My friend Tim is a dreamer. Every other week he has a new career. Six months ago, he dropped 2K on a camera bundle with the goal of becoming a professional photographer. That camera is now gathering dust in his office.
Professional photogs like Mitch Moore, whose specialty is wedding and engagement photos, roll their eyes at that sort of behavior, “Just because you have the photography gear doesn’t automatically make you a professional. Many people see photography as simply pressing a button. They think anyone can do it. That’s just not the case.”
On a typical photography session, Moore spends one hour beforehand prepping. Anywhere from 2-3 hours at the actual shoot, 1-2 hours driving to and from shoots and about 15-25 minutes, per photo, editing and retouching, in order to give his clients the best photos possible.
“The average person is unaware of how much work goes into photography. A lot of times people will see my hourly rate and think it is too much. What many potential clients don’t understand is that photographers have a lot of overhead. Our equipment is expensive.”
In Moore’s opinion, the photography field is oversaturated. “There are too many unskilled photographers out there giving our profession a bad name. You can’t fake talent. If you don’t have a natural eye for photography you won’t last in this field.”
Moore suggests that if you are serious about a career in photography, focus on specific genre.
“There are a lot of paths you can take. You can get into portrait photography, commercial, nature, copy, or photo journalism. You have to figure out what your strengths are. Keep in mind that photography is an art form. You need to have an understanding about color and composition.”
Moore believes that apart from natural and artistic talent, buying the right equipment is key.
“Equipment is crucial. You can’t have a subpar lens and expect to get great results. Even though it’s costly, it’s essential to buy quality equipment.”
According to a May 2012 study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, photographers make an estimated average of $36,000 annually. Photographers working on a part-time basis can expect to earn an average of $17.30 per hour.
Like Mitch Moore, local professional photographer Rebecca Antuña believes that natural talent is a must. Antuña fell into photography after buying herself a Canon Rebel for her 30th birthday, which she has since upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark II.
“I fell in love with taking pictures. It was like I finally found what I wanted to do. I knew [photography] was something I wanted to pursue professionally but there was so much I needed to know.”
Antuña is self-taught. She learned most of what she needed to know to begin her thriving photography career by watching YouTube tutorials on the subject and practicing. But she had reservations about starting her photography business. “I worried that I wasn’t good enough. There are so many photographers out there with more experience and who know more than I do. There is so much to learn. I had a fear of failure.”
After following her dream and taking the plunge by setting up her business, Pixels Collide, Antuña is now booked most weekends taking newborn, children, and family photos. She is the food photographer for Extraordinary Desserts. She also takes corporate head shots.
“For a regular session, one hour plus, I charge $350. In the beginning I used to charge $100 but after I learned how much work goes into a session my price went up. I am comfortable with what I charge. I give [clients] a gallery of 30-40 edited images. The client can pick 20 pictures that they have the printing rights for.”
To get started Antuña suggests business cards, creating a website, getting liability insurance, making contracts, and establishing a social media presence.
“There is so much that goes into this. You really need to market yourself.”
Antuña’s advice for others embarking on a photography career is, “Practice a lot. Make sure to do a ton of free sessions in the beginning, because you’ll gain experience and confidence.”