How to Become a Photographer in Today’s Digital World 📸

  • Design & Creative
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

Discover the path to pursuing your passion in photography in today's digital era. Explore essential skills and steps on how to become a photographer now.

Once confined to film and darkrooms, photography has undergone a remarkable transformation in the digital age. The rise of digital photography has ignited a surge in the popularity of photography as both an art form and a viable career option.

Smartphones and social media have made photography a part of everyday life, while affordable equipment, online resources, and supportive communities have opened doors for aspiring photographers. Opportunities within the field have diversified, extending beyond traditional roles.

In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of digital photography and offer tips on how to become a photographer as an Independent in the digital age. If you consider yourself a shutterbug and want to make a career out of your passion for being behind the camera, this one’s for you.



Being a professional photographer 101 🖼️

Professional photographers wield a unique and indispensable skill set in a world where images speak volumes — arguably louder than words. They capture emotions at life’s most important milestones, such as weddings and birthdays, the grandeur of landscapes, and the essence of products in advertising. A professional photographer's craft is the ability to narrate stories through images that engage viewers.

Typical professional photographer duties include: 

  • Refining images in post-processing, correcting colors, retouching, cropping, and enhancing details using software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop
  • Working closely with clients to grasp their vision, needs, and goals.
  • Juggling roles as artists and small business owners
  • Maintaining a solid online presence to attract clients and showcase their portfolio.
  • Keeping up with the latest trends in photography styles
  • Planning photoshoots and maintaining photography equipment

How to become a professional photographer ☝️

Entering the world of professional photography requires more than just a good camera. For Independents aiming to carve out a niche in this competitive domain, it's vital to master the art of capturing moments and refine your skills through practice and continuous learning. But beyond technique, it's equally crucial to understand your audience and market your work effectively. 

There’s no simple answer to the question of how to be a good photographer, but the following skills will help you get started:

Key skills 🧑‍🎨

  • Creativity: Professional photographers possess the ability to see beauty and stories in everyday scenes.
  • Composition: They’re masters of principles such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, balance, and symmetry to create visually pleasing and engaging photographs.
  • Light management: They understand natural and artificial light sources, using tools like reflectors, diffusers, and flashes to control and enhance lighting conditions.
  • Storytelling: Successful photographers know how to use images to evoke emotions and tell compelling stories.
  • Attention to detail: They ensure every element in their frame contributes to the overall impact of the image.
  • Adaptability: A flexible mindset is essential to capture unexpected moments and handle challenging conditions.

Technical skills 🤓

  • Knowing how to use a camera: The cornerstone of photography lies in understanding your camera inside out. Whether you use a DSLR, mirrorless camera, or smartphone, it's vital to grasp the intricacies of your device.
  • Familiarity with editing software: Learning to wield editing software, such as Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Capture One, is key to transforming ordinary images into works of art.
  • Understanding lenses: Mastery of various lenses, such as prime lenses, macro lenses, and zoom lenses, is essential for capturing different scenes and achieving specific effects.
  • White balance control: Proper white balance ensures accurate color representation in your photographs, which is crucial in achieving the desired mood and tone.
  • Focus control: Achieving precise focus is paramount for creating sharp and visually appealing images. 
  • Understanding exposure: This involves balancing aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to achieve your photographs' desired brightness and mood.

Do you need a degree to become a photographer? 🤔

Success in the field of photography is often driven by your portfolio, creativity, and technical skills rather than a degree. Many professional photographers have thrived without formal education.

However, this does not negate the value of courses and certifications in photography. They can significantly enhance your career and help you acquire essential skills and knowledge. Here's why:

  • Courses provide structured learning experiences where you can systematically build your photography skills.
  • You receive constructive feedback from experienced professionals and peers.
  • They provide opportunities to connect with fellow aspiring photographers and established professionals.

Examples of well-known photography courses

  • New York Institute of Photography’s professional photography course covers many topics and provides personalized instructor feedback that caters to beginners and advanced photographers alike.
  • The Photography Institute offers a diploma course that covers photography techniques, lighting, composition, and post-production.
  • Canon Imaging Academy, a reputable name in the photography world, offers a range of photography workshops and courses.

How to become a professional photographer: 7 tips 💯

Becoming a photographer is thrilling, especially if you prefer an independent route. Here are seven tips on how to get started in photography to consider:

  1. Choose your niche: Begin by selecting your photography niche, such as portrait, landscape, or product photography. This decision focuses on your skills and builds your distinct portfolio.
  2. Get the equipment: Invest wisely in camera gear suitable for your chosen niche, ensuring it aligns with your style and budget.
  3. Build your portfolio: Your portfolio is your visual resume. Use Contra's portfolio tool to create an impressive online portfolio that showcases your skills and style. Explore Contra's user-friendly portfolio tool for an efficient way to present your work professionally.
  4. Find an internship or job opportunities: Gain practical experience by seeking internships or job opportunities as a photography assistant.
  5. Join photography associations: Connect with peers and mentors by joining photography associations or online communities, like the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
  6. Continue to learn: Keep up with the ever-evolving photography field by investing in workshops, online courses, and tutorials.
  7. Self-promote: Create a professional website, utilize social media for outreach, and establish a unique brand identity.

What kind of salary do photographers earn? 💰

According to Glassdoor, the salary range for photographers in the United States spans $30,000–$75,000 per year. These figures encompass a broad spectrum and may not represent all photographers' incomes. Factors to consider include your level of expertise and experience, geographic location, and specialization in specific niches.

At the lower end, novice or part-time photographers may earn around $30,000 to $40,000 annually.

Experienced and specialized photographers, especially those in major cities, have the potential to earn well above the national average, with salaries ranging from $50,000 to $75,000 or more.

Independent photographers also often supplement their income by offering workshops, selling prints, or licensing images for commercial use.

How long does it take to become a professional photographer?

The timeline to becoming a professional photographer varies based on individual starting points and goals. Proficiency in photography can develop over several months to a few years, encompassing technical learning, compositional skill development, and practical experience.

Remember, practice makes perfect!

Level up as a photographer with Contra 🚀

Becoming a professional photographer is both an art and a strategic endeavor. It's about cultivating a keen eye for detail, relentless practice, and leveraging the right platforms to showcase your talent. 

As you evolve in your photography career, remember that having a strong support system and an effective platform can make all the difference. With Contra, you're not just showcasing your portfolio; you're joining a community of like-minded Independents, all working toward mastering their craft. With Contra, photographers can seamlessly showcase their portfolio, connect with potential clients commission-free, and navigate their freelance journey with community-backed support.

Ready to take your photography career to the next level? Join Contra today and set the stage for a flourishing freelance journey.

How to Make a Photography Portfolio in 2023 📷

Learn how to make a photography portfolio from scratch with our comprehensive guide. Also, discover tips to boost your existing portfolio.
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