After being in the photography business for 8 years or so, I’ve really seen that there’s a lot more to it than being good at photography. Yes, I think that is most important thing, but there are several other factors and skills that can make or break a business. Some of these skills needed to be a professional photographer I already had, but others I’ve had to develop over the years, and then there are others I’m still working on.
Skills Needed to be a Professional Photographer
If you’re interested in becoming a professional photographer, I suggest you take a look at the skills and be honest with yourself. Do you have these skills? If not, do you think you can develop them? Don’t freak out if this all seems overwhelming. Like I said, a lot of these things you pick up with time and practice, and if you purposely seek to improve, you can always get better.
For those of you that have just met me in the past few years, you might not believe this, but I use to be really shy. I can remember back to junior and high school and I freaked out every time I had to get up in front of people. Well, to be a professional photographer, you have to be good with people. I guess there are some forms of photography where you don’t deal with people, but for most cases, you will be interacting with people on a daily basis and you have to be friendly, especially in weddings. I remember when I first started off I claimed my style was “photojournalistic,” which basically meant I would hang back and not interact with people. Truthfully this was more of a way for me to avoid interacting with people than a style. Now after 8 years of weddings, I can say I have overcome this. I talk to people all throughout the wedding day, and most people would even say I’m quite the friendly guy.
I have no real education or experience in business, so this is one of the areas I really struggle with. I’ve had to slowly educate myself through experience and education on what I should be doing. Marketing is one of those areas that is extremely important to professional photographers. If you don’t know how to attract and hook clients, your business is not going to succeed. For the first few years, I remember getting frustrated because I’d see other photographers that were really popular with work that wasn’t much better than mine, but I wasn’t getting booked. I honestly believe this was because of marketing. You can get away with being an average to above average photographer if you are a marketing genius. One of my big goals for this year is to focus on marketing and get a real marketing plan.
Photography is an ever changing world when it comes to technology. Every week there is something new coming out. That’s not where I would put my focus, though. I’ve found that there are other areas of technology that matter more, mainly the internet. I’ve preached it for awhile, but search engine optimization (SEO) has been a giant factor in my success. Roughly 50% of my weddings come from Google searches. These people would never have found me if I hadn’t purposely tried to get my website to the top. Recently I have been working on my SEO again, and I’ve found several things I can do to improve my sites. Being able to go in and fix these things on my own is important. If I couldn’t, my website would either go down in the rankings or I’d have to pay someone else to do it for me.
There are plenty of other skills needed to be a professional photographer, but these three stick out for me. Like I said, don’t be upset if you don’t have these skills right now. You can always develop these over time with practice and education. If you really, really think it’s not possible or not worth your time, you can always outsource a few of these to other people, like your marketing or your technology. Either way, it’s best to start dealing with these skills now instead of later. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to fix your business.