How to Become a Professional Photographer?

How to Become a Professional Photographer?

In Instagram people ask me about how to become a professional photographer? Photographers, who managed to turn their hobby into moneymaking business typically use advanced methods and technologies to take pictures and deliver quality prints or digital shots. These specialists know how to choose photo equipment, create the appropriate composition, pose their models, use necessary image editing softwares and always follow the popular photography trends.

 Nowadays, there are a lot of amateurs learning photography without school and promoting their services on their own. They may be engaged in different photo genres (portrait, wedding, children photography, etc.), but all of them have to work hard to attract potential clients. There are also photojournalists, who work in mass media and fine art shooters, who take pictures to sell them at art exhibitions, galleries or on the web. In this article, I will try to give the most effective way of how to become a professional photographer in 14 easy steps.

How to Become a professional Photographer in 14 Easy Steps?

  1. Ask the right questions
  2. Get necessary education
  3. Purchase proper equipment
  4. Master the setting of your equipment
  5. Choose your photography style
  6. Find your audience
  7. Master image editing
  8. Find photography locations near you
  9. Do a photography internship with a professional photographer
  10. Try workshops
  11. Create your online portfolio website
  12. Do marketing campaign
  13. Find feedback
  14. Practice even when you don’t have clients

Have you ever thought of how to become a professional photographer and earn good money? Would you like to make a career, which will bring you personal satisfaction and general recognition? Why 14 steps? It is a truly convenient way to focus on the key stages not getting distracted by minor issues. Move from one stage to another and you’ll finally achieve what you want!

1. Ask the Right Questions

Becoming a freelance photographer or a full-time specialist is a great decision if you are sure that you'll be able to combine your passion with the business aspect of this occupation. Anyone, who is going to master a new profession should answer the questions, which will help understand if he/she possess all important qualities to achieve success.

  • What inspires me?
  • Am I ready to start and develop on my own?
  • Can I work alone and offer professional services?
  • Which photo genre interests me most of all?
  • What niches in my region I can fulfill?
  • How can I master photography and photo editing skills?
  • What will be the price of my services?

Major Features

  • Education: Not obligatory. Still many amateurs attend photography classes and get the bachelor's degree to increase chances of employment.
  • Degree Field: Photography, Digital Arts or any related field.
  • Experience: Becoming a photographer without going to school and having experience is quite a common thing. You may develop your portfolio with each new photo session.
  • Key Skills: Artistic ability, business skills, customer service skills, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, expertise with photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, and expertise with DSLR and mirrorless cameras, as well as lenses, tripods, flash attachments, and filters.
  • Salary: $32,490 per year (average salary for all photographers)

2. Get the Necessary Education

photography classes

You are really lucky, as professional photography belongs to those fields, which don’t require structured education and degrees. You can study at home, develop your skills and practice as much as you wish without attending schools or colleges. Still, if you want to know how to become a professional photographer and create your own business, this will be quite helpful.

You may choose any course, starting with Certificate programs and ending with an Associate Degree in Photography. The Certificate Photography programs last several months. The students learn the fundamentals of the profession and receive a photography licence. Such programs cover:

  • Basics of photography
  • Digital photography features, image editing programs, and techniques
  • History of (film) photography

Associate Degree in Photography:
You can get an Associate Degree in Photography in different specialized schools, colleges, and universities. The studying lasts 2 years. The lessons are technical oriented and students learn how to use diverse techniques – shot in poor lighting, choose proper angles, etc. Moreover, they are taught how to become a good photographer, who works in a studio.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography:
More ambitious students often continue studying and get the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography Degree. Such courses are offered by colleges and universities and they last 4 years. The curriculum comprises also coursework and covers different photography types.

Master of Fine Arts:
The Master’s Degree in Photography is oriented on those students, who look for practical experience. You can get this degree only if you have passes the Bachelors training.

Online Photography Courses:
If you don’t have enough time to attend classes, there is a great variety of both paid and free online photography courses, Photography courses London. In such a way, you may study any time you can.

It is also a great idea to visit photography workshops, where you can create your portfolio. Don’t forget about reading. There are lots of interesting and useful blogs, articles, and video tutorials on the web, which will help you understand how to adjust your camera, which parameters influence the quality of images, what lighting equipment you need, etc. Besides, you may find information about portrait photography poses and photo editing for beginners. Take your time and experiment with different picture editing apps until you find something suitable and the workflow becomes a real pleasure.

What Qualifications do You Need to Become a professional Photographer?

Photographers develop their professional skill and acquire new knowledge in different ways. Some prefer learning at home, while others attend classes and earn a photography degree. There is a great variety of specialized establishments, which offer photography courses and give shooters a chance to build their skill and get experience without completing a degree. Thus, they can enjoy the studying process and don’t worry about final exams. Students may choose the courses they like:

  • Basics of photography
  • Lighting equipment and setting
  • Camera adjustment
  • Composition
  • Editing

Besides, you may choose the classes dedicated to the photo style you are interested in:

  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Newborn
  • Product
  • Nature

What Courses Should You Take In High School to Become a Photographer?

If you want to become a licensed photographer and make a living in this way, pay attention to several school classes, which are really useful for the further college education.

Photo Journalism

become a journalism photographer

Natalie Keyssar for TIME magazine

Typically, at such classes, you will learn the fundamentals of journalism, but there are also some topics connected to photojournalism. If you are lucky enough and your school offers a good program, you may even learn how to become an editorial photographer. It happens quite often that students, who study journalist become photographers, so you should treat such classes very seriously as they may become the basis for further development. Even nowadays, when photographers use DSLRs, it is sometimes very useful to know the darkroom techniques and understand how the great picture is created.

Film Studies

Do you really want to know how to become a professional photographer? Never miss your film classes. Photography and film are 2 related fields. If you understand what the perfect angles for recording movies are and how can you capture different emotions, you’ll have no problem with similar techniques when you have a camera in your hands. Be very attentive and learn different tricks, which are typically used while shooting films and try to imitate them in photography.


Some schools have an elaborate training program and offer art courses with a sufficient number of lessons dedicated to photography. Art classes may significantly improve your creative vision, master color composition, show possible ways to convey emotions and generally develop your artistic taste. Besides, you will learn the basics of graphic design, which is also an interesting field to choose as a profession.

Computer Skills

Among the skills needed to be a photographer, there is definitely computer proficiency. You can hardly call a photographer professional if he/she knows nothing about image editing softwares, file extensions, photo converters etc. If you take beginner computer classes, you will learn the major things you must know as a shooter. At graphic design lessons, students are taught techniques how to create photo albums, business cards, ads, logos, etc.


There are no strict rules on how to become a professional photographer and the variety of educational courses is rather diverse. Actually, it may take years of practice to get all the necessary knowledge and develop skills until you feel confident enough to offer your photography services.

3. Purchase Proper Equipment

Trying to figure out how to become a professional photographer, you have surely come across many articles about must-have gear. Primarily, you have to learn how to use the equipment you already have. It is very important to choose the gear in accordance with the photo genre, you are engaged in, be it wedding photography gear, landscape shooting, etc.

Best Amateur Camera Kit for the First Start

Best Amateur Camera Kit for the First Start


If you decide to buy the best camera for an amateur photographer, which is typically very expensive, read many reviews, try to find the camera and lenses you like and test them before buying. Think about photography genre you would like to work in. There are many different styles and they typically require different lenses, flashes, etc. The best and quickest way to decide on the gear is to consult the professionals.

4. Learn How to Set Your Photography Equipment

skills needed to be a photographer

The truth is that professional photographers know how to shot in the Manual mode and they don’t use the Auto settings at all. There are 3 key parameters you must know:

  • ISO
  • Aperture
  • Shutter speed

Each of them greatly affects the quality of your picture. I have to admit that it took me a long time when I was a beginner shooter to understand how everything works. So, be very persistent if you really want to know how to become a professional photographer. In addition, you should learn how to regulate focus and set composition, which will allow you to realize your creative ideas.

5. Identify the Niche: Why It is So Important?

There are certainly different niches you may choose from: wedding portraits, newborn photography, travel, real estate, interior photography, portrait, jewelry photography, wildlife, and many others. After you define your specialization, the clients will have a clearer understanding of what to expect and how they can get in touch with you.

how to become a photographer

Even if you have decided to become a portrait photographer, for example, you’ll probably have other related orders and you shouldn’t refuse. In such a way, you can earn more money and enrich your portfolio with diverse photos. It is a natural thing to experiment with different styles at the beginning of your career. Actually, it takes time to understand what genre you like most. Still, don’t try to cover several niches at once. It will be quite difficult and your business may not look really professional. Your goal is to become a truly skillful photographer. If you plan to make a living with shooting, it is advisable to find your personal niche.

6. Find Your Focus Area

If you attend photography classes, you probably have an idea about a kind of photography, you would like to work in. If you still have some doubts ask yourself what genre brings you real pleasure and encourages you to continue development. Besides, you may show your works to your relatives and friends, and ask about their opinion. The variety is really rich, so you’ll have to debate a matter in mind. For instance, if you think of how to become a real estate photographer, visit sites of successful real estate shooters and examine their works.

But don’t try to imitate somebody, even the best photographers. You have to develop your unique style. Is there anything special you like to photograph – nature, people, property, jewelry? Follow your dreams and trust your passion. These are your personal powerful tools, which will help to grow as a photographer. Sometimes, specific gear, models, lighting setup, and image editing programs help to define the photo style. Monitor the work of other local shooters. Keep reading and learning to be aware of modern trends.

7. Master Image Editing

how to become a photographer

Some photographers say that they treat image editing as a separate art, which requires special knowledge. You have probably noticed that some terms are identical in a camera and Photoshop. Still, taking pictures and editing them are two different things. But if you want to learn how to become a great photographer, you have to master both of them.

The most well-known and effective programs to enhance photos are Photoshop and Lightroom. So, you have to learn how to use them, as they feature lots of necessary tools.

Want to make your photo professionally edited in several days? Trust FixThePhoto – an experience online photo editing service that offer high end portrait photo retouching, wedding, newborn, family, product, real estate photo editing services since 2003. Fast, affordable (about $5 per photo), and secure.

8. Find Photography Locations near You

Every picture has a composition and a setting. Even if the photo session is spontaneous, the place for the shooting is usually examined in advance. In case it is a park or a riverfront, it is much easier to conduct a photo session than to find a studio or the location, where the license or permission is needed. Every kind of photography implies its own specific locations. For example, for landscape shooting, you won’t need the fashion scenery, and so on. So, if you want to know how to become a professional photographer, remember that finding the ideal place for the shooting is crucial.

Google Earth/Google Maps

skills needed to be a photographer Google Earth

If you do not want to go all over your city or even country to find a great place, just use online maps. You’re most likely familiar with Google Maps, which can also be used to determine the location. Google Earth, in turn, will help you find amazing views.

Instagram Location Tags

skills needed to be a photographer Instagram location tags

The question of how to become a professional photographer is not so difficult in some cases. Using Instagram can be a great help, as it will let you learn the newest information about the locations you may choose. You will see many photos, so you can understand what weather you should expect, and what the other conditions in this place are. In addition, you can detect some disadvantages, like a construction or some other nuances that can hinder the shooting.

9. Do a Photography Internship with a Professional Photographer

how to become a photographer

If you a beginner and want to learn how to become a professional photographer, watch and communicate with other experienced photographers, and masters your skills. Do not be afraid to get feedback about your work, even if it is a critical one. Eventually, all of this will contribute to your development and professionalism.

How to become a professional photographer? Learn from a photographer! That is why it is an amazing idea to search the vacancies and become an assistant of a professional shooter or become a second shooter at the wedding. This will give you a great experience. It important is to watch your mentor and learn how to use your knowledge in practice. During your training period, you should concentrate on understanding the photography business and how to deal with the customers.

10. Try Workshops

Do not think that learning a few basic things ensures that you know how to become a professional photographer. You should never stop learning and developing, especially at the beginning of your career. For example, you can take some online photography classes, visit different workshops or find your own mentor. This all will enable you to bring your career to a higher level. Anyway, it is never too late to learn, so keep improving your skills, growing and gaining experience.

You should also think over learning how to become a professional photographer from the business side. This is really useful if you want to promote your photography career. Moreover, now a lot of the photo magazines write about the business aspects of this occupation, so you have a real chance to become an owner of a big and successful photography business. You also have an opportunity to join the Photography Associations Free Membership where you would learn necessary and interesting information and gain experience.

11. Create Your Online Portfolio Website

how to become an editorial photographer

Actually, it is one of the essential steps if you dream of becoming a freelance photographer. Creating your own portfolio website means that you set up a connection between you and your clients. It is a great step forward as well. The portfolio “speaks” for itself, and it represents you as a photographer so that you have a chance to meet new clients or become engaged in amazing projects even beyond your comfort zone. In order to attract clients, you should understand that the portfolio must comprise the works you are good at. You may examine the pictures of famous photographers and get inspired by them.

The issue of how to become a professional photographer also deals with the importance of choosing the right platform for your portfolio website. Try to find a website builder that will offer you functionality, flexibility, and simple use to enable you to create a great product without coding strategies.

12. Tell People About What You Do to Grow Your Network

Tell people about your new business! Analyzing photography marketing is the next step of your becoming a professional photographer. Of course, you will begin with your family and close people. Do not also forget about the social media, especially the above-mentioned Instagram, which is becoming now a great platform to start your business. Remember to leave the link to your portfolio website.

Keep telling your colleagues, acquaintances about your services. You can give them a business card if they are interested in your services and show your portfolio. Do not neglect different local events to meet new people. By the way, you can even take part as a photographer in those events, so that people will learn you better. Look for the ways to enhance the skills needed to be a photographer, which will make you more confident.

career in photography where to start

13. Find Feedback

You have already learned the basic things and tips on how to become a successful photographer, and the next step is to find the courage and seek out the feedback. No matter in what area and how you are growing, the professional opinion about your photos is a sufficient thing that lets you understand your possible mistakes and the aspects of your work, which have to be improved. However, it has to be a person, who really knows the photography and can speak out. It can be your mentor or the group of other photographers.

It is very important not to worry and panic in case you get negative comments. The question of how to become a great photographer implies that you have to make every effort to find your oversights and improve them. It can be difficult for you, but it is crucial for developing. Just do not forget your goal and create a list of things, which you must improve.

14. Practice Even When You Don’t Have Clients

If you ever asked yourself ‘what do I need to do to become a photographer?’ remember that one of the important things is an everyday practice. Do it as much as possible. The more you practice, the more chances you have to become a professional. Besides, remember that you have to upgrade your portfolio and accounts on social media constantly. This will make you more skillful, so many tasks will become automatic for you.

It is going without saying that you have to shoot for your clients, but if you do not have any at the moment, never waste your time. Find a location and take the photos every day! It is important for becoming a photographer without going to school. You can make this process much more interesting, setting up a project, for example. You can take every day a photo for the whole year and create a ‘365’ project. In addition, you can arrange free photo sessions and use them to check new ideas or new poses.

Types Of Career in Photography Where to Start?

How to Become a Good Photographer in Portraiture?

how to become a good photographer

To become a portrait photographer, primarily you need to learn everything about lighting and different posing techniques. No matter what kind of portrait you take, whether it concerns family, fashion or sport, this will enable you to understand how to take the photo perfect like an expert. You have to master the fundamentals of this genre. Experiment and practice with posing to understand the best angles and learn lighting techniques to create the ideal photo.

How to Become a Professional Photographer in Weddings?

how to become a wedding photographer

The most reasonable and right answer to the question of how to become a wedding photographer is to begin as an assistant of a professional shooter. Even if you’re a great photographer, you may not even realize how a wedding photo session occurs! It is very important to know every detail, such as what things you have to capture, when shoot the newlyweds, how to deal with guests, and how this day runs in general. You will develop your own style and manner of organizing the shootings when you become more experienced. But it is the best way to learn the basic things for the first time.

One of the most serious hindrances for you as a beginner is a wedding portfolio. Of course, your potential clients will want to see your ready works, and that’s okay, but what should you do if you haven’t shot weddings yet? How to become a professional photographer without a portfolio? Most shooters decide to visit different seminars and workshop, and it is a great idea! First of all, you will have an opportunity to get a few photos for your portfolio without the pressure of the wedding. In addition, you can meet a lot of new photographer friends, and learn many useful things from the people, who hold the workshop. But there are also disadvantages, and the main is that it will not represent a real wedding day. You will also have much more time for shooting than at the real wedding. Thus, you should realize that it’s a great way to get some new photos for your portfolio, but it will not show you how the real wedding day runs.

How to Become a Professional Photographer in Travelling?

how to become a travel photographer

If you are interested in how to become a travel photographer, you probably understand that it deals with capturing places in all the glory. Of course, you are going to travel a lot and visit many locations, whether it is some places of interest, buildings, landscapes, and so on. Travel photography is in most cases connected with the tourism industry, as it delivers pictures for advertisings, magazines, brochures, and for the social media. Here you can learn some advice on how to develop the travel photography business:

  • It is not going to be easy, so get involved in such a sphere only if you are passionate about it
  • Get ready to invest a lot of efforts, time and money to learn everything about the trade
  • Create your personal website
  • Promote your services with the help of social media
  • Try to set up your travel photography blog

How to Become a Professional Photographer in Real Estate?

how to become a real estate photographer

The question of how to become a real estate photographer is not so easy to answer. It requires both your photography skills and marketing aptitudes to offer your services to the real estate agents. Listing brokers claim that the collection of property photos that includes every part of the building, represent full information about the house to the customers. So, first, develop your skills of using the different lenses for such type of photography and pay attention to your communication skills to succeed in promoting your services. You have a great chance to participate in The Real Estate Photographers of America and International Trade Association and find an agent that needs your services.

How to Become a Professional Photographer in National Geographic?

how to become a wildlife photographer

As a rule, National Geographic photographers have a photography degree and not only in one discipline. Among them, there are sciences, sociology, anthropology, and so on. So if you want to become such a shooter, it is better to have a degree in some other disciplines. National Geographic requires freelancers with at least 5-year experience in photojournalism or in some specific field, such as nature, aerial or underwater photography.

How to Become a Freelance Photographer?

how to become a freelance photographer

Let’s face the fact that freelance beginning photographers will most likely to get small salaries. It often happens that at the start of the career the freelancers work for free just because they have to gain more experience and add a few wonderful photos to their collection. You should decide when you’re ready to take money for your work. Do you know how to become a better photographer? For example, you may begin working with small websites and social media accounts. You can also offer your service to some hostel or a lodge. Don’t expect to get a great amount of money, as it will rather give you the necessary experience and skills to start dealing with something more serious.

How to be a Freelance Photographer:

Learning and understanding how to become a professional photographer is really an interesting issue that has a lot of pros and cons, ups and downs. The most important is to know your goal and keep moving to it.

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