Got a note the other day from an aspiring photographer. He wanted to know what it takes to become a pro. I thought–very pragmatically–that it’s really not complicated. HARD maybe, but complicated, no. It might be what “the industry” doesn’t want you to know, but here are the 5 steps.
1. Declare yourself a photographer. That’s what you ARE in life. You’re not a student, not a finance-guy-slash-part-time-photographer, not a part time anything. You’re a photographer. People have to know this.
2. Be in business. Make it real. Get a business bank account, business license (city + county), business cards. Business. Otherwise it’s a hobby.
3. Read every book you can find at the library or online about the business of photography. Understand the rules. Because if you fail at the business part, if you can’t SUSTAIN this business, you’re not a pro. You’re unemployed, or back to part-time this or that. And back to step 1 you go again…wanting to be a pro. NOW then, if read these books and they make sense, and they teach you how to run the books and land the gigs…you gotta then break some of the rules you read in these books. And YOU choose which are the right ones to break. You’ll be right 50% of the time, you just won’t know which 50% until after you’ve taken the leap. Action is the only thing that matters.
4. Take photographs everyday and share them, pimp them, promote them like mad. For clients and for yourself. Get creative as all hell. Find YOUR voice through shooting more photos than you thought was possible. Aim to be different, not better than everybody else. Be brutal in your edit. Put forward only your best work around the the things you actually want to get paid to shoot. Break all the rules here too. And again, you’ll be mistaken 50% of the time, but you gotta take your swings to hit anything at all. Don’t forget, the DOING is the only thing that matters here too. What you THINK is nice, but it counts for zilch, zero, nada. Action wins.