is better to do a little research on these before fixing your prices. Also,you have to determine how you will makes your sales – in-person sales or shoot and burn. In-person is when you meet your client , understand their needs, answer their queries and shoot accordingly. This happens to be the industry standard. Shoot and burn is when you shoot for a client and then give them all the images after processing. This is not a sustainable business model since you will have no control over how your images will be used in the future.
The other facet of marketing involves spreading the good word.About yourself. Word of mouth works best in this scenario. But do not underestimate the power and reach of social media. Use Facebook and Instagram to show your work and engage. Run ads as and when you deem fit. It also helps to have a website, since most people will want to look you up. A website gives you a platform to showcase your work exclusively. It gives a professional edge to any business.
Then comes the business of protecting your work. Copyright laws may be complicated but a photographer has to know how to protect his work.As a photographer, your work will be copied,shared and infringed upon. In case of someone stealing your photographs you have to know how to take them down or at least ask for compensation. You also have to protect yourself from difficult clients. Find out a little bit about how to draw up contracts and whom to approach if something goes wrong.
Since this is a business that you’ll be managing on your own, You need to know a little, no sorry, actually a lot, about accounting. Which expenses to record and which ones to write off, tax exemptions, insurance claims and other expenses. You’ll have to know the nitty gritties of bookkeeping or hire an accountant.
These are just some of the things that you have to know before you take that step to set up your business professionally. In this business, everyday is a challenge. No two assignments will be alike. New places, new faces will be staple. And the whole gig is a one man show. As celebrated photographer Bobby Joshi says, “a career in photography in addition to hard work, and commitment etc will also require you to have skills around – managing relationships and people, business acumen, marketing, sales, customer service, technical support, finance, operations and much more. Because unlike when you work in a company, where you are a spoke in a wheel, here YOU are the wheel”. Making it on your own is a huge risk but talk to any photographer and they’ll tell you that the rewards are extremely gratifying.