Four Tips for Getting Through Your First Paying Job

Four Tips for Getting Through Your First Paying Job

Getting started as a professional photographer is a daunting task. Psychologically, it is a huge leap from taking photographs for fun to getting paid for a photograph (or photographs).

My first paying job was second shooting at a wedding for someone. It was a great and low pressure way to get into the profession of photography. But not all of us have that option, nor do we perhaps want to go down that route. So, here are four tips to get you through your first paying job.

Start Small

Chose something well within yourself for your first paying job. Being paid is pressure enough. Don’t try to do something you haven’t done before; there will be plenty of opportunities for this further down the line. For now, just try to get over the hurdle of getting paid. This can be as difficult as the actual job. Money really does change everything. 

Charge Less Than It Is Worth

It isn’t price cutting at this point, it is self-preservation. Charge less than you think the job is worth and over-deliver. Maybe even hold a deliverable back from the quote and throw it in for free afterwards to make sure the client is over the moon. You obviously can’t sustain this long-term, but never underestimate the pressure that money can add to taking a photograph. Making sure that you know the client will be more than happy in advance of the shoot will put you in a strong position. 

Be Clear in What You Are Delivering

As it is your first shoot that you are being paid for, chances are that your client's expectations and your own expectations are wildly different. Be sure to get everything in writing beforehand. There is nothing more stressful than trying to manage a disappointed client after the fact.

Don’t Try to Reinvent the Wheel

When I started out, I wanted everything to be perfect. It wasn’t, and it still isn’t nearly a decade later. For your first job, set your expectations as well as your client's and aim to please them, not to shoot like the next Leibovitz. Most people's photographic needs are pretty basic. A lot of new photographers overcomplicate things and try too hard to produce something amazing and original. For a lot of us, we never achieve anything amazing or original, but with your first job, walk before you run. But remember, you know more about photography than anyone else in the room. This advice has seen me through a lot of tough times on set. 

What would your tips be looking back at your first job?

Scott Choucino's picture

Food Photographer from the UK. Not at all tech savvy and knows very little about gear news and rumours.

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And please. for the love of God, don't work for "exposure"! Not only are you shafting yourself, but ALL photographers and the industry as well, It's criminal to work for a client where not only do they profit from you without due compensation, but that you must pay them as well. Don't become someone's little bitch. People who claim to have no budget for hiring you often have a yearly turnover in the millions. Don't be so desperate as to settle for "exposure" or no-one will take your business seriously. Don't be bamboozled by their scam.

Absolutes are generally not a good idea. This is no exception.

Working for exposure absolutely can be beneficial, depending on the circumstances and if thought through from a business perspective. I've done it with success.

Miguel Quiles has a couple of good videos regarding this: