How To Become A Professional Photographer

This series of articles on how to become a professional photographer is a work in progress, an extension to my previous series on how to start a photography business, intended to serve as an evolving guide for the talented amateur who wants to know how more about how to turn a hobby into a potential photography business. If you ‘re one of the many with a desire to earn a living from your camera by becoming a pro photographer, then I hope you can get a better understanding of just what you might be getting into…

Everyone Wants To Be A Professional Photographer!

I’ve long since given up keeping count of the number of times people have asked me, “how to become a professional photographer.” It seems as though everyone wants to “get in on the action” these days to earn money from their camera!

No one can really blame them for being attracted to the idea – on the surface, working as a professional photographer looks like a fun job, doing the thing that we love to do, which is to create beautiful photographs. In fact, someone actually once said to me, “Really, how hard can it be? It’s not as though you have a real job, is it?

At the time, I was quite taken aback, and I had no idea how to reply to her question! Sure, my job was fun, or at least the parts of it that she could see, and I wasn’t forced to sit in a cubicle in an uninspiring office, working for “the man“. Yes, I got to meet all kinds of interesting people, and spend my time taking photographs of them. The portrait session was going well, everyone was laughing, relaxed, having fun, and enjoying themselves… so how could I blame her for thinking that being a professional photographer was more glamorous and exciting than a regular humdrum job in “the real world” might be?

Sadly, the majority of amateur photographers enchanted with the idea of becoming professionals don’t fully appreciate the harsh realities of doing photography as a business.

The challenges lie in all the things that our photography clients don’t see that actually make our businesses successful!

Don’t Be Forced Into Having To Save A Failing Business!

For example, no one outside the business sees the hours spent learning, studying, practicing, or agonizing over the quality of our own photography. They don’t give a thought to the fact that more than 80% of our time is devoted to marketing, running the photography studio, or trying to make portrait sales to clients. No one, except perhaps another professional photographer who’s been through this, can fully understand the heartache, stress and worry that’s expended every day by countless thousands of individuals struggling to make a living doing something they love, but which they know could destroy the fabric of their lives if they fail to make it work!

I’ve seen perfectly talented photographers lose their businesses, homes, and even their marriages all for the sake of trying in vain to save their failing photography business and make it work the way they think it should – it’s like watching someone drown while everyone else around them is happily swimming and enjoying themselves.

What it all comes down to in the end is simply having a healthy awareness of how to properly run a small business – there’s a lot more to it than being a good photographer.

Success in the photography business is NOT about the type of camera you use, how many lenses or flashes you have, how pretty your website looks, or even what your friends and family think about your photography.

What it IS about is accepting the responsibility of running a business, and understanding that you are now a marketer first and photographer second. This in no way compromises your integrity as a photographic artist or your ability to create the amazing portraits your clients are paying you for.

In fact, the only way you will be able to continue to be a photographer tomorrow is to become a better businessperson today.

The moment you decide to charge money for your photography, you are no longer a photographer – you’re now a marketer and seller of photography…

What’s Your Motivation As A Professional Photographer?

To know if the life of a professional photography business owner is the right one for you, it’s useful to ask yourself some difficult but necessary questions.

It’s also important to be totally honest with yourself in the way you answer them.

For example, what does being a professional photographer actually mean to you? Is it simply a means to earn some extra money on weekends to supplement your income from another full-time job? Is it a driving and undeniable passion to create images for people? Or, is it something else entirely?

Why are you attracted to the idea of becoming a professional photographer in the first place?

These, and other motivations are very important to understand because they will ultimately determine how successful your photography business will be.

Also, if you’ve been in the business for a while, and that initial enthusiasm and energy has turned into a monster – you know, the kind that means you’re working all hours, putting in 150% of the effort, but getting nowhere very fast – it’s likely you’re experiencing the plateau effect, so be on the alert for that, and know how to get yourself moving again!

Anyone Can Be A Photographer!

If you want to be a professional photographer it’s actually as easy as making the decision to do so. There are no qualifications required, no college degrees needed, and no accreditation with any professional organizations is necessary. You can literally pick up a camera, decide to be a pro, and head off to your first paid photography session…

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

The sad truth is that it really is that easy, and therein lies the root of all the troubles the photography industry is going through right now. People get caught up in the romantic idea of being paid to take photographs, but fail to see the danger they’re walking into.

This series of short articles is designed to help you avoid those dangers and decide if being a professional photographer is really the right thing for you.

How To Become A Professional Photographer: Article Index


  1. From Amateur To Professional Photographer: Making The Leap
  2. To Sell Your Camera Is No Way To Make Money
  3. Photography Business DNA – What Makes You Unique?
  4. A Simple 11-Step Photography Business Plan For The Professional Photographer
  5. Photography SEO Strategy: Find Yourself At The Top
  6. Is Your Photography Website Sending Clients Away?
  7. Photography Pricing: How Much Is An 8 x 10?
  8. Telephone Sales: A Smile Can Be Heard On The Phone
  9. First Impression In Business: Making It Count For Successful Consultations
  10. Your Business Attitude, Not Your Aptitude, Matters Most
  11. Questionable Photography Sales Methods Can Get You Killed
  12. How To Build Client Relationships

Take The Next Step: Photography Business Mentoring

You don’t have to struggle to figure out how to become a professional photographer by yourself! I understand the complex challenges facing professional photographers, just like you. Get the simple marketing answers you need, when you need them, to help you save valuable time and money AND get you on the right path faster.

Focus on the photography you love and waste less time worrying about marketing with the Zenologue “Prime Focus” Photography Mentoring program.

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