Learning Photography: 8 Important Tips for Becoming a Professional

Hooray! You just got your very first professional camera and you are taking photos left and right! While you’re learning photography, you may be thinking “Can I do this for a living?”. And the answer is – absolutely yes! 

Photography is one of the most incredible professions, as you can have a number of niches! While you’re learning photography, you may be interested in photographing a family, a wedding, or the beautiful planet we live on. But what you may not realize is owning a business is a lot different than simply learning photography and making money. 

Learning Photography: 8 Important Tips For Becoming A Professional

There are a number of things you should know and plan before you take the leap into becoming a professional photographer.

Know your Equipment

Part of learning photography is knowing exactly how your camera works! You are bound to be so excited when you first get your camera and you’ll start taking photos as soon as you put the battery in. But oftentimes we just leave the settings in “auto” and never know how the camera works. Before you start shooting, learn how to work your camera in manual.

Some of the key parts of learning photography is mastering your shutter speed, focus, and aperture. When you’re using your camera in automatic, the camera will simply choose those settings for you. While DSLRs and other professional cameras are incredible, they cannot see light quite like the human eye and they don’t work as fast as your hands can. 

Think of it this way, doctors can make a huge impact on our health, but they must understand how their equipment works before they can perform surgery. The same applies when you’re learning photography! You must understand and learn each in and out before jumping into taking clients.

Once you learn all of the settings, you will have more control over how your photos look than you would if you had kept your camera in automatic.

Read More: Shooting in Manual- Step by step

Understand Light

Learning Photography: 8 Important Tips For Becoming A Professional

Light is one of the most important aspects of learning photography! While you may think that placing your subject facing the sun is the best way to light them up, it often adds a harshness to the photo. Placing your subjects in open shade or with the sun behind them (also referred to as backlighting) will give you a dreamy look without your clients squinting from the sun.

You’ll also need to know what to do when you don’t have light. Learning photography means learning how to create light as well. If you’re looking into venturing into wedding photography, you’ll need to understand how to work your light during a dim reception. When you’re confident in your natural light abilities, pick up a Speedlight or video light and work on creating light yourself! 

Editing Software

When you’re learning photography, make sure to also learn what to do with the images that you take! Cameras are there to give you a baseline photo, but it is up to you to complete it with your personal touch. Editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom gives you the ability to make photos brighter, cleaner, and take out acne that your client is upset about having.

While you’re learning photography and editing, you can invest in a good set of presets to apply to your images. Sometimes, Lightroom presets can actually be a great tool for learning photography! They can help you understand your light, where to improve your skills, and come with an incredible community of other users to give you tips and tricks

Read More: 8 Photography projects to start in the new year

Communicating with your Subjects

Learning Photography: 8 Important Tips For Becoming A Professional
Learning photography is more than just understanding your camera, you have to learn how to control your light as well!

Learning photography is not just about knowing your equipment and how to edit. It’s also about guiding and posing your subjects in flattering and clear ways. You are the professional in this scenario, and your clients have likely had zero modeling experience. They are trusting (and paying) you to direct them in a way that looks natural and good.

If you’re not sure where to begin when directing people, try sitting in a park or coffee shop to “people watch”. Watch where their hands move comfortably, or how they walk. Then write down the ways that you would describe how that movement happens. Take that homework home and practice telling your significant other, children, or neighbor and see if they understand it. 

Most people won’t know where to put their hands, whether they should smile, or even if they should look at the camera! When you’re learning photography and posing, try out a number of things to see what works best.

Price yourself Correctly from the Get Go

DO NOT CHARGE $50 FOR A PHOTO SESSION. Pricing yourself accurately, even if you’re in the beginning stages of learning photography, is important. Charging less than what you’re worth devalues you and other photographers around you.

If you’re not sure what to charge, do your research of other photographers in your area and see what they are charging. You can flex your pricing around that, but if you start on the extremely low end your clients will assume that the value of the product is low.

Make sure when you’re doing your research on pricing that you put your own spin on it. Don’t simply copy those around you, part of learning photography is being yourself!

Read More: 7 Basic Photography rules

Community over Competition

When you’re thinking of going professional when you’re learning photography, remember that you are not alone. There are millions of photographers in the world, and instead of thinking of them as your competition, rely on them as your community! A lot of professional photographers offer mentoring sessions, giving you a 1:1 session with them where you work together on the things you’re struggling with learning photography.

Hop on Instagram and Pinterest to look for local photographers in your area! From high-end wedding photographers to small-town family photographers, there are so many people that you can meet and can chat with when you’re learning photography.

Take a Class

Learning Photography: 8 Important Tips For Becoming A Professional

Learning photography may feel a little overwhelming, but you don’t have to attend a university to learn the ends and outs. Today there are so many online classes (even for free) that you can take to advance your skills.

Websites like Creative Live provide valuable videos and workshops for learning photography. You can choose from classes that specifically talk about shooting in manual, or classes that teach you how to photograph the stars! There is an endless amount of education online, so don’t worry about having to learn everything on your own.

Get a Business License & Contracts

While you’re learning photography and figuring out how to take it to a professional level, make sure to get a business license! This is extremely important when you begin to take clients, as you want to make sure you are doing things correctly and legally. You never know what type of situation will occur, and having a business license protects both you and your client. 

While we’re on the legal aspect of learning photography, contracts are an absolute must! Even if you’re photographing your neighbors at no charge, you need to let your clients know what is expected. Model releases are extremely important, as they let the client give you permission to use the images on your website, social media, and more. Contracts are also a great way to let the client know how long they’ll expect to wait until they see their images, how many photos they will receive, and how long their session is. 

Contracts and business licenses are something that every professional photographer has. Contact your local business license office to apply and be approved before you take your first client. If you don’t know where to begin when finding a contract, check out The Law Tog for templates you can purchase for any scenario.

Whether you’re learning photography to venture into families, weddings, or landscape there are so many things to consider. Knowing your equipment and understanding your light are key things for every photographer to know, but be sure to check out local resources for everything business-related. And remember that this is not just a business, but it’s your art and it’s so exciting to be able to make money from what you create! 


If you’re not ready to upgrade to a professional camera, but still want to improve your photography skills, make sure to check out 4 Tips for Improving your Photography using the Camera you already have!

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Learning Photography: 8 Important Tips For Becoming A Professional

Photo Credits: Lauren Benson Photography



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Lauren Benson
Lauren Bensonhttp://www.lbensonphotography.com
Lauren is a traveling mom, wife, and wedding photographer. Some of her favorite things include hiking with her family, photographing couples who are in love, singing to her daughter, creating incredible vegetarian dishes, traveling the world, and dying her hair crazy colors.