Turning a Photography Passion into a Photography Career


For freelancers, there can be a constant struggle between doing something you are truly passionate about, and building a sustainable career. We all have bills to pay! But with the idea of living a well balanced life marketed as the ideal way to live life, turning your passion into your career can be a step in that direction. That is, if you’re willing to put the work in to get there. The transition into a professional photography career can be intimidating, but with research and passion behind you as a driving force, it’s absolutely possible. The risk of becoming a photographer full-time can seem high but the reward makes it worth it. 

Here are a few tips and suggestions on how you can make the leap from hobby photographer to professional photographer and start doing what you love full-time.

Be prepared

Getting prepared to make that leap means preparing your life for incidents, in case the jump into professional photography doesn’t work out. Make sure you’ve purchased all the equipment you need before you commit full-time. Photography gear can get expensive, so having this out of the way will be a blessing down the road. Next, try to put a little savings away. While you can absolutely go without savings, and maybe that’s your driving force, trying to have a safety net of savings before you commit will save you stress and allow you to focus on growing your business.

Market your business

Make sure your website, portfolio, and social media accounts are all up-to-date with your best work and ready for client exploration. If you want people to know who you are, you need to be displaying your content publicly. Work on a media kit for yourself, with email pitches you can use to get clients, provide price-sheets, and references. Here’s a helpful article to get you started on building a media kit as a photographer or videographer.

Line up some contracts

If you don’t have any jobs or leads lined up, you may be jumping in too soon. If you’ve been shooting part-time, this is a great way to start building a client list and informing them of your availabilities for more projects when you do go full-time. Start pitching to clients and sending introductions before you commit. Knowing you have a project scheduled for the future can validate your leap into a full-time photography career.


Apply for side gigs

There are so many photography communities and contract companies that a lot of photographers rely on for extra income during slow seasons. At Shutterstock Custom, we have pro photographers that work with us on high production assignments, as well as up-and-coming visual artists that use us to start building portfolios with client work and experience before going full-time.This is a fantastic way to start earning income as professional photographers and learn more about what being on a professional shoot is all about.

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Focus on long-term career goals

While apps like Instagram and Facebook are currently fantastic marketing tools for photographers to showcase their work to potential clients and audiences, don’t forget to think about building a sustainable career offline.

Make a long-term plan on what you want to accomplish in your photography career, outside of the platforms you hope to do it on. Make plans on how you will grow your photography business, and master your photography skills. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket because the realities are you have little control on whether that app, website or social media platform succeeds or fails. If the industry changes, you want to be recognized in other photography communities.

Know the realities of being a professional photographer

You have to be extremely aware of what it really takes to be a professional photographer, and okay with the struggles. There can be some stress and pressure that comes with waiting for the next job. You need to be extremely organized because unless you are with an agency you will be responsible for managing your finances, invoices, taxes, and scheduling. You have to be a little ready to go on the fly, a job might come up and require to pack your bags within the hour.

When photography is only a hobby, you don’t really have those pressures. You just take photographs for the love of the craft. But, if you can master all of these potential roadblocks, you’ll be turning something you love into a viable full-time career. That makes the struggles worth it. 

If you're a photographer who recently went full-time professional, we’d love to hear your tips in the comments for up-and-coming photographers wanting to follow that path. 

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