As in any profession, there are many different paths one can take in order to become a professional photographer. Depending upon your specialty and your interest, some fields require a higher education degree, others require a quality portfolio, while still others are more career tracked where you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. This brief article will outline these differing paths in order to illustrate the opportunities and challenges of becoming a professional photographer.
According to professional photographer Michael Ray, the best way to join him in this career is to first learn the technology and equipment standards that experts use. He advises getting either a two or a four year degree in a photography related field and then after graduating to find a mentor that will introduce you to common practices and professional contacts (Ray). In a somewhat different path, photographer Danny Steyn advises that if you have $1,000 to spend, buy a $100 camera and then use the rest on film and processing so that you have a diverse portfolio to show people.
In this way you can get constructive feedback on your work and you won’t have to go into to debt getting a degree (Steyn). Photographer Vito Palmisano takes a similar spirit to both Steyn and Ray, but argues for gaining experience in the field by working as an assistant. In this way you learn all of the basic requirements and practices that go into a professional photo shoot and how to conduct yourself in the field when the expected quality is that of a paid professional. Palmisano says, “With an assistant job, money shouldn’t be the primary goal.
It should be about getting experience from a photographer whose work you can relate to and can learn something from” (Sivak). All this being said, the best way to become a professional photographer is to maintain your passion through both technical and practical education, whether in an educational setting or on the job. Professional photographers rarely get a high paying job just out of school, so experts in the field say to keep taking pictures and showing them to people that have the power to publish them. In this way your work will reach a bigger audience that may be further interested in hiring you for the quality of your work.