Nowadays, with the advent of blogs, social media and smartphones, everyone feels like an amateur photographer.
The many apps specifically designed for editing and retouching photographs are making the art of photography more accessible to all kinds of people.
So, is this increased accessibility allowing people to call themselves professional photographers, even if they have received no formal photography training?
In order to call yourself a professional, you need to have perfectly mastered the fundamentals of photography and be able to implement them to produce high-quality photographs.
Does this then mean that even those who take photography classes have to reach a certain level before being able to operate as professionals?
What does it mean to be a photographer today? Do you need a photography degree before you set up a photography business?
In order to answer all of these questions, we need to define what makes amateur photographers different from professionals as well as looking at the diversity of the discipline of photography and where taking pictures for a living can take you.
What Does a Career in Photography Involve?
The role of a professional photographer is not limited to taking photographs. According to PetaPixel, only 12.2% of a photographer’s time is spent shooting.
If you’re hoping to become a professional photographer, you should be prepared to take on a variety of tasks in addition to taking photos. Here are a few things you can expect:
- Before even beginning to take any photographs, photographers have to set up and organise their shoot as well as set up their equipment.
- Once the photographs have been taken, the next important step is the post-processing of the images. Almost always, there are several elements of the photograph which need to be retouched in order to make it better reflect reality. Retouching may involve increasing brightness and correcting blemishes, for example.
- Professional photographers who run their own businesses also have managerial and administrative responsibilities. This means that the finances, insurance and banking are the responsibilities of the photographer themselves.
- Being a photographer is all about knowing how to listen to clients and provide for their needs. One essential aspect of the business of photography is meeting clients in person to discuss their needs and expectation before the event or occasion where photography services will be required.
- In order for photographers to keep their businesses running, they need to dedicate time to marketing their services, as this is where they gain customers. This may involve working on a blog or website, developing a social media presence and networking at events and business fayres.
- The final important task for photographers is equipment maintenance. Spending time looking after and repairing the tools used in their work will make for lower running costs.
Building a photography business involves many steps and photographers often have to pick up new knowledge along the way. With plenty of experience and a lot of creativity, any photography business can flourish!
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Essential Qualities for a Successful Photographer
There is a wide range of personal qualities that are essential to those who wish to succeed as professional photographers.
To take a photograph is to create a universe, a décor and an atmosphere within a frame.
Regardless of the reason for the event or the client’s requirements, photographers must be creative and have an ability to show a scene to its full potential.
Being a photographer is knowing how to create the perfect frame and find the optimum lighting among many other photography techniques such as altering the exposure, shutter speed and ISO to make your work exceptional.
Every photographer needs to be sure of themselves and believe in their trade. If photographers are unsure of their own work, it makes it more difficult them to sell their services and gain clients.
Whatever the demands of the client, the photographer should be confident in demonstrating their technical skills to meet their needs.
Photography professionals should also be able to demonstrate a high level of patience.
Shoots can take a while, especially if models act unprofessional or there is a problem concerning wardrobe or props, so being patient with others will keep everyone relaxed and make for a successful photo shoot.
Maintaining an aura of approachability is essential for photographers to keep those they are working with at ease.
There are many people who aren’t used to having their photograph taken who may feel uncomfortable in front of a camera lens under the studio lighting.
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For this reason, photographs should have the skills to reassure and calm those who are nervous or apprehensive in the studio setting.
If these important qualities are already a part of your personality and you’re a budding photographer, you’re halfway there!
Training to be a Professional Photographer
Photography, like make professions, demands a certain level of expertise before you get started.
However, the route you follow before you qualify as a professional can differ according to your interests and personal objectives.
· GCSE Art & Design
If you decide that you’d like to get into photography at an early age, you can gain your first formal qualification in a creative subject by studying for a GCSE in Art & Design.
Although GCSE photography courses do exist, they are quite rare, so studying Art & Design is the next best way to develop your sense of creativity and get to grips with the planning, creation and exhibition of artistic work.
· Photography A-Level
For many, taking an A-level exam in photography will be the first time they experience the subject in its pure form.
Many schools and sixth-form colleges ask that applicants to A-level photography courses have a GCSE in Art & Design, however, there are exceptions to this rule.
Assessment methods for this course generally centre around coursework, where students are tasked with creating a collection of photographs around a central theme or question.
· Photography HNC
The next level up from A-level (level 3 on the RQS) is the Higher National Certificate in Photography (level 4 on the RQS).
These courses can usually be completed at colleges or via online photography courses at home. The objective of these courses is to help you take your photographic skills to the next level as you move on from the photography basics and learn how to use your equipment to its full potential as you take on more advanced photography tasks. Why not look on Superprof for photography courses London or anywhere around the UK.
· Photography HND
Level 5 qualifications can include many things such as foundations degrees, level 5 NVQ and the Higher National Diploma.
To take the course offered by the British Academy of Photography as an example, this course lasts for 18 months and costs £1950 – and you have the opportunity of a work placement as part of your study.
This course covers everything from the practice of photography techniques and using software such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to setting up and managing your photography business – perfect for those who dream of running their own studio!
· Photography Degree
Just like any other bachelor’s degree, photography degrees last from three to four years, depending on your mode of study and whether you have a year in industry.
Studying for a photography degree will give you access to professional equipment as well as plenty of contacts in the world of photography which may be useful once you graduate. You are also aided in developing your photography portfolio as you learn about the history of photography, using artistic ideas in photography and the place of photography in the digital age.
This selection of available courses is not exhaustive, and there are plenty of other options for those aiming for a career in photography, as well as those looking to develop their photography skills as a hobby (such as online photography courses).
What Job Prospects and Income Can Photographers Expect?
Most of the time, new professional photographers work independently.
This mode of employment gives them the means to gain valuable experience and references before applying for jobs with photography businesses.
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Photography experience many include taking wedding photographs, photographing events and building a portfolio of landscape photography, portraiture, street photography, macro photography (the contents of which can be sold on later on).
The income of photographers varies according to whether they are paid at an hourly rate or per photo as well as whether they work for an employer or as a freelance photographer.
The Advantages of a Career in Photography
There are many advantages to becoming a professional photographer which make this creative career not only viable but also incredibly attractive.
Firstly, this is a profession driven by passion.
Unlike many jobs, photography is mostly practiced by people who are passionate about their work, and since most of us dream of doing jobs we love, photography is perfect for those who take their digital camera everywhere.
Photography is also a profession which opens doors.
Every concert, festival and VIP event needs a photographer to capture the high points of the occasion and immortalise them in an image.
Some photographers even have access to press cards, meaning that you may be the one of the first on the scene of a headline news story.
Of course, there are many things which differentiate amateur photographers from professionals. Professional photographers are more likely to be paid a regular salary and they have the appropriate skills to advise clients and models.
So, the answer is yes! Photography is a profession which is still thriving, even given the large number of social media photographers.