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From Play to Pro: How to Become a Professional Photographer

These days, anyone with an iPhone can call themselves a ‘photographer’, but actually making a living through your lens takes a bit more than that.

If you’re looking to turn your hobby into a full-fledged career, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind as you set out snapping.

Start slow

Fashion photographer Kirstin Sinclair worked as a shoot assistant, a printer in a dark room, and a photographer’s personal assistant for several years before she started to get work of her own, so try working under a pro for a while to see if the full-time life is for you. Plus, you’ll be able to make useful connections in the industry and learn valuable skills from the veterans.

Practice, practice, practice

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This is pretty self-explanatory: if you want to get really good at something, you need to do that thing constantly to improve. Tez Mercer, a professional photographer based in New Zealand, says he used to practice at home by shining a flashlight on eggs and fruit to learn about the way the shadows and forms would change with different kinds of movement. This helped him shoot portraits, as “the basic shape of an egg and a head aren’t too different…sort of”. So put in the hours and really get to know your craft.

Study (and not necessarily at school)

Studying doesn’t always mean school, degrees and classrooms. Seek out photographers and photos that inspire you, and try to emulate their technique. It will give you something to aspire to as you develop your own niche and style. EyeEm’s blog has a wonderfully diverse range of material to get the creative juices flowing.

Be legit

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Build a professional website, clean up your portfolio, get business cards printed and create an email (, or similar, rather than @yahoo or @hotmail). Mercer says, “If a builder gave you a card printed on photo paper and cut out themselves at home with rough edges and it was something like would you hire them?” If you want to be treated as a professional photographer, think and act like a professional photographer.

Most importantly, and something you shouldn’t forget when going solo: make sure all your paperwork is in order. Be sure to find the right protection for your business, as you often come face to face with members of the public and you don’t want to be responsible for any damages, claims or injuries.

Put yourself out there

Last but not least, get your name out there. Get active on social media, send emails, meet people for a coffee or a drink, and remember to give out your card. You never know when someone will need professional photos, and you want your name to be the first one they think of.

This article is brought to you in association with Aon Insurance.

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