six keys to success


How does a photographer make the transition from enthusiastic amateur to professional? Well, it starts with the sale of that first photograph. Then, hopefully, there will be another sale, another assignment, another job to follow. And then one day you’ll stop and look back at years that have gone by. That’s pretty much my vantage point as I write this.

If I were starting all over today it would be in a very different photographic world than in the early ’80s. My teeth were cut on Tri-X and D76. If that means nothing to you then ‘no worries’. The short version is that you missed some analog fun from before the digital revolution. But time is moving so fast there’s not much sense in waxing poetic about silver-coated film and toxic chemicals, at least not right now. I’m sure that will come in later posts, though, because I just can’t help myself.

Regardless of the area of photography you are entering (advertising, editorial, wedding, portraits, etc.), certain skills are necessary. Some photographers are stronger in one area than another and they play to those strengths. Maybe it’s possible to partner with someone else that is strong in areas where you could use some improvement. My studio, Daylight Photo, is a business partnership and we compliment each other very well. But usually, when you hang out that shingle for the first time, it’s you against the world. You have a camera and you want to make some money with it, simple and pure.

At the beginning of any career one usually has no idea of the actual skills and work necessary to succeed. That’s a good thing because, hopefully, it is pure passion fueling your interest in a photographic career…a simple, exciting, unadulterated love for photography. If you can keep that passion burning despite highs and lows you will most likely find yourself in possession of a satisfying career in photography. Live to shoot, shoot to live.

In following posts I’ll break down my thoughts on professional photography in a six installment (or so) outline, each addressing things I feel are key to success:

1. technical knowledge
2. customer service skills
3. marketing
4. business requirements
5. what they might not teach you in photo school (or what you should have paid more attention to, if they did)
6. the bottom line

Next time: technical knowledge