art business journal

Photography: Creative Hobby to Creative Career

hands holding various cameras

Creativity is a way of life…but making creativity into a living can seem daunting — particularly when you don’t have an educational or professional background in art. If you are a non-professional artist who is eager to turn your artistic talents into a career, you’ve come to the right place.

Together, Artrepreneur and Creative Circle have put together this comprehensive article series to support budding artists in the early stages of their art careers. In this article series, you’ll find valuable information on building and maintaining a career in the creative space. We cover topics including career paths, preparing for interviews, using social media to grow your footprint, networking, and much more. Both Creative Circle and Artrepreneur are committed to being here for you throughout your career.

You love photography. No, not just taking pictures. Photography. The art of capturing a moment, of manipulating light and motion to convey your vision, of representing how you see the world in a single image. Maybe you’re an amateur hobbyist, maybe you went to college for photography, maybe you just took some classes, but now, you want to become a professional photographer and start making some money from your images. 

Photography is one of the most accessible forms of art, which makes it a wonderfully democratized platform and a highly competitive field. As the cameras on our mobile devices become more and more sophisticated, professional photography will most likely become even more saturated. However, pursuing a photography career is both possible and fulfilling, so how do you break in? 

Understanding Photography

This probably goes without saying, but understanding how photography works is key to making a career out of the field: Have you mastered the balance of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO? Do you have knowledge of how these elements work together and how different combinations apply to different types of photography? Learning about composition, shape, form, color, space, and texture, and how each informs a photo, is Photography 101, so it’s important to master these skills and concepts before going pro. 

Equipment

it’s crucial to invest in the necessary equipment!

Obviously, photography is an art form that requires some equipment, namely a camera, and while you may not want to drop serious cash on accessories when you’re first starting out, at some point, it’s crucial to invest in the necessary equipment. Lenses are just as important as, if not more important than, the camera itself. While walkaround lenses are the perfect flexible item, specialized lenses like wide-angle, telephoto, or macro are key to producing particular types of images based on your vision and style. 

Photography is all about light, so lighting setup is also a must-have. Whether it’s a speedlight that sits on your camera or an umbrella/softbox set, lighting is the difference between a picture and a breathtaking photo. 

Other items to consider would be tripods, filters, bags, and proper computer monitors, but one of the most important pieces of equipment has nothing to do with taking the picture itself. Photo editing software is an essential part of the process. Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, being able to edit your work to bring out your vision, emphasize certain aspects, or make it as vibrant as you initially saw it is part of the photography process.

Portfolio

As with all creative fields, having a strong portfolio is key. Even if you don’t have previous professional experience, take the time to showcase your favorite shots, making sure to include a 1-2 sentence description of the photo including the location, project, or any other context necessary for potential clients. 

Reaching out

Chances are there are working photographers in your network—get in touch and talk to them. At the very least, you’ll gain some valuable insight into how they got started, what their day-to-day looks like, or how they approach their work. Maybe they’ll have another connection or an opportunity for you. 

On that note, networking is really helpful, whether you’re looking for folks to exchange work and feedback with or you’re looking for a job. Keep an eye out for meet-ups, virtual workshops/panels, or local lectures. Continue to check job postings for photographers. If a project seems too out of your league, look for photo assistant or second shooter positions, but be sure to value your time and work and charge clients accordingly.

Level Up: Taking Your Photography to the Next Level

If you have a few gigs under your belt and want to keep improving your craft, here are some things to think about. 

Specialize

At the beginning of most creative careers, you want to get any experience, so you’ll be taking on a wide variety of gigs just to get some billable hours but as you start to get the hang of things, specializing can help you focus on your craft while getting yourself established enough to have a steady flow of clients. Ideally, you’ll be able to find an intersection between what you enjoy and what there is demand for. Love working with families? Try family portraiture. Do you love capturing athletic feats or the emotional highs and lows of a game? Think about sports photography. There are so many different types of photography, and if you’re dedicated enough, you can become the go-to photographer for your niche in your community and beyond. 

Voice

You can have all the equipment in the world and even the technical know-how, but being a great photographer requires honing in on your voice, vision, and style. Being able to communicate your perspective (literally and figuratively) is how you set yourself apart from other photographers and creating a signature style takes practice. Experiment, repeat and have fun as you find your photographic voice.

Are you looking into a career in photography? Questions? Comment below!

This article was co-created by Creative Circle. Creative Circle is an award-winning recruiting and consulting company representing digital, creative, and marketing professionals. Our job is to make your job easier, whether you’re hiringbuilding a team, or searching for your next role. Together, we can solve your biggest challenges. Special thanks to Melissa Rogers, Senior Brand Manager of Creative Circle.

Sam Mani

Sam Mani writes about work, creativity, wellness, and equity — when she’s not cooking, binging television, or annoying her cat.

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