Making the leap from student photographer to professional photographer can be a scary process, which is why it's great to have a mentor who's been through it all before.
This week we meet Dance and Wedding Photographer Belinda Wright and she shares with us her hints and tips to make the transition smoother.
So read on, enjoy the photos and don't forget to let us know what you think!
Nikon D700, 24mm Focal Length - 30s f/5
Moving from a student into a full time photographer:
Moving from being an amateur/student to a professional is a gradual process of learning and building. You need to be prepared to hang in there if you want to own your own business and work full time in the imagery business, as the market is not only extremely competitive but also moves with a great pace of technology.
Working my way through study and getting as much time on the camera as possible, I found that experimenting and going over my techniques on every shoot gradually helped my skill level and image efficiency grow.
As soon as I finished studying I started my own business, targeting dance and weddings my two favourite things to photograph and began the long hard road of building a client base and a solid quality product.
Looking back over the last 20 years changing from photography student/ amateur to now owning a photography & video company there is so much advice that I can share with those that are starting out or thinking of moving into this field professionally.
Each of the stages and important factors below helped me grow and stay in this ever changing industry and no matter what stage you are at hopefully this will help you with your path and business growth.
Nikon D700, 35mm Focal Length - 1/125s f/4.5
Learning the craft of photography through study, research and continual practice:
Understanding the fundamentals of the photographic craft and adapting this into continual practice is the very first skill we all learn. Any kind of study whether it be workshops, university, private college or online research all comes together to build your knowledge base and helps you become a better technician. Most importantly get on the camera as much as possible, go outside of your boundaries to try new techniques and learn from your mistakes.
Think about the type of photography field you want to work in:
This is a key point in planning your career. Thinking about the type of photography you enjoy and would like to do as a job will help you set goals and pathways to your dream job. Go after what you want because you will have more determination and passion for this type of career than you will one that isn’t.
Nikon D800, 35mm Focal Length - 15s f/13
Research the type of equipment you need to create your imagery:
Technology in present times brings you so many options and variables for equipment in the imagery field, it really helps to look at the type of photography you are wanting to pursue and look at the different lenses, camera bodies, lighting kits etc that will serve you well.
I found shopping through Ted's for all my equipment offers great support to you as their business understands your needs as a photographer. Having an alliance with a store means it is easier for them to assist you because they know you, this has benefits with warranty or exchange processes and more than likely you will gain a discount for being a regular customer.
Have a business plan with a strategy of services and pricing to suit your target market:
Having a business plan is something that is crucial for any business. The photography industry is no different and it is not just about taking great images.
Think about the market you are targeting, what’s most important to them and how can you define yourself as the person that can provide it for them. Have a list of costs for example your phone, car, printing, advertising, cameras and don’t forget YOUR TIME! Break it down into a per job basis and form a business plan and price list from here. Know your business inside and out and this will help your business grow efficiently and effectively.
Nikon D800, 24mm Focal Length - 1/60s f/4.5
Marketing, Advertising and Client Retention:
Research ways to effectively target the people you want to be in front of, every business is different and there are multiple ways of marketing and advertising your products and yourself. Find the right balance between social interactive systems, direct advertising and networking as they all go hand in hand.
The basics for today’s photography industry is having a website and a social media page but don’t be fooled... you have to make these work for you… they won’t just do it themselves! Be active, be involved in your target community and make contacts. The internet is a fantastic way to connect with people and allow them access to your work but nothing is as strong as direct contact with clients and referrals from previous clients.
In my experience photographers that specialise in one particular type of photography is a proven avenue for sustainability, even if you are doing other odd jobs for money always focus your marketing towards your specialty.
If you can find supplementary work within the photography industry on the camera, printing, designing or selling as it all helps and trains you to be a better all-round business owner.
Value the opportunities that come your way even if they seem mediocre as sometimes the little things follow through to big things and you never know what the future may bring and who you will cross paths with down the track.
Nikon D200, 24mm Focal Length - 30s f/18
If you like Belinda's work, check out her portfolio and galleries here...