Taking the plunge

So you’re super keen on photography, you’ve splashed out on a sexy camera and you’re desperate to start a new life as a professional.  How on earth do you start?

Location portrait

You have a lot of competition..

Firstly you need to be aware of the facts..  It is hard to make a good living in the photographic industry.  The numbers below were taken from Stop43 , a campaign which tries to protect photographic property..

  • The value of royalties paid for photographs has reduced by 80% between 2005 and 2010;
  • Within the last 10 years 52% of “photographic businesses” – including photographers and photo studios – have disappeared;
  • Since 2001, there has been a 16% decrease in the numbers of staff photographers, and 30% of freelance photographers have quit;
  • Up to 90% of images published in the press do not mention the name of the author, but instead are marked “DR”;

Don’t let this scare you off though, if you get properly trained to do your job then you’re one of the ones who are going to stay the course.  So…

Train and Commit

So firstly no matter how good you think you are, I can telly you now, you need to train.  A camera is a great tool, easy if you’re happy with a candid snap, but how do you get that dreamy blurry background and how do you take images INTO the light, and how is it best to position a subject based on a. lighting, b. background, c. lens, d. I could go on…basically, your Auto setting is the entry level and in my opinion should only be used when you don’t really care about the outcome.  You NEED to know how your camera works so that you will be able to cope in all sorts of light conditions, use different lenses for the best results, know how to use on camera flash and when to use it, what settings need to be thought about beforehand and what can be adjusted in Photoshop afterwards.  That’s not even touching on Studio lighting etc.

YES IT’s Complicated!!  It’s a bit like saying you can drive a formula 1 car if you know where the steering wheel, accelerator and break are… you may be able to move the car along if you’re very lucky, but that’s not driving, that’s not safe, that’s not smooth…I’m sure there are better analogies but basically, you will be amazed, and I’m still amazed, at how much you can do with a camera.


Now training….in this internet savy world there are some brilliant and I mean BRILLIANT training seminars online.  Free if you view as they happen and not very expensive even if you buy them to view afterwards.  I’m thinking particularly of Creative Live which I’ve used on a number of occasions.  You can pick and choose what aspect of photography you need to improve on and do it in your own time.  You should also consider joining a professional body such as SWPP (Society for Wedding and Portrait Photographers) which has a really fantastic conference/seminar extravaganza/trade show every January in London.

The other way is the good old fashioned type, lessons with a teacher.  I really think this is a necessary part of your training, firstly you need to have a teacher tell you where you’re going wrong, or, of course, where you’re going right.  Secondly you need to test the limits of your knowledge and grow your comfort zone by doing projects, test shoots, arty set ups etc.  If you don’t get stretched, you won’t know what you’re capable of.  I’m afraid my knowledge of where you can do training in the UK is limited as I did mine in Cape Town, but there are plenty of artistic institutions that will cater for the photographer.  I do still do ongoing training with whatever skills I need help with, now though I’m doing compare and contrast exercises with other pros that I feel I could learn something from.  With something as artistic as Photography and as complex as running your own business, I don’t think you ever stop learning.

But When?

Now this, of course, is very dependant on whether you’re still clinging onto your past life/job or if you’ve made the leap of faith and said “fuck it I’m quiting!”…  I opted for the latter and actually I think that is the best option.  This gives you the space and freedom to concentrate fully on your new career, and forces you to be focussed…after all you’ve got no money coming in…you’ve got to pull your finger out and get it sussed.  This is the ‘Commit’ part and is extremely important if you’re going to make it work.  I was seriously committed to ‘not going back to an office’ even though I now spend a large proportion of my time in my home office…but you see, it’s on my terms, in my time, with my own livelihood on the line and I love it.  I know that the amount of work I put in directly relates to the amount of money and satisfaction (hugely important for me) I get at the end and I can’t tell you how much I love getting emails from clients raving about their images…you don’t get that feel good factor in an office job, especially when you’re on a fixed wage.

So Peeps, take that plunge, get some serious training and get practising…you’re going to need it.

Next time, what’s the minimum you need for a set up…lets talk equipment ..


Susan Porter-Thomas LSWPP London Family Photographer

Susan Porter-Thomas

Taking the plunge

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