18 Professional Photographers Share Their Best Advice for New Starters

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Are you passionate about photography and looking to make a career out of your images? Whether you’re just starting out your career in photography or you’re thinking about diving into a photographic career and need some advice, we’ve put this special roundup blog together to help provide you some perspective and to inspire you for your journey ahead.
With any creative industry, it can be quite tricky (and daunting) to get your foot into a specific field and really make a name for yourself and to turn your passion into a business. This list of professional photographers all have a wealth of experience and know what they’re talking about when it comes to the professional photography industry. Each working their way from the bottom up to the top, they share some incredibly important advice, as well as what has and hasn’t worked for them on their journey to success.
Within the roundup below, you can find (and learn from) top advice from travel photographer Chris Burkard, photojournalist Ed Kashi, fitness photographer Matt Thomas, portrait photographer Tony Corbell, wedding photographer Fiona Kelly, and many other incredible artists.
Check out our experts guide below and discover some of the best photographers out there and what advice they have for anyone just starting out in the photography industry. We have photographers from a whole range of different sectors – travel photography, landscape, photojournalism, fashion photography, fitness photography, wildlife, wedding, portrait photography and more. We asked the below professional photographers one simple question:
What is the best advice you would give to someone just starting out their photography career?
We would like to say a huge thank you to all of the photographers below that took the time to share their industry advice. We hope you enjoy reading this inspirational roundup, and please feel free to share it with your friends or own audience if you find it useful
Travel photographer

“The best thing that you can do as an aspiring photographer is to identify a style that represents you well, develop within that style, and keep shooting to perfect it. It’s super important to have your images be recognizable by editors and others who are looking at your work. With the large number of photographers that are out there now you must find ways to stand out. The best compliment I can ever receive is when people know my photography work instantly when they see it.”

Image credit: Chris Burkard

Photojournalist

“Identify what you care about, find your visual voice and commit to creating a great body of work.”

Image credit: Ed Kashi/VII

Professional photographer

“Success starts with one simple principle, practice the creative process more than 99% of all the other photographers on the planet.”

Image credit: Joel Grimes

Photojournalist

“Stop sharing work that you don’t want to get hired for. People rarely hire you to do work that they’ve never seen you do before. Rather than pursuing the kind of work that you want to do, try to create work that allows you to lead the lifestyle you want to have. Be aware of social media but don’t build your career as if your life depended on it. Remember that you don’t own the platform. The platform owns you.”

Image credit: Von Wong

Travel photographer

“Stay true to your passion, do your best to find unique stories and always wrap them with the best light. There’s no shortcuts, only absolute commitment, especially in a world where everything gets shared and replicated instantly. In order to stand out you must find a singular visual expression, one that will endure the passage of time, rather than one that only lives in the short run and screams “me too”. Creation and original storytelling can be the greatest purposes in life and they can have a positive impact on others lives — that’s the biggest privilege of being a photographer and videographer.”

Image credit: Joel Santos

Travel photographer

“The best advice I can give to anyone new to the photography industry is to stick at it, like really stick at it, with velcro and double sided gaffa tape if necessary!! And don’t forget why you got into photography in the first place. Which means doing everything you can to stay inspired and motivated about the image making process, as without that passion and commitment you are far less likely to succeed.
Digital photography and the world of social media has meant that the number of entrants into the industry has increased exponentially. So to truly stand out you need to have a point of difference, be completely dedicated to your goals, enjoy what you are doing and never give up. It’s hard work, but the rewards are well worth it.”

Image credit: Chris McLennan

Travel photographer

“Take photos of subject matter that inspire you and that you find interesting or beautiful, and also analyse other photographer’s photos that you admire and try to work out why it is a successful photo. Analysing other photos that you like is a good way to figuring out what you should do in your photos to make them better. Be inspired, but have a vision and make it your own. See the photo in your mind before you take it, plan and think creatively. Like all the arts it’s never easy to create excellent work but with dedication and practice, you will improve your craft and find a photographic style that is your personal and unique expression.”

Image credit: David Lazar

Travel photographer

“It’s fun to talk about photographic style, personal projects, gear, etc., but the unsexy subject that they neglect to teach you in school and at workshops is the business side of photography. Right from the start of your photography career you need to treat yourself as a business and run your business professionally with long term goals.
You might despise those office jobs that your friends have but don’t forget many of those office jobs come with some securities such as a retirement plan, healthcare, paid sick leave, and things like that, working for yourself doesn’t.
Start right away with a retirement plan, set up a monthly automatic deposit to an IRA today. Study up on contracts, pricing, and taxes and think long term.
Many photographers hit their prime earning/working years in their 30’s and 40’s so start saving now. For example, it’s hard to drum up a lot of wedding photography business in your 60’s so you need to be prepared for those years. In addition to your retirement fund set aside some savings to get you by for several months in case you have an unexpected injury or sickness.
Start looking at your photography as a small business, and spend as much time understanding your business as you would on technical know how.”

Image credit: Justin Mott

Travel photographer

“There are thousands of good photographers, more than there have ever been, but how many are good business people? I know great photographers who have failed dramatically because of their lack of business skills and some very mediocre photographers who have had huge success for the opposite reason. Photography is a very small part of the equation. Learn business, learn how to effectively promote yourself and persevere. If you have confidence in your work, never give up.”

Image credit: Robert Holmes

Fitness photographer

“My advice to anyone starting photography is don’t get caught up with having the latest and greatest equipment. Yes having the right tools for the job can assist you in your work or projects, however having the creative vision is more important. Using online platforms such as YouTube to watch behind the scenes or live streams can help massively. Also never give up on your end goal and also always shoot for you and your passion.”

Image credit: Matt Thomas

Travel photographer

“When building a photography business you want to find a field of photography that you are so passionate about so it doesn’t feel like work. When you are doing something you love it is easier to dedicate the time and energy towards it. However when you are starting a photography business you may need to expand to other areas of photography that you are less interested in for a brief period of time.
For example, I wanted to make a living as a landscape photographer, but to help me finance my gear in the beginning I photographed weddings, birthday parties and baptisms. The money I earned from those jobs was reinvested into my business. I did this for several years before I was finally able to solidify myself has a paid landscape photographer. If you put in the hard work, the rest will fall into place!”

Image credit: Mike Ver Sprill

Wildlife photographer

“I get asked a lot about how I became a wildlife photographer or how to become one. Wildlife photography, i think, is incredibly different to a lot of other genres. Wildlife is unpredictable, sure you may get the odd lucky shot but a lot of the time it comes down to planning, knowing your subject & reading animal behaviour. I spend hours watching animals and researching them before taking a shot sometimes, knowing what they like to eat, when they’re most active, which habitats they prefer etc. etc.
All of this can seem daunting to someone starting out, you need to be patient. I’d say you certainly need to know your camera equipment relatively well before heading out in to the world of wildlife photography, but at the same time, heading to your local pond and photographing ducks and gulls that are used to humans could be the perfect place to ease yourself in gently, before you go heading off into remote areas in search of elusive creatures.”

Image credit: Luke Massey

Wedding photographer

“My journey into photography was a round about route. I started as a graphic designer and photographic art director for fashion and lifestyle brands. The experience I gained as an art director proved so helpful when I was starting out as a photographer. Im not suggesting that this is the way to go, but it is worth considering what skills you already have that can help with your photography.
For me it was my understanding of composition, being able to connect with people, a love of symmetry and the use of light that all helped massively. These did, and still do guide my photography. The actual practical skills of using the camera were the ones I had to spend more time learning in the beginning.
Start by finding what appeals to you, what images grab you and what you naturally gravitate towards. This is the first step to finding your own natural style. Whatever your love is start practicing! The more you practice the better you will get. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, we learn from the mistakes we make and sometimes you have a happy accident and create something amazing.
The other advice I would give is to ensure you put as much effort into the business side as you do the creative. If you want to run a business as a photographer you need to know how to make it work.”

Image credit: Fiona Kelly

Cultural photographer

Image credit: Marc Goyette
“Shoot what interests you the most. Play off your passion and document that. Don’t think in terms of individual photographs but groups that tell a story.”

Image credit: Phil Borges
Portrait photographer

“The single most important thing a new photographer absolutely has to understand is the simple word, Quality. There has to be a high level of quality in the photographic work for sure. But it is more than just that. There has to be quality in your brand, your manner, your packaging, your product offerings, your EVERYTHING. Even returning phone calls to prospective clients. If you wish to be successful you have to be willing to separate yourself from the crowd and that means you have to exhibit a high level of quality in everything…This even includes how you dress and how to talk to people. Everything. Seems simple, I know. But so many out there just can’t do it.”

Image credit: Tony Corbell

Travel photographer

“My advice would be to look to those who inspire you and take in your own direction. Study great photography and try to figure out what you like about it and how it was created, then make it in your own way. Invest in all the time, effort, and education that you can, then consider upgrading your camera, not the other way around. When it comes to gaining more knowledge in photography, first focus on the fundamentals. Work on understanding exposure, composition, and your subject, then have the patience to get the shot that you want. Always be learning, always be shooting.”

Image credit: John Greengo

Landscape photographer

“Photography is a highly-competitive field and you need to be focused on creating a better impression for your brand than your competition does. A brand includes a professional name/logo, a website which communicates your logo and biggest and best photos, plus at least two forms of social media. Next, assuming that your photography skills are the best they can be, it’s wise to find a niche in your area that doesn’t get allot of photography coverage.
For example, if you live in a tourist destination—then lodging, recreation, and dining businesses all need photography and video to promote their product. Approach the biggest, most well-known, businesses with your best samples and ask if they will support you by allowing you to shoot their product (for free or very cheap).
Then, GIVE your photos to this company (ask that they give you credit), and use these photos to populate your website to show the world that you are shooting for well-known companies. This will build your value. Ask these companies for a few lines of copy which describes how much they liked your work and how easy you were to work with. This supports your value. Add these testimonials to your website and promote via social media. Repeat, over and over, and gradually you will have a website full of valuable work to show new potential customers.”

Image credit: Dan Houde

Landscape photographer

“Instead of advice on photography itself as ‘shoot a lot’, ‘know your camera’ and ‘try different subjects’ you now have to deal with questions like ‘will it be viable?’, ‘how much do I charge?’, ‘how do I get clients?’ and ‘what are the costs?’ etc etc. I think the most difficult part for most people will be the decision to go from hobby photographer with some nice feedback and assignments from relatives to full time pro. You will have to quit your daytime job, lose your steady income, invest all your money into your new endeavor and just go for it.
For me personally it went as follows; I just finished my study and was not 100% sure about what I wanted to do next. I was already photographing a lot and got to a point where I asked myself if it was possible to make some money with my photos since I had a lot of them and some free time while looking for a job. This is how I got into the microstock business; I uploaded a couple of images and to my surprise I also sold some images after a while. Not much of course, but it is really addictive to see your sales going up and that makes you want to upload more and more.
Microstock is a nice way to earn money, because you can travel and shoot whatever you want without having to deal with a client or boss. But don’t get your hopes up too fast, because it takes a lot of time (years), knowledge and skills to build a decent portfolio and then still microstock alone won’t be enough to make a normal living, but I think it is a nice way to start and to keep yourself busy.”

Image credit: Dennis Van De Water

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