Are you ready to go pro?
So you have a decent DSLR camera and a few lenses. You have taken some nice quality images and know what you have to do to make a good image even better. So what the heck right?. Put up a sign, order some business cards and throw together a website. That is all it takes after all… right? The answer is maybe, and here is why.
Here are a few things to think about before you launch into the world:
1) What is the reason to go pro? This industry is a meat grinder of early mornings, late nights, meals on the run, occasionally missing time with family and friends, constantly marketing, and yes taking photos. But to get everything out of the industry you need to have a little more than that.
Those of us who are professionals love every minute of this industry. We do this because we get to live our lives by our own rules. We embrace each assignment and commission as another opportunity to create amazing images. Yes there is money to be made and yes, it can get a little scary when the months get slow. Even though there is difficulty and uncertainty in our lives, most of it wouldn't trade it for anything. Remember the how the saying goes, pick a job that you would be willing to do for free.
2) Do you have the right gear? Now anyone who knows what they are doing will tell you that they will get an amazing image out of a cardboard box. This is to say that equipment isn’t everything. Just because you buy $36,000 worth of camera gear doesn’t mean that you are going to take great photos. It just means you have a decent credit line, that now is probably maxed out.
Professional camera equipment will give you the ability to record amazing images. It is up to you to use the equipment to create the photos. Professional equipment is also built for the daily wear and tear that you are going to have as a working pro. Canon and Nikon make great DSLR cameras and lenses for home and personal use. The only issue is that these cameras tend to have lower quality components (not inferior components). An example would be the consumer level DSLR cameras that have high impact plastic. Consumer lenses also do not have the high quality glass elements to ensure color accuracy and image sharpness. A rule of thumb that I use is that you should have better equipment than the people that you are working for.
3) Do you over edit images? This is, in my opinion, the biggest issue with amateurs that make the jump before they are ready. These days the photography industry is amazing. There are so many people doing so many different styles that there is something for everyone. The rule of thumb that most photographers use is: if you couldn’t do it in film, don’t do it in digital.” You want your images to stand on their own. You want your images to reflect your abilities as a photographer, not as a Photoshop operator. Too often I see images that are just plain terrifying. Images out of focus, selective color, heavy black boarders that cover put of the subjects face, and under exposed images are just a few examples that come to mind.
4) Have you networked? You are not going to be the only professional photographer in your area. If you are going to shoot sports, dance studios, and school contracts you need to be aware that there are probably photographers that already do that work. Be a professional and reach out to these professionals. You will be doing yourself a huge favor by adding these people as friend rather than directly marketing to their clients and being blacklisted as someone who steals clients. You want as many allies as you can get. If you need to use a lens or need lighting equipment for a big shoot it is cheaper to call and borrow gear than it is to rent it.
So there is a short list of things to consider before hanging your sign. There is a lot more to think about, and more will follow in the coming months. Just remember that many have traveled this road before you, and many will travel after you. The important thing is to remember that you started down this path because you enjoy taking photographs. Just make sure that you are walking down the right path.
Take Care of yourselves and each other