is it?


TPF Noob!
Nov 20, 2007
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Coney Island in Brooklyn, US
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit

I'm interested in hearing from freelancers about how they made the transition from amateur with a basic camera to a paid professional. What was the first thing that motivated you to begin trying to do this for money, and where did you turn for answers? How did you learn about equipment and figure out what you wanted to buy? I'd also like to hear more about experiences selling photographs as artwork.

Also if anyone is willing to share their "day in the life of" story, I'd love to hear what you like about this profession!

I'm new most of the technical terms, and I know squat about equipment...just so you know!

Thanks - Jason
Jason do you like taking pictures? Would you like to do it for a living? Are you good enough already? Have you got the confidence?

Why not take some pictures, post them here and get feedback from people about how you're progressing and that'll give you a feel for what level you're at, maybe.

Welcome to the forum.
Welcome aboard.

Freelance is a word that gets thrown around a lot...but it's not very specific. To me, it just means that you don't work directly for someone but work for yourself (not a bad thing). You get paid on a per job basis.

It could be to say 'freelance' doens't really tell someone what you do. Is is sports? Event coverage? Photojournalism?

As for how to break in...first I would think that you would need a very good understanding of photography...exposure, equipment etc. Then it would be a good idea to find someone to learn from...a mentor or something like that. Find a working pro and assist them, that's the best way to learn the business.

Of course, there is always schooling.
I call myself a freelance photographer. It is as Mike mentioned a real catchall word that describes a catchall photographer. I have a small studio and shoot some senior portraits, Christmas family portraits and such. I enjoy children and pets, and we go and listen to music while I shoot bands most weekends. I hate stuck up fashion shoots and weddings, but that's just my opinion. I do some location news type stuff for the local papers, wrecks, house fires and new business openings. Also some location product shots and buildings in progress for bankers as well as drive-by housing shots for insurance companies. I am under contract to nobody but myself and work when I please. Do I make lots of money? No. Do I still have fun? Yes. Could this support us? Probably with enough effort on my part, and that comes and goes as I feel fit. My problem with turning Pro, was that I wanted photography to still be fun and not just a job. I stepped away from it for over a decade when I got burned out on weddings. Today I enjoy what I do and that is what is most important to me.
I got started by going to school. I attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and from there I started small freelancing jobs to build up from a base of experience.
Thanks for the responses, I do love to take pictures - I'll post an example here and also try to post a few more in other areas of the forum. This looks like a great site with a lot of things to learn so far, and mostly I've just been reading!

If I could do something I love part-time while being more involved with my (future) children's lives, that would be pretty much great for me. My wife is a fashion designer and so the 9-5 job is covered :)

To prove I've read some of the other parts of this site, feel free to edit and repost this pic if you want!

YeeeaaaaaaHHHHHH!!!! Brooklawn is in da house!!!!!! I lived there for years. Years ago. I still miss it for some reason. If you are new to photography then I suggest you put making money from it on the back burner. There is just too much involved in learning the medium and developing your style.

Personally I went to SVA and assisted for years before venturing out on my own. Currently I work with the local paper and take on a lot of freelance work. I am employed by the paper. A steady paycheck is a good thing. Freelance meaning that I am contracted to take photos for the client. The money is good from both positions. Sometimes I think of ditching the paper. Problem is I a am a really bad business man.

A day in the life varies greatly. The papers winter magazine is hitting the press soon so I have been doing a lot of location product shots and copy work for galleries. The magazine is lucrative. I get a kick back from the ad reps on top of my hourly wage. In the summer I do mostly editorial work, which I love more then anything. That involves a lot of environmental portraits and illustrating stories.

Have to say that I took a new approach to photographers starting out. I think you have to be 100% committed to the art to be successful. The market is super saturated. Discount rates while working a "real" job is fine. If you love the medium I believe you have to commit. For some reason I am reminded of Morphius's line in The Matrix. "Take the red pill and you are home safe in bed. Take the blue pill and there is no telling how far down the rabbit hole you will go". Or something like that.

Love & Bass
I market myself as a freelance photographer because I (in all honesty) haven't found that "pocket" I feel best fitted for. And as I would guess, most of us here, we're part timers, which is the information that you need first. Never mind the full time thing yet.

I personally come from a totally different direction in the business. Although I was a full time studio photographer in the past, I gave it up when my daughter came around. I found myself in a bit of a moral battle with myself because the work I did catered to women exclusively. The photos started off (in each session) with as much clothes as the model could wear and ended with as little clothes if any as they could wear (which, by the way in my opinion is the most technical portrait that you can take. Nudes are a difficult subjects to photograph). I didn't feel that this kind of photography was something that I needed to make a career out of with a wife and new daughter at home.

Fast forward to about 4 years ago. I was involved in a theater company as a scenic designer and actor in a local company. I bought a Nikon D70 kit to take some snapshots of a production that I built the set of and I took this photo:


That's when the passion started again. So... to your questions.

I would first of all start by reading and studying photography books and forums constantly. Look at things that are interesting to you but you have to keep in mind "what things are marketable" and what aren't. You can take thousands of "you photos" that only mean something to you! I have thousands of them but I know that they probably won't sell as art to too many people. I do know that you need to keep it simple at first and find that market you feel comfortable with and shoot photos there.

As for the freelance thing. I happened into this again by offering those photos taken of Wiz of Oz to the parents (I took over 1200 shots). Then I carried my camera to the ballgames to take pitcures of my kids soccer, field hockey and softball games... parents there too! Then I took photos of a concert at my church and after a few months, I became the official photographer there (which is a large church and I shoot a lot of stock and commercial work) and that has lead to working for outside associations for their photo work. If I go to a concert that allows cameras, I take it and shoot it and give a card to the band. Most of the time, I take pictures for the sake of just taking them to practice lighting, depth of field, blah, blah, blah. Always take photos!

I really don't have a day in the life story but I can give a month in the life. Along with working my "real job" as a remodeling contractor (which uses up around 60 hours of my week), I manage to book stuff on the weekends. The last month I have had a marching band competition (12 bands, 2300 photos, 1 day!), a high school home coming football game (crowd shots), 4 family portrait sessions, 3 seniors sessions and an engagement shoot (for a wedding I am taking in June '08). Next week I have a family of 6, followed by another family of 6, followed by a family of 4 and a senior session. Plus I talked my way into a fashion show as a photographer on Sunday. I am already booked for another model portfolio session and a Christmas Program the first part of December. Today I gave a proof cd to one of my recent family sessions (which included cd printed with their image on it - the funny face shot, a thank you note, 3 pricing handouts for their friends with their image on it and 50 business cards of my pick of their best portrait as a photo business card with my information on it - this way, their friends want to see the photo and I want their friends to see my phone number!). Today as well, I did something new to me because of my real job. I have been working on a mega yatch and I talked to the captain about taking some photos of it and it's crew, to which he agreed.

So... part of this photo thing is luck, part is passion, part of it is timing. A lot of it (imo) is professionalism and rock solid marketing, but you can not ever forget that it is mostly about the image itself. Learn, watch others, shoot until you have a blister on your finger and don't ever, ever, ever dismiss those that offer constructive criticism, especially if after seeing their portfolio. If you just want to run away and curl up in the fetal position and cry out in your unworthiness in their photography presents... listen to what they have to say. You might just learn something.

That was an abbreviation. And personally speaking, I am wiggling myself into the commercial event photography (loosely photo journalistic based event coverage) and I am leaning toward theatric coverage. I am not the wedding or babies guy (although I shoot them semi-regularly)

Good luck


BTW: What is the focal point of your posted photo?
I came to "freelance" via a full time position as a biomedical photographer. I began a career in this field to combine my interest and love of photography with an interest in medicine and science as well as the security of knowing when and how much my next paycheck would be. I started freelancing because while I love my career, it is mostly very technical and wanted to do more creative and different assignments. My freelance work has consisted of photojournalism, landscape, nature, weddings and event photography.

To answer your question, I would say acquire all the photo skills that you can, understand that you should never stop learning. Be very comfortable with your equipment so that you can concentrate on the creative aspects and so that you can alway's deliver the photograph. Realize that obviously clients are looking for talent and creativity but equally and in many cases more important is reliability. Reliability means not only that you will show-up when needed, stay as long as needed but deliver the work when needed and that the work you produce is consistent.

Don't invest in equipment until you fully understand what kind of work you want to do, what a given piece of equipment will do for you and how to make the most of it.

Finally just keep making photographs, keep having fun and don't be afraid to experiment and make mistakes.

Best of luck to you.
Couldn't have said it better! "keep making photographs, keep having fun" That's what it's all about if you want to love your work.

Thanks Bruce.
Great responses, I really appreciate it!

That was a good question David about the focal point, I did lose it with the cropping didn't I? It was originally the pilings but then I tried to focus on the two metal rings in the pilings, right above the stump.
Big Mike mentioned finding a mentor. I was wondering the best way to to that. I'm new to the area where I live and I have little to no experience shooting professionally. I have the opportunity to go back to school and change careers and would like to turn a hobby into a life style, however I'd also like to work for someone first so I can see if I'll really be able to hack it. Any suggestions for finding a mentor would be great.

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