Is photography your hobby and you’d like it to become your profession? You might want to consider these things before you quit your day job.
You’ve landed on one of 28 posts about photography and how to improve your skills. If you’re a creative, blogger, or photography enthusiast, you’ve landed in the right spot!
To Go Pro or Stay Amature
“You should sell your photos!” my fellow teacher enthused as when she came over to my house and saw my gallery wall.
“Hmm,” I said. Not really knowing where to go with that statement.
“Really,” she insisted. “Your photos look like things people hang in hotels and offices.”
“I’ll look into it,” I said, hoping my words would help her change the subject. Unless she knew someone who actually knew how to turn photography into a profession, I didn’t know what else to say.
Although I had sold two or three photos to magazines or businesses, I considered photography my avocation (and my mental health outlet), not a profession.
But the glamour of calling myself a professional photographer still lures me at times. For now, I find contentment in taking photos in my spare time and becoming a student of the art of photography. I also use a lot of my own photos on my blog and have a home gallery of my current favorite photos.
Photography is my avocation, not my profession. Yet. When I retire, I may have the time and resources to make it something more.
Photography as a Profession
Maybe you’re like me, though, ready to start earning a little money from your avocation without making it your profession. I’ve learned from blogging over the past nine years that despite reports to the contrary, making money from blogging doesn’t come easy for most people.
Likewise, making money from photography requires entrepreneurial know-how (or the desire to learn it). I don’t have time (or desire) at this point in my life to turn either writing or photography into a profession. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start doing the background work to make the dream come true one day.
These tips will help you sort out your feelings, ideas, and photos. When you feel ready to move from amateur to professional, you’ll have some good basic habits in place and know whether or not you can take the leap from avocation to profession.
Become a Student of Yourself
When tasked with taking my daughter’s wedding photos, I watched free webinars from prominent wedding photographers and even spent $50 on a wedding photography course. At the time, I imagined myself retiring from teaching and building a portrait photography business.
Many of the photos I took at my daughter’s wedding turned out professional-looking. But as the after-wedding glow wore off, I remembered I don’t have time to become a wedding photographer right now. In fact, I live in a remote area with a population equal to the elevation—5082.
I also know how poorly I’ve done at other entrepreneurial experiments. Selling things to people is not my jam. Take time to really imagine yourself in a profession and remember that free-lancing will require you to act as your own agent, tax collector, accountant, and marketing team.
I understand ditching my teaching job to start a portrait photography career wouldn’t work for me in this time of my life. But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn good habits as a photographer that will make the transition (should I ever choose to make it) easier.
Learn About Metadata
Any aspiring professional photographer should learn how to enter metadata for their photos. Ever heard of metadata? I’ll try to explain it and why you should learn about it. Remember back in the good old days when some people’s fancy cameras took photos that automatically printed out with a date or time stamp on the front? We could call that the birth of metadata.
Metadata comes in two forms—that which the camera automatically adds to the photo file, and that which the photographer adds during post-processing. Digital cameras automatically add information about the camera, the date and time you took the photo, the location (if your camera has a GPS feature and you turned it on), the lens you used, the aperture value, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, white balance, lens, and whether or not a flash fired.
As the photographer, you can add additional information to the metadata file when you load the photo onto your computer. Adobe Lightroom allows you to add a photo title, caption, label, rating, copyright status, copyright holder, creator name, and most importantly, keywords.
Once you enter metadata for a photo, it goes into a little sidecar file that follows your photo around.
Now let’s look at the value of that metadata from a blogger or buyer’s point of view. Suppose I want to find a photo of a sunset in Alaska. I would go to a site that sells photos (or has free photos that people offer in exchange for a byline) and do a search for ‘sunset in Alaska.’ All of the photos with the keywords ‘sunset in Alaska’ would show up.
Bingo. You need to add keywords to your metadata so you (and others) can find your photos.
Keep a Portfolio of Your Best Work
Once you get more involved with the craft of photography, you’ll want to keep a portfolio of your best work. You don’t have to print the photos, but you do want to make sure you have backup files of your best images and keep them in a safe place.
Go through your portfolio every few months and add new photos and reconsider older ones. When I look at photos I thought were perfect 15 years ago, I now understand where I could improve them.
Your portfolio serves as both a record of your growth and as a place to gather your best photos for the day you decide to take another step closer to making photography your profession.
Practice Makes Improvements
It probably goes without saying but remember to practice. Read a blog post, then go out and do your homework. Take a course, and then go out and practice what you learned. When you see photography as an avocation rather than a profession, you have the luxury of taking time to develop your craft.
If You’re Ready to Make Money
Maybe you just want to earn enough pocket money through photography to pay for new equipment or travel expenses. Check out this post which lists the best places to sell stock photos. This website lists a few alternatives. If you don’t want to bother with commissions, this website includes non-stock photo sources of income.
Local and regional magazines in Montana purchased several of my photos, and you might find success in the same way. I receive a monthly call for submissions from one magazine, and if anything in my portfolio fits, I submit it.
- Spend five-10 minutes thinking about your photographic goals. Make sure you take into account what you know about yourself. Decide if you want an avocation or a profession.
- Add some metadata to your last upload of photos. On Apple’s Photos program, you can add metadata by clicking [Command+i]. On Adobe Lightroom, you’ll find the metadata panel on the library pane on the right-hand side (see the photos below).
- Start a portfolio of your best photos.
- I’ve shared my aspirations with you, so I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Come Back Tomorrow
In tomorrow’s installment of 28 Days Behind the Lens, I’ll share ways you can gain valuable experience and further your photographic skills for a small investment.