There are many who aspire to becoming a professional photographer but few with a plan for getting there. For most becoming a professional photographer is a vague dream that features a lot of money and working around attractive models all day. Typically absent in these dreams of fortune and glory are the years of toil, sweat, and living on the edge of poverty that it usually requires to get there.
If you’re truly considering photography as a profession, then you’re going to need a plan that has these elements.
Yes, certainly on the job training will be important, but so is at least some formal education in photography. Any amateur can take pictures without bothering to learn the science behind the craft, but not someone striving to join the professional ranks. An art or photography degree may be overkill for a career in photography but, at a minimum, you’ll want to take some kind of structured training reviewed by working professionals.
You’ll Need Money
Professional photography equipment is expensive and it has to be updated periodically. Your biggest financial investment will likely be lenses. A Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 is around $2,300 USD and that’s not the only lens you’ll need! It’s not usual to incur tens of thousands in equipment expenses. You’ll either need to borrow that money, which is a bad idea for someone starting out, or work sideline jobs until you can afford to buy it. Most people work a day job or sideline jobs until they get established.
You’ll Need Insurance
Few people would consider driving without insurance but some of those same people think nothing of hauling their camera gear up the side of a mountain without equipment insurance. Starting out in photography you need two types of insurance: Coverage for your camera gear and liability coverage for you. Liability covers you if someone gets hurt on the set or during a photography session; equipment insurance covers you if your gear is lost or stolen.
You’ll Need Backup Equipment
Most good wedding photographers don’t have one camera around their neck, they have two. There’s a good reason for that. Waiting for an insurance payout can take days and there’s nothing the dreaded ERR message on your LCD to inspire a panic moment. You won’t have time to wait to get your camera back from the repair facility or an insurance settlement, you’ll need a backup body right on the spot.
You don’t necessarily need two Canon 5Ds (though that’s not uncommon) but you will need a body that’s good enough to finish the job and works with your lenses.