Anyone with access to a camera can become a photographer with a little bit of work. The question comes with what sort of a photographer one wants to be. Anyone can take pictures, and with a little bit of work those pictures can be good enough to be shared online or part of one’s own projects, but to be a professional photographer takes a considerable amount of work and commitment. This article will look at some first steps to help you become a photographer who can make a living exclusively through photography.
The most obvious step, which many people overlook, to become a photographer, is simply to take pictures at every opportunity. No matter the quality of your equipment, no matter the subject matter you have at your disposal, every picture you take will help give you a better understanding of photography. Examine the pictures you take to get a feel for how different light impacts your photos, which compositions work, what angles serve you best, and what you like best as subjects. No amount of reading or classes can make up for this simple exercise, because to truly become a photographer every aspect of your photographic style should feel like second nature, so that you don’t need to be thinking for too long about your decisions when you’re in the studio or in the field.
If you’re young, or part of a school or group that has opportunities for photographers, take full advantage of them. If there’s a school yearbook or workplace photo opportunities, volunteer to help with them. This will help you learn about deadlines, about working with editors, and whether you have the passion to actually stick with photography in the face of imperfect circumstances, which is a strong reality in professional photography.
You’ll also need to decide what kind of photographer you want to become, so that you can direct your study towards it. It is much more difficult to become a photographer than it is to become a newspaper photographer or a fine art photographer or a product photographer or a model photographer, each of which have a very specialized set of skills and will need a specialized portfolio to begin attracting good jobs. A college may offer a general photography class which can give you an opportunity to try a number of different styles, and help you determine what career path you want to get on.
Eventually, you’ll need to start collecting your gear and becoming more serious about your photography. It costs a fair amount of money to become a photographer, simply because good lenses and cameras aren’t cheap. If you’re shooting with film, you’ll have to pay for development or rent time in a lab to do your own development, and if you’re shooting digital you’ll need to make a decent investment in a professional-quality digital SLR camera.
Begin by applying for smaller freelance jobs, or trying to build a relationship with a smaller organization, such as a local theatre, community newspaper, or small businesses, to get a portfolio together. As your portfolio grows you can begin to submit to larger freelance jobs, and build up a client base that will sustain you over time and allow you to reach out and experiment with new clients.