Owning a camera doesn't automatically make you a photographer any more than possessing a goldfish makes you a marine biologist. Therefore, how can one go from just becoming a camera owner to a photographer and even becoming a professional photographer? This is a million-dollar question that requires an answer. But don't be in a hurry as this guide will show you all you need to know.
Every photographer started out differently as some renowned and popular photographer started taking photos even before the invention of digital photography. Other persons took the online class route while others enrolled in a photography school or institute where they bagged a degree, diploma, or certification in photography.
Some people started by just picking up a camera, failed, tried again, failed, but picked themselves up after failing again and trying once more. While others had a mentor that is always there to teach them the importance of taking one's time to think through each shot and that the more pictures one takes, the better one becomes.
But not every beginner or experienced photographer will have the opportunity of having the right mentor that will nudge them in the right direction, which is why this step-by-step photography for beginners guide by Superprof will help you on your way to becoming a badass photographer.
Requirements for becoming a professional photographer
As we pointed out earlier, becoming a professional photographer involves more than just owning a pair of fancy cameras. With the advent of technology and smartphones, every girl now sees themselves as a photographer since they can take a good selfie and snap their friends while on a date or outing.
But funny as it might sound, that is far from what photography fully entails. The professional photographer has several jobs to do, of which clicking a button and taking an image is only but a miniature part of the other business. A career in professional photography is an exciting avenue for expressing one's creative ability but a technically demanding job that involves different interrelated engagements that require not just the pushing of the shutter button.
Other engagement required from a professional photographer includes processing the images and the post-processing of contours and colours when needed. The digital images could be further processed and edited using software such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. Analogue images can also be retouched.
Another professional photographer's job is the marketing of his/her craft and skill to the target customers and clients. It involves advertising their services, networking with other professionals in the field, maintaining an optimized blog or website where they can show their portfolio and galleries, and perfecting ways of dealing with customers. Remember to always keep the negatives for analogue photographers or store the images for a digital photographer for reprint orders.
Finally, the photographer is also expected to manage his/her logistics and the running of the business, which may involve studio rental, bookkeeping, and accounting, purchasing the equipment and supplies needed for the day-to-day running of the business and paying your staff if they will be a need for an assistant or office staff.
From this analysis, you can see that becoming a professional photographer involves more than taking an image but other unique skills such as being a good communicator since photography is storytelling in pictures. A good photographer should know how to evoke emotions and a master of composition – knowing how best to set-up a scene to get the best effect. Therefore photography should not only be about passion, but we recommend possessing
- Degree (Honors) in photography from any photography university in Nigeria or around the world
- A certification course in photography from any registered and accredited photography centre or institute
- Apprentice program with an experienced and professional photographer.
Learn Photography without a formal education
We must emphasize the importance of formal education in the field of photography. Studies have shown that it is much easier for one to get established as a professional photographer if one has proper certification and education. But that does not rule out the fact that one can still become a professional without possessing a degree or attending a photography school.
Some professional photographers that have attended great heights in photography without possessing a degree are examples of that. In turning your passion into a full-time career, here are some important things to consider if you are certain that you have mastered the art of photography.
- Quality equipment: The importance of investing in good and quality equipment cannot be overemphasized. Ensure that you possess a good DSLR camera, different types of lenses and filters, different support systems for your camera such as tripod, monopod, straps, and beanbag, and a case to carry all your arsenal. Remember that it must not be expensive or too fanciful.
- Tricks: You must learn to master some fundamental tricks and concepts that you can use to increase your aperture setting, depth of field, and shutter speed. All these can be learned online through YouTube videos and other Photography websites and blogs.
- Composition: Understanding the compositions' rules is very important if you want to stand out as a professional photographer. These rules include the rule of thirds, centring, and others.
- Practice: As a professional photographer, never leave your home without your personal camera. You can't tell when you will snap that million-dollar image, and there is the importance of practising, practising, and more practising.
When is the right time to call yourself a photographer?
Most experts believe that one can call him/herself a photographer when they have succeeded in landing their first contract in photography. With this contract and images captured, there is still the need to edit the photos with photo editing software. These photo editing software often comes with high processing power and memory, therefore requiring a top-notch computer system that possesses both qualities (Speed and Space).
Therefore, we recommend that you purchase a suitable computer that will help you in your art since time is always of the essence when you are working under a deadline. Other things that are needed from you now that you are a professional photographer going digital should include
- Photo manipulation software: Ensure that you have an up-to-date photo manipulation software
- Calibration Probe: It's important that you get your clients or customer work well balanced. There should be a good contrast and white balance. The calibration probe ensures that it does not go off while printing.
- Storage: Storage is of importance either as an analogue or digital photographer. You can save the images on the external hard drive, memory cards, DVDs, or in the cloud.
Once this is out of the way, you should also consider naming the business or your website. Consider naming it after yourself to avoid confusion that comes with catchy names that one or two persons are equally using. This brings about confusion, but your name implies that you are willing to stand by your product and services come rain come shine. You can now choose to specialize in one of the different niches in photography since a jack of all trade ends up as a master of none. Some of the niches that you can choose from includes
- Wedding photography
- Animal photography
- Commercial photography
- Travel photography
- Macro photography
Ensure that you promote your business and services seriously on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and any other of your choice after settling on a niche.
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Focusing on Animal Photography
Wildlife or animal photography is a niche in the art that involves snapping animals either in the wild, zoo, cage or at home (pets). It’s a great area for individuals that loves animals and have a special connection with them. In becoming an animal photographer, you need to study the behaviour, eating habits, and habitat of the animal that you wish to capture. Lack of proper knowledge and gear can expose you to life-threatening risks, or you may end up destroying your expensive equipment.
The challenge with this area of photography is that it is quite difficult to break in due to the shortage of clients and the market. The most likely clients for this niche include pet owners, the zoo, wildlife magazines, and tourist agencies. Some very important tips to follow if you want to pitch your tent in this area of photography includes
- Study your subject: Ensure that you know their lifestyle, temperament, and habitat well.
- Set up your shot: Make sure you set up your shot in time and don't take the risk of going too close else, you can use a telescope. Most professional animal photographers make use of a 300mm lens as a baseline.
- Camouflage: You must be a master of camouflaging and silence in the background in other not to agitate the animals
- Provoke: Don't try to agitate or provoke the animals to emotion. Allow it to come out naturally.
- Patients: Be ready to stay at a particular position for hours, waiting for the right moment to take the shot
A freelancer photographer is his own boss and manages his own business. As long as a photography company or agency is not employing you, you are by no means a freelancer. As a professional freelance photographer, your primary job should be to promote your services and brand. After this, you go to the location to take the shot when you have gotten the contract.
The negative aspect of working as a freelancer is that you do all the legwork and might be out of work for months. This means that you might be cashless since your client base might be unstable and requires you to sealing new contracts every day in other to remain in business.
Reputable and Established Professional Photographer
At this level, the photographer owns his/her own studio with all the necessary tools and equipment such as lighting equipment, posing tables and chairs with other assistants at his/her beck and call. These established photographers could work exclusively in his/her office as just a portrait photographer or move from one location to another, maybe for a wedding or burial.
These professionals may also offer photography training and workshops in his/her studio to a few apprentices or newbies for a fee. Some can even host an online webinars or photography classes.
Photography Classes in Nigeria
Although photographers in Nigeria are not compelled to take up any formal education before qualifying to become a photographer, it will be most useful to attend photography classes around your locality. The benefits are much as you will be taught by experienced professionals on how to digitally use every setting and feature of your cameras.
You will also learn how to manipulate adobe Photoshop and lightroom, among other software. They are also the opportunity to network with people and to intern after the course. Some of the photography courses that you might have to learn in these schools or institutes include
- History of photography
- Photography composition
- Photo composition
- Editing of images
- Ways to market your image
- Steps in protecting and copyrighting your images
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