How to Get Started as a Photographer
Are you the friend that always brings their camera along?
Or maybe you secretly loved that photography class in high school, you know, the one where everyone took it as an “easy” elective.
Is your Instagram a source of envy and full of amazing imagery?
Are you really good at handling situations and making people feel at ease?
Maybe you’ve always wanted to get started in a creative field, but weren’t sure where to start….
In that case, you may just have the knack for being a professional photographer, my friend!
Getting Started With Photography
The amazing thing about photography is that it can be learned. You don’t have to be a naturally-born creative (I believe we’re all creative!) or a visual genius to take great pictures. Photography is just as much of a science as it is an art, where the whole cannot flourish without both pieces.
I started my journey with photography in a high school class. I enjoyed it so much and I figured, hey I’m pretty good at this! I realized I liked this whole visual arts thing, and once I bought my first camera and learned the basics, I had everything I needed to get going.
Soon people started asking me for graduation pictures, family portraits, and setting up spontaneous shoots to get new profile pictures for their Facebook accounts.
Now more than ever, photography is so needed. As more and more people take the leap to working online, they need visuals to prove it! So if you’re an aspiring photographer, I want to help you gather everything you need to get started.
Gathering the Essentials
The list is actually really simple here. The absolute basics needed to get started are just four things:
A camera (preferably a DSLR with detachable lens)
Access to a computer where you can edit and send photos to your clients.*
A contract to give to clients.
You & your creative eye!
(*In some cases, you can also import/edit photos on a tablet or phone, but I think a computer is much easier.)
Now, this is all that’s needed to get started, but as you grow and work in different settings and your interests change, you may want things like different lenses, tripods, diffusers, lighting kits, education courses, or programs like Photoshop and Lightroom to professionally edit your photos.
But in terms of getting started, photography is one of those great skills where the startup requirements are fairly minimal.
I mean let’s face it, as soon as your friends hear you bought a camera, you’ll have clients lining up in no time!
Portaits and photography by Jessica Colyer
What Kind of Camera Do I Need?
In terms of cameras, there are the big two, the brands that photographers worldwide sing all the praises for, and those are Canon and Nikon. Either of those brands are great. But if you’re wanting to dive into video as well I’d recommend either Canon or Panasonic (the GH series) cameras for beautiful photography and amazing video specs.
Always check your camera specs before purchase and compare different models before making a decision. My first camera for photography and video was a Panasonic GH3 and I still love and use it today even though it’s 5 years old now.
Look at the things that are important to you, such as size, weight, wifi capabilities, remote control shooting, things of that nature. How will you be using your camera? Will you be able to hold it for an entire day without having wrist fatigue? Are the memory cards affordable? How long does the battery last? Does the camera have good reviews? All of these things should be considered.
And hey, to make this even easier, ask around! Someone you know may be selling a camera or may even know someone who has one they’re willing to let you borrow. You never know!
Photo Editing & Software
When editing photos and sending them to clients, it’s easiest to do this from a desktop, but like I said it can also be done from a mobile device. These are the programs I recommend for photographers:
ShootProof: Offer clients a way to see their photo galleries and select photos for a final package, or pay for the entire package (and even prints!) through the service. I used ShootProof on many occasions and had many clients approve of it as well because of how easy it is to use.
Photoshop & Lightroom: The creme de la creme of editing software for photographers, this duo has nearly limitless capabilities. You truly won’t need anything else for editing. With the Adobe CC Photography plan, it’s also super affordable! For any professional photographer, this software is simply a must-have.
HoneyBook: This is one of the most well-known CRMs for photographers. If you’re interested in wedding photography, look no further. HoneyBook is a collaborative space as well where members can post for jobs for second shooters, help with a projects, etc. HoneyBook has since expanded to more creative fields as well. The only con here is that I found there’s a little bit of a learning curve and the price is slightly expensive.
Bonsai: This is the freelance invoice/proposal/contract system that I use and absolutely love. It’s great for all kinds of creatives (including photographers!), it’s easy to use, set up, and manage. It has a built in time tracker, contract templates, the ability to send automatic reminders for invoices, and also a mobile app. this is the easiest and most affordable option I’ve come across for creative freelancers. (Try it free for 30 days!)
In terms of free options for editing, there’s GIMP and also the Photos app on a Mac that has really great free editing capabilities. For client documents, Google Drive & PayPal are great for sending contracts and invoices. There are definitely free options out there for those willing to explore and get a little creative!
Contracts Help Provide the Best Possible Experience
You may be internally cringing at the thought of the word contract. I totally get it, it sounds so official and legal and icky, right? Well, trust me, it feels way more icky to have to ask permission to a client later if you can use their photos on social media for promotional purposes because you didn’t have a contract in place when they booked.
When it comes to contracts, here’s the thing: Your clients will be fine with it!
Contracts protect both you and them to ensure that you both have the best possible experience and no questions are left hanging in the air. Contracts lay everything out clearly so there are no surprises.
I’ll be honest (and I shudder to say this) but I never had any contracts in place for my photography work when I was starting out.
I was afraid that if I had a contract that expressed that I could use my client’s photos on my social media accounts to promote my business that no one would hire me.
Isn’t that ridiculous?! As a result, I was afraid to show off my work because I wasn’t comfortable with it, and I wasn’t comfortable with it because I didn’t have a contract for it. Go figure.
Take my advice, use a contract right from the start! Make it part of your normal workflow to the point where you could send them to clients in your sleep.
If you don’t have a contract or have no clue where to start on this, have no fear. It just so happens that I know a gal who helped me draft all of my contracts and is basically the equivalent of a legal superhero.
Sharpen Your Creative Eye!
The most important asset, even with all the amazing equipment in the world, is you, the photographer! Your creative eye is the thing running the show.
With that said, learn all that you can. Take courses, find resources to help you absorb anything and everything photography.
Practice how to use your camera on manual and adjust the aperture and shutter speed for different subjects. Practice how to move subjects when the sun is high in the sky, or when it’s “golden hour” or even when it’s nighttime!
Your own personal style will start to come out more and more and suddenly you’ll be known as the photographer with “your style” that everyone recognizes, knows, and loves.
You’re Ready to Begin Your Photography Journey!
You may still have tons of questions, such as how much to charge, what your niche should be, or how to even find clients, but know that those things will iron out as you go along. Charge what you feel is right at first, choose the niche based on your interests right now, and find clients by referral and word of mouth to get started.
Share with your friends and family what you’re doing. Share your work on social media. Get a website portfolio out there. (Or get an expert to build one for you!)
But all in all, remember these four things to get started:
A way to edit & deliver photos
Gather these four things and you’ll be ready to get started. Happy snapping, you photog, you! 📷
Hey there, aspiring photographer!
I’d love to hear from you! Where are you at in your journey? Have you gathered all of your starting materials and gotten a few clients? Are you working on a website or portfolio? What setbacks or obstacles have you been running into?