There are many paths in professional photography. I have gone down the route of commercial photography, and whilst I am nowhere near where I want to be in professionally, I thought I’d share a few points that can go a long way to making it as a professional commercial photographer.
1. Get a Studio
Having a studio space is so important. When the phone rings, the first question is often “Do you have a studio?” Clients see this as an additional cost if you are renting one, even though it’s often built into the photographer's fee. Having a studio also allows you to take on really last minute shoots without the stress of having to find somewhere that’s available to rent. They also help to keep your sitting room, kitchen, bedroom, hallway, garage and car clear of photography kit.
2. Be Kitted Out
Having the best and most up to date cameras and lights in the world is not really a requirement anymore. The image quality of cameras has surpassed most peoples viewing options today. However, if you shoot on a certain camera you need to have at least two others of them. That way, if one goes down during a job, you can carry on producing the exact same files using the spare.
3. A Diverse Client Base
Having few clients who pay big money is a risky move. If one of them loses their budget or goes elsewhere it can leave you financially vulnerable. Having a mix of high paying, low volume clients through to low paying high volume clients maintains stability and a healthy cash flow.
I had my first manager about four years ago. I am now with an agent in London and it makes a huge difference to the way I work. Having an agent allows you to play good cop/bad cop, removes you from difficult conversations about fees, and frees you to actually take some photos rather than chase invoices and discuss diary constraints with clients.
5. Being a Good Friend
Pulling in favors is a major part of starting out. if you are a good friend to people then they will happily help you out too. I cannot stress how vital this is.
Social media is a great tool to get you noticed, but nothing compares to meeting people in person. Once someone has met and liked you, the chances of you getting work are far higher than if someone likes your latest Instagram post. If calling it "networking" makes you feel queasy think of it as making new friends. People buy people.
Assisting other photographers is a great way to learn how to work with clients in the professional world. From what I have heard from U.K. graduates in photography, this is something that just isn’t taught over here. Understanding how a photoshoot should run from inquiry to delivery will help you keep your clients coming back for more.
Knowing the latest trends and what other companies are using in their ad campaigns is important. When you are in a meeting and the client talks about what their rivals are doing, you are expected to know exactly what they are talking about and to understand why the market is moving in that direction.
9. Technical Knowledge
This seems like a given, but in commercial photography knowing your way around hyperfocal and the inverse square law is vital. When a client draws a scamp you need to instantly know how to produce that image.
10. A Strong Portfolio
Without a strong portfolio, you will find it hard to win high-end commercial work. Find something you love and run with it. Regardless of your interest in photography, there will be a client out there willing to pay good money for your skill set.