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How to Become a Photographer (Step-by-Step Guide)

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young photographers in the studio

Photography is a tremendously rewarding hobby. The pictures you take can bring back memories that you may have otherwise forgotten. You don’t need any experience to get started, and due to the prevalence of smartphones, you likely already have the equipment. If you would like to become a photographer, keep reading as we provide you with a step-by-step guide to reaching your dreams. 

shutter camera divider 2 How to Become a Photographer (Step-by-Step Guide)

1. Choose Your Path

Image Credit: SplitShire , Pixabay

Before you start on the path toward becoming a professional photographer, we highly recommend carefully considering the profession to see if it’s right for you. Advanced equipment can get quite expensive, there is much to learn beyond the basics, and you will need to take hundreds or even thousands of photos to master your craft. If your heart is not in it, you could be setting yourself up to waste time and money. Consider why you are choosing photography. Do you have a real interest in taking great photos, or are you looking for a quick way to make money? Only decide to continue down this path if you are willing to put money aside to save up for the equipment that you need and will do the work to learn the necessary techniques.

2. Improve Your Education

photographer infront of computer
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

There is much to learn about photography. If you want to become a professional, you’ll need to learn about lighting, adjusting shutter speed, ISO, aperture adjustments, and more to get the pictures that you want. You can learn about these techniques through many free online courses, and you can even look at an official school to get college credit.

3. Identify Your Genre

photographer in wedding
Image Credit: alphaspirit.it, Shutterstock

You can improve your chance of success by choosing a genre and sticking with it. Deciding to become a wedding or landscape photographer, for example, will help you focus on the tools that you need. You can also streamline your education by learning only what is necessary for the types of pictures that you want to capture.

4. Purchase Good Equipment

man holding camera
Image Credit: goodluz, Shutterstock

Many modern smartphones have powerful cameras that will help you get started in photography. However, they’re extremely limited in what they can do, and if you want to become a professional, you’ll need to purchase the proper equipment. The type of pictures that you want to take will influence the kind of equipment that you need. For instance, a wedding photographer will need different equipment than a photographer specializing in bird pictures. Consider your needs to help you determine if you need a zoom lens or a way to set up diffused lighting.

5. Learn How to Set Up Your Equipment

woman using camera
Image Credit: Billion Photos, Shuterstock

Once you purchase your equipment, take the time to learn how to use it properly. Read the manual several times to know how to access and use every feature before you take any pictures.

6. Find Your Style

man using camera
Image Credit: Piqsels

Whether you are focusing on old buildings or self-portraits, try to develop your own style instead of copying the style of others. It’s good to follow tried-and-true techniques, but to become a professional, you’ll need to use those techniques to forge a new path.

7. Learn How to Edit Your Images

person taking angle shot using mirrorless camera
Image Credit: Prasanna Kumar, Unsplash

Many professional photographers edit their images to help improve their appearance. There is plenty of software available that you can use to edit your photos. Some programs, like GIMP, are open source and free, while others require a subscription, like Photoshop. Image editing can adjust lighting, remove unwanted objects, crop the picture, and much more.

8. Practice

young lady using point and shoot camera
Image Credit: Solid photos, Shutterstock

Even college courses can only take you so far before you need to start using your knowledge to begin taking great pictures. Practice makes perfect, and the more images you capture, the better they will turn out.

9. Plan Your Adventures

man taking photos outdoor
Image Credit: Piqsels

As you take more and more pictures, you will likely learn that scouting ahead to find good locations will help you take better photographs. Knowing where you want to take a photo will also help you prepare the proper lighting.

10. Get a Job as an Intern

man taking photos
Image Credit: Piqsels

One of the best ways to improve your skills is by working with a professional photographer who can show you the ropes. Working as an intern is a great option because they don’t need to pay you and will provide one-on-one education in exchange for whatever help you provide.

11. Create an Online Portfolio

man using laptop
Image Credit: Piqsels

Once you have a few good pictures, create an online portfolio to show them off. This portfolio will help you look and feel like a professional, and it might also get you some work!

12. Market Yourself

woman using computer
Image Credit: StartupStockPhotos, Pixabay

With your online profile up and running, it’s time to start telling people what you do and inviting them to your website to see your work. Letting people review your pictures can be a great way to get feedback, so you’ll know if you need to make any improvements before real money is on the line. It’s also a great way to find work because you can send potential customers to your portfolio to convince them to hire you.

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While plenty of schools offer photography classes, many professional photographers are not college graduates, so it’s possible to become a professional using free online sources. The main requirements are having a strong desire to learn, plenty of time to practice, and a way to save up for the equipment that you need. If you can get these three items, you are well on the path to becoming a professional photographer.

You might be interested: How to Become a Crime Scene Photographer (Step-by-Step Guide)

Featured Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.