In the previous instalment I covered five important things to consider as you embark on your journey towards going pro — providing a service, learning by assisting, bookkeeping and accounting, caution with gear buying, and holding onto a day job while necessary. If you’re sure you have covered off those first pointers, we shall move on to my concluding tips for a solid beginning as a professional photographer.
6. Move into a shared space as soon as possible
Ah, the dream of the paperless office, working at home in your PJs … it can really suck. Isolation and lack of interaction with people can create more trouble than you might imagine. Having the option to stay at home or head to a space that is set up for your work is an amazing way to go, because you get the best of both worlds.
My client base and people skills grew exponentially when I moved into a hustling and bustling shared working space. Morale and inspiration is often lifted when you work around others too, as the group offers a far more dynamic vibe to that sparked by you and your dog. Coffee shops are OK for client meetings, but nothing beats a relaxed environment in a nice space to impress. I honestly rate this tip almost as high as getting in control of your business finances [see last issue] — it really does help business to grow. And with so many shared spaces available these days price, services and style are up to you.
7. Your job as a photographer is all about people, people, and more people
It may be tempting to imagine photography as a sort of rock-and-roll job of the stars. And sometimes it can be, but mostly it’s how you pay the bills. Aside from running your business to cover costs, people come next. If you are not a people person then working commercially as a photographer might not be the best option as a career. There are far fewer photographers making a living shooting landscapes than portraiture. That’s just the reality of the industry.
I never discourage photographers in shooting what they love, but commercial photography is a job like everyone else’s, so look at it from a service point of view. One thing I see continuously as a tutor is landscape photographers who state they are terrible with people, before we then go on to discover they are actually even better at people than landscapes. So give it a go, and you never know, you might be a people person after all.
8. Hiring gear is perfectly OK
You have been hired for a big shoot and freaking out that you don’t have a second body as a backup or enough lighting. This is easily fixed by hiring some kit at a fraction of the price it would be to buy new. You also get to try different kit and decide whether it is for you before purchasing, and that’s a sensible way to build your stash. Nearly all my kit was hired at some point, and tried on a job or in my own time before it was purchased.
9. Terms, conditions, and licensing paperwork is your best friend
Copyright. That’s all clients see quite often when it comes to paperwork. This is important to consider, but having some boundaries as to what you offer and what you will do to fix problems is right up there too. What if the client cancels the day before a big job? What if you fail to turn up for some reason? All these factors need to be put in concrete when you work within the industry, and the best way to start on the right foot is to attach a standard terms and conditions outline with your estimations. The Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association website (aipa.org.nz) has all these documents available for free, as well as resources to help you price your jobs. Trust me on this one, terms and conditions will save your bacon many, many times.
10. Shoot what you love outside of the day job
So, now you’re a service provider who cares about the finances, and sometimes gets to be a rock-and-roll star. Congratulations. But what about keeping inspired, and not getting jaded with the job of delivering photos week in, week out? The solution for this is simple: get out and shoot what you love all the time. The bonus is that you master new skills and techniques along the way, too. All commercial shoots are inspired by skills and experimentation away from the pressures of repetitious delivery. So go grab your camera, and head out often as possible to shoot what inspires you. Street, natural light, flash, travel, adventure, people … Don’t forget why you started it to begin with, and feed your creative soul.