Have you ever had that exhilarating feeling of realizing that someone somewhere found your photo and loved it enough to buy it and put it on their wall? The first sale I made a decade ago paved the road to pursuing photography as a career after studying law and working five years in HR.
When I first started, like many beginners, I was clueless and had no idea how to monetize my images.
It took a lot of trial-and-error practice to not only improve my skills but also find a way to turn this newly found passion into a full-time job.
Let me share with you four tips that helped me go from beginner to professional photographer in about a year:
1. Improve your skills.
I know this might seem like an obvious tip, but it’s also a step that many beginners want to rush.
In reality, you never stop practicing and improving your skills. Even after a decade of photography, I’m still learning new techniques and trying to catch up as technology evolves.
The best way to improve your skills and develop your creativity is through constant practice. Grab your camera and give yourself small assignments every week, such as:
- Stick to one setting, or one lens.
- Take multiple different photos of the same subject.
- Tell a story in 10 images.
- Process a few photos differently in Lightroom.
All these exercises will push you out of your comfort zone and will help you develop your skills and style. As you progress, you will also learn how to:
- Manipulate your camera to avoid digging in menus when the scene is unfolding in front of you.
- Use the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to achieve the effect you want.
- Compose to create strong images that stand out above the common snapshot.
- Process your images to apply your own style.
The list seems daunting, but photography isn’t difficult; with regular practice, you’ll quickly nail down the technical part and be able to focus on creativity.
2. Develop your style.
When you’re first starting photography, you might not know exactly what genre you want to focus on.
But, eventually, you will figure out what appeals to you and start developing your own unique style. By photographing what youenjoy instead of following trends, you will not only make your work and style recognizable, you’ll also attract the right audience.
3. Break projects into smaller tasks.
Many years ago, a friend in Thailand told me: “If you’re eating an elephant, take one small bite at a time.” While you shouldn’t be eating elephants, you also shouldn’t be tackling big projects and goals without a plan.
Look at the big picture and break it into smaller, concrete, and manageable tasks that follow a logical order of completion.
For example, “make money with stock photography” is quite the daunting task to complete in one afternoon. But if you break it into smaller steps like:
- Browse through my collection and pick 10 photos
- Process the photos in Lightroom
- Upload the photos to my favorite stock photography website
- Rinse and repeat
It now seems clearer, focused, and much more manageable.
If you want to achieve your goals in photography, you need to take it seriously and schedule time every week (at least) to work on your tasks; a to-do list without a schedule is just a wish list.
4. Put yourself out there.
A photo not seen is a photo not sold. As scary as it sounds, whether it’s joining photo clubs in person or virtual groups online, putting yourself out there will allow you to grow and market yourself as a photographer.
The constructive criticism you get from veteran photographers is extremely valuable, and uploading your photos online helps you build up trust with your audience and potentially reach millions of viewers.
All you need is just a handful of them to fall in love with your photos and purchase a few to call it a success.