Graduating from an amateur to a semiprofessional or professional photographer takes talent, business savvy and experience. The world of professional photography is a tough market to break into and is budding with new startups trying to build a client base. Being paid for photo shoots requires that you have a quality product to sell, previous work to display and a means for customers to know that you're a legitimate business to be taken seriously as a professional.
The equipment that you use is almost as important as the talent that you have. While the camera doesn't make the photographer, many professional photographers use high-end digital single-lens reflex cameras. These cameras feature a shutter and light meter, as opposed to digital point and shoot cameras in most department stores. While some department stores offer low-end D-SLR cameras, consider visiting a professional camera retailer when looking at equipment. Other equipment to think about includes lenses, off-camera and external flashes and any props or backdrops you may want to use.
Know Your Trade
The major difference between a professional photographer and one of the hundreds of click and burn startup photographers that hang up their camera bags after a few sessions is the amount of education and training you have in photography. Are you shooting in the camera's automatic mode or one of the preset modes, or are you shooting manually, adjusting the f-stop, ISO and white balance as you shoot? Novices may not be able to tell the difference between a photo shot manually or in an automatic mode, but automatic modes may not provide consistent results over the course of a session, which can leave you with unhappy customers.
Create an Image
How your clients perceive you can impact the type of business you attract. Creating an image involves devising a studio name, website and logo designed to reflect your personality and attract the type of clients you desire. If your passion is to do children and family photography, don't design your website with a wedding theme. While many photographers dabble in multiple areas to suit their clients' needs, choose the style of work you believe best portrays the type of sessions you'd like to do and make that the primary focus of your branding and marketing efforts.
Have a Fee Structure
Whether you're using forums such as Facebook or Craigslist to host and advertise your photography business or a professional website, have an established list of fees available for your potential clients to view. Your fee structure should list a few basic elements, including your sitting fee, any potential retainer fees and an example of basic packages that clients may choose from. Including an à la carte menu for products and services in addition to your basic packages is also appropriate and gives clients the sense that they have a range of choices to customize their photography session. Consult with other local photography businesses to determine what may be a competitive pricing strategy for your particular brand of photography and your geographic area. Your fee structure should also discuss when payment's due and if you'll offer any refunds.