How to Get Your First Paying Job

Getting your first paying job is without a doubt the hardest task you will ever complete as a professional photographer. In this video, I give my advice on how to obtain your first paying client.

This video covers the key areas in which you should focus on if you want to attract your first real paying client (not your aunt or a friend's wedding). It goes over key points including social media use and networking, as well as going over how I obtained my first commercial photoshoot that ended up being a big ad campaign through a bizarre set of circumstances. 

Although it is not impossible to charge some money for a portrait or wedding, pulling an ad campaign together and doing a professional commercial shoot can seem somewhat out of reach for beginners (myself included). The take-home message in this video is all about consistency, which is a bit of a buzz word at the moment. It can often seem like photographers appear out of nowhere, but it took me years to land my first campaign. It took me a decade of being a photographer to feel like I knew enough to start a YouTube channel and about eight years before I felt ready to write for a website like Fstoppers. Consistency and patience go a long way to getting your first job.How did you get your first paying job? 

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2 Comments

Tom Reichner's picture

I got my first paying job without even trying.

I'm a wildlife photographer. I asked permission from a rancher to photograph the wild pheasants that were on his ranch. The ranch was a big corporate interest, but the manager/overseer/partial owner lived right there on the property.

When I stopped in the office to ask him for permission to photograph the pheasants, he said, "we have several corporate partners coming in a couple of weeks to see how we operate the ranch. We'll be driving the cattle from the winter yard to the summer range, and the visitors who are able to ride will be accompanying us for the day. Would you go with us and photograph it?"

I answered. "Yeah, that'd be great."

He said, "I'd want at least one good picture of each person riding, and I want the pictures on a CD. How much do you charge for that?"

I thought for a few moments and replied, "Four hundred dollars."

He said, "That's all? Ok."

I said, "So how about the pheasants? Will you allow me to come to the ranch early in the mornings to photograph them?"

He said, "Oh, yeah, that's fine."

And so I came to get my pheasant pictures several times, early in the mornings. And then in a couple of weeks I came for the cattle drive and photographed the crew and the visitors driving cattle. I met the crew at 7am for breakfast, we started the drive around 8am and by 1pm we had the cattle where they needed to go. I drove home and spent a couple hours downloading the photos, doing a few quick edits in iPhoto, and burned them to a CD. The next time I went to the ranch to photograph pheasants I took the CD with me and gave it to the rancher. He had his bookkeeper issue me a check for $400.

A few months later I licensed one of the pheasant photos to a magazine to use on their cover, and they paid me $500 for the usage. That was my first magazine cover ..... so two firsts from this experience; my first paid gig and my first cover.

So I got my first paying photography job without even seeking it. I am a wildlife photographer and somebody offered to hire me to photograph an event. Whatever. I would do it again, if offered to me, but I don't seek that kind of work because that's not the kind of photography that I am interested in doing.

I started my first job at abbott as a production supervisor