How To Become A Pro Photographer in 5 Simple Steps

chase jarvis photographerUDPATE: for those that don’t GET IT, this post is tongue in cheek and isn’t really about how to become a photographer. It’s about how to commit to something. There are a zillion steps to becoming a photographer. Days, weeks, years of work on the craft. But the #1 think I see absent in people who SAY they want it….it a lack of commitment – a lack of those few last steps to get them over the line, get them off their asses, off the couch, off the internet where people hide behind fake names where they pretend they’ve DONE it, that they are a pro, or have even begun to commit… This is usually because of fear. Fear that you won’t be able to support yourself and MAKE A LIVING – WHICH IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A PROFESSIONAL. The reality is that you probably either want to become a pro and still need to do the following things; or you don’t want it. In the former case – that you DO want to become a pro and – then this post is a ‘you can do this / get off your ass’ message to you. In the latter case – the case of not actually wanting it — then I’ve got no issue. But please then stop pretending / posing that you do want it. And if you’re just here to learn about the process and your taking it all in? 100% cool with me – I actually LOVE that about you. My advice then is that commitment to pulling the trigger and calling yourself a photographer in front of your friends and you parents or God or whomever is one of the hardest things…

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.

5. Repeat.

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