Looking for a career that won’t leave you sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week? Longing to take your creative passion and turn it into something profitable? Why not consider a career as a commercial photographer?
Commercial photography is a viable career path for many people. Whether you’re someone who’s never practiced photography professionally, but has always had a passion for pictures, or perhaps someone with a creative photography business who is looking to expand into the commercial realm, this doesn’t have to be a pipe dream any longer. You can make it happen, and today, we want to discuss the nuts and bolts of how to go out there and do it.
Why Become a Commercial Photographer?
Before we talk about the specifics of how to get into commercial photography, let’s lay the groundwork. Why would someone want to become a commercial photographer in the first place? As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons — and they begin with a simple commercial photography description.
A commercial photographer is someone who shoots professional pictures for a company. This description is extremely broad, but that’s appropriate, because there’s so much variety within the field. In this line of work, you might find yourself briefly partnering with and working for any number of companies and industries. You might take photographs of homes for real estate companies. Maybe you’ll shoot enticing pictures of food for a restaurant or a food brand. You might contract with a tech company to capture snapshots of their latest gadgets for a roll-out campaign.
Close your eyes and think about all the times and places in your life you see professional photographs. Surely there are too many to count. Nearly every store, company and business in the world needs to hire a photographer at one point or another, since they need photos to advertise their products, businesses and services. However, because the photographs are the only part of this transaction we see, we often don’t think about the talented people behind the camera. But someone had to shoot those pictures. Why couldn’t it be you?
The major perk of commercial photography is that as long as people are selling things, there will always be a need to advertise them. And as long as advertising exists, there will always be a call for someone to take the photographs to include in these ads. In other words, commercial photography isn’t going away anytime soon, so if you enter this field, you can feel confident you will always find work.
Additionally, commercial photography is appealing because it allows you to exercise your creative passion for art and capturing images while remaining financially stable. Instead of becoming the stereotypical starving artist, you can have a job and a reliable source of income while still practicing your art.
How to Get Started
Of course, it’s all well and good to talk about the benefits of becoming a commercial photographer, but ultimately, that won’t get you any closer to achieving this goal. So let’s talk practically. How can you launch your career as a commercial photographer?
For starters, try following these basic steps.
Get the Right Equipment
If you want to establish yourself as a professional in the photography industry, you’ll need to arm yourself with the right equipment. No matter how advanced and high-resolution your smartphone camera may be, you can’t expect potential employers to take you seriously if that is your only camera. Additionally, these cameras typically do not have the same capabilities you’ll find on professional tools.
To begin your professional photography business, these are some of the items you’ll need to invest in.
- A camera: There is a whole world of professional cameras out there, each offering a unique set of special features, but all offering the technical prowess necessary to help you succeed. You’ll want to do your research into the different brands and models to decide which is best for you. As your business grows, you may even need multiple cameras for different types of shoots.
- Lighting equipment: On some days and in some places, the natural lighting is perfect as-is. That doesn’t happen very often, however, and the business doesn’t slow down on days when the light is imperfect. To keep your work going, you’ll need to invest in professional lighting equipment to transform any setting into one that’s beautifully and professionally lit.
- Tripod: You’ll likely do plenty of shooting while holding the camera in your hands. But there will always be moments where you need it steadier than you can secure it, or you need to put it on a timer while you can’t be there to hold it yourself. For moments such as these, a tripod is an essential element in the toolkit of any professional photographer.
- Bag or case: An essential part of your job is likely going to be traveling from job to job. You’ll spend a lot of time on the road, moving from one shoot to the next. To make this easier, you need a reliable carrying case or bag for all your equipment so you can pack up and go, knowing your camera will remain safe while you travel.
- Editing software: Few photographs come out perfect the first try. No matter how good a photographer is, almost everyone touches up their photographs with the editing software of their choice — brightening the colors, removing imperfections and sharpening the lines. You’ll have to pay for most quality editing software, so research which one will work best for you and make the investment.
- Miscellaneous equipment: This list is by no means a comprehensive inventory of all the gear you’ll use in this career, but these items do represent some of the most important pieces. Beyond this list, you’ll need to decide for yourself what would be useful, or what is necessary for your specific clients and jobs.
Research is one universal step, no matter what industry you’re trying to break into. You’ll need to do some homework and learn about common standards within the industry. Learn about best practices, expectations and recommendations. Learn the rules, both written and unwritten, spoken and unspoken. If you don’t know these things, you’ll risk coming off as an amateur at best, and at worst, you may make a serious faux pas that can derail your entire career before it even gets off the ground.
When it comes to a field like photography, you’ll need to do more than educate yourself on the best businesses practices. You’ll also need to learn the techniques and artistry of photography. If this is a longtime passion of yours, that step will likely not be a chore. What’s essential to remember is that this career is an ongoing learning experience. Techniques and technology are always changing and growing. If your goal is to succeed as a commercial photographer, you’ll need to commit to staying up to date on these advances.
Keep in mind commercial photography is different from creative photography in that your artistic vision alone is not the sole factor guiding your work. Instead, you are working to showcase your clients’ products, and you’ll need to learn to restructure your approach to reflect this.
Maybe you’ll do all this learning on your own, checking books out of the library, reading plenty of photography blogs or even interviewing professional photographers. Another excellent option is to sign up for photography courses online or at your local college. All these are excellent routes to learn the information you’ll need to kickstart your career.
Get Your First Clients
When you go into business for yourself, signing up your first clients is a challenge regardless of your line of work — whether it’s photography or something entirely different. It takes dedication, patience and a willingness to stick it out, even when the results are discouraging. No matter how successful a business owner eventually becomes, they all must first go through this challenging beginning stage.
To find your first few clients, try looking in these key areas.
- Friends/family/acquaintances: Your existing network should be the first place you look. Do you know anyone who runs or works for a business that may need some photography work done? At the very least, you can certainly ask these people to keep an eye out in their circles of acquaintances for such work potential.
- Network: Get to know other photographers. Attend conferences and workshops and meet with industry professionals. In other words, invest the necessary time and effort to get your name out there as someone who’s active in the industry. Becoming an active member of your industry helps build credibility and may also get you the connection you need to land you those first few jobs.
- Job boards: This method is standard for finding any job, and it can lead to success in this line of work as well. Try searching for contract or freelance work to begin building a list of satisfied clients and positive reviews. These, in turn, will lead to more opportunities and a solid reputation.
In addition to looking in these specific places, here are a few tips to help you get these first few jobs that will then form the groundwork for future work.
- Adjust your rates: In the beginning, you will likely not have much of an existing reputation to recommend you to people. Because of this, you will need to set fairly low rates. After all, no one is going to pay an exorbitant amount of money for someone who, for all they know, might be another amateur. You can raise your rates once you’ve established your reputation, but not yet.
- Build a portfolio: Before you even apply for or solicit your first job, spend some time putting together a portfolio you can show clients. That means using your time to hire models or recruit friends and putting together a collection of shots you can use to show proof of your expertise and ability.
Grow Your Client Base
Congratulations! You’ve gotten those first few crucial jobs under your belt. That part was hard, but the work isn’t over yet. Now, your task is to build on this success and to continue adding new companies and businesses to your client list. Try implementing these steps and see what a difference they can make.
1. Market Yourself
It doesn’t matter how talented and passionate you are: If nobody has heard of you, you won’t get any new clients. So be active in the industry. Advertise with your local newspaper. Join any appropriate job boards online. Attend panels and conferences. It isn’t enough to exist and hope the right people find you. You have to make yourself available in the spaces where the people you want to attract will be looking.
2. Engage on the Internet
Let’s say one of your friends gives someone else your name. This third party then heads home to look you up. They type your name into Google and up comes…nothing. Odds are, they’ll get frustrated and call whichever photographer shows up first in the search results instead. Avoid this by creating an active online presence. Create a sparkling website. Engage on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — this last one being a particularly fantastic and natural place to advertise your photographic work.
3. Use Tools to Manage Your Business Effectively
As your photography business continues to grow in success and reputation, so too will your number of clients. You’ll be busier and busier with new jobs, leaving you with less time than ever to manage the business side of things. Neglecting things like tracking new leads, incoming payments and referrals could be disastrous, however. So what’s the successful creative professional to do?
The answer is Táve, a one-stop software app that manages the business side of your career while you focus on what you do best — photography. Here are a few of the things Táve can help you handle.
- Online booking: Send out quotes, questionnaires, contracts, payments and more all in one simple step.
- Lead tracking: Trying to keep track of who seems interested in your work? Táve makes it easy.
- Workflow: Create to-do lists and check all tasks off as you complete them, allowing for fantastic visual cues to keep you on track every time.
- Automation: Frequently find yourself doing mindless, repetitive tasks like sending identical emails, logging payments and more? Why not automate these tasks to free you for more important work?
- Time management: Never wonder where your calendar is again when you use the integrated calendar feature to log all your appointments, deadlines and more.
Start Your Free Trial of Táve Today
Does Táve sound like the ideal solution to finally help you launch the career you’ve been waiting and wishing for? There’s no reason to wait. You can create your account today to get started. And in case you’re still not 100 percent convinced, don’t worry. Táve offers you a 30-day free trial to get accustomed to the software and decide whether it’s something you want to continue with.
With an offer this terrific, there’s no reason not to go for it. Sign up for your 30-day trial today, free of charge, and start experiencing all the ways Táve helps you prepare for success.