Struggling to Break into Professional Photography?

Being a professional photographer is becoming more and more of a sought-after career. If you are struggling to make the jump, here are some pointers that might help you out.

When I wanted to become a professional photographer way back in 2008, I assumed that it would be a pretty quick transition. I had my camera, and I could expose an image and use off-camera flash. I was ready, or so I thought. About a decade later, I had finally learned enough to be competitive as a commercial photographer. 

For some reason, I assumed it would be easy to get into a creative career, especially coming from a scientific background. Little did I know just how much information I had to absorb before I could do the smallest of shoots. By the time I shot my first worldwide ad campaign, I had spent about seven years of seven-day weeks working and learning for 10-12 hours a day. Even now, I spend a huge amount of time learning and trying to improve my craft every single week. 

This video covers some key areas in which photographers end up falling short of the mark when trying to turn from hobbyist to professional. From work ethic to finances, these pointers are key if you want to become part of a very small percentage of photographers who pay their bills with a camera. 

I personally believe that anyone can become a professional photographer. I managed it, and I am the sort of person who has the ability to lock themselves out of their home completely naked. But knowing what it takes is really useful. I thought I knew what it took to be a professional photographer when I started out; clearly, I was miles from the mark. Yet, a decade later, I am starting to understand the work ethic and skills required to make this hobby work as a profession. 

What has your biggest learning curve been so far?

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18 Comments

Ivan Lantsov's picture

take business class this video crap!

Scott Choucino's picture

Sorry you didn't like it.

One must know how to run a business first.

It all depends on what discipline one enters. Weddings and portraits are wide open as clients are generally a "customer experience" breed.
Commercial and sports are more demanding of "professional" quality and results.
Landscape for publication is about shooting for a clients style and needs. Same with stock for purchase. But a "look" is what sells. Not an " experience".

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah I can get on board with this approach/mindset.

That's a good video.

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks, glad it was of use.

Rob Mitchell's picture

For someone so incredibly busy with shoots, my full respect for having the time to make so many of these videos.
Some are better than others though, a case of less is more, maybe?

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks, I have actually reduced the amount of shooting I am doing atm as I have started working at a slightly different level so a lot of old clients have moved on elsewhere. Which has afforded me a day a week to do videos.

Some are certainly better than others haha. It is very much a learning curve.

Mike Smith's picture

All points well made, resonates with where I am right now. The 24h rule is a killer for me but I guess that is because I have two other jobs but this year I have already earned tenfold from photography than I did last year. That 10 yèars might just have to be 15 for me...!!!!

Scott Choucino's picture

Juggling multiple jobs is really hard. 15 years is still good going!

Spot on.
I am older than you and have done it for a few more years than you but I can attest to the fact of the eternal truths in this video.
The work ethic cannot be overstated. The actual reason one sees successful people is because of the countless hours they have invested in the field. This is true of anything.
What misleads so many today is the endless media presence of people who seem to have woken up one day to be an IG "influencer" and have a million followers the next day.
The reason so many quit is because at the end of the day they really were not that enamored of whatever field they just left. No shame, but so may don't know what they are willing to give up until they try.

BTW your videos are to the point and useful to many irrespective of expertise. Keep it up. In 20 years you will be an overnight success. ;)

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks, glad that you are enjoying them. It’s been much harder than I thought to make them!

THAT is the crux of so many things. Looks much easier than actually doing it. And then doing it well.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah, current plan is to do a vid a day as kinda inversion therapy haha

Gerald Bertram's picture

I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put together this video, not to mention the many more you have been churning out recently. Just putting yourself out there is challenging enough without having to deal with the toxic comments of the Internet. I look forward to your future videos.

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks, fortunately I have extremely thick skin haha.

As somebody who is still very much in this game after 30 years, I found Scott's advice to be on the money. I would only add whatever niche you pick, make sure it is relevant to the area you are in. West Bend, IN. is not going to support a great fashion photographer. You also need to continuously grow and stay relevant.

Imagen playing "pin the tail on the donkey" but not only are you blindfolded, but the donkey is also always moving. That is what this business is like.
www.zavesmith.com

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah this is very true. I always tell people in my area who want to be fashion photographers but dont want to move to London that they are never going to get anywhere even close.