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How to Become a Professional Photographer: A Quick Step-by-step Guide

11 min read

Are you new to photography and looking to turn your passion into a business. Or maybe you’re an established photographer looking to enhance your existing business? Seeing photographers online getting rich and famous while you struggle to score a single gig in weeks can be stressful. We understand it can be hard to know where to start or how to promote your work.

This is why we’ve put together this quick guide to help you get your first client and find the right answers to your question⁠—how to become a professional photographer.

In this guide, we’ll cover the following (and more!):

  1. How to start a career in photography
  2. What is a creative style?
  3. What is a photography portfolio website?
  4. How to create a photography portfolio?
  5. Examples of professional photography portfolios
  6. How much does a portfolio website cost?
  7. How to create a photography portfolio using Ecwid
  8. How much to charge for time and work

Let’s dive right in and find out how you can start your own photography business today and start taking new clients!

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How to Start a Career in Photography

You enjoy telling visual stories through the art of photography. You’ve already bought a DSLR and spent your share of time watching and editing YouTube videos. But how do you start a real-life career in photography?

Although many professional photographers out there have taken university-level training to acquire the necessary skills to become great in the art of taking photographs, this is not always the norm. There are hundreds of great photographers that have never earned a degree in photography, and who were able to develop great skills and abilities through the help of online courses or reliable mentors.

Acquiring the right skills and taking enough time to practice are usually the first steps to becoming a professional photographer. After the necessary training and experience, then comes finding your focus area and creative style as you build and create your website or online portfolio.

Getting started and finding your creative style

Regardless of your training and background, it’s now easier than ever to start your own photography business and promote your work online. While it can be difficult to believe that you can not only land your first photography gig but also start a career with it, we’re here to remind you that this is quite possible. Everyone has a unique experience becoming a photographer, but ultimately, your goal before landing a client should be finding your focus area and forming your creative style.

So how do you find your area of focus and form a creative style?

Click, click, click! Your work will get better and you will figure out what you like. Don’t be afraid to try out new shots and editing styles. Eventually, you’ll figure out which angles, light settings, and editing styles work for you!

With this in mind, let’s find out more about figuring out your creative style and building your online portfolio.

What Is a Creative Style?

Simply put, a creative style is your way of viewing the world around you. It is unique and personal. Thanks to the rapidly evolving and accepting creative world that we live in, it is easier than ever to find your own style and own it.

As a photographer, you may be more inclined toward certain light settings, color palettes, and photography styles. It is important to reflect your creative style, not only in your photography but also in your photography portfolio website.

How to Create a Portfolio

Before charging for your services, you should have a solid portfolio. It can be done by doing a couple of free photoshoots for friends & family. This will not only enhance your skills but also help you gather photographs to display on your newly updated portfolio.

What is a photography portfolio?

A photography portfolio is a user-friendly website that showcases your work to potential clients. A good portfolio website must have a simple & minimalist look, be up-to-date, and resonate with your creative style.

It should have the following components:

  1. Your Biography
  2. Your projects
  3. Your rates
  4. Booking/Contact Information

Examples of professional photography portfolios

Here are some examples of professional photography portfolios and what we love about them:

  1. Jessica Kobeissi: Her best work is displayed right there for clients to love. Her website also has a minimalist photography store which you can create with Ecwid as well.
  2. Brandon Woelfel: While his website is otherwise slightly complex, this page is a wonderful example of a user-friendly portfolio page.
  3. Jerry Maestas: His portfolio is simple & user-friendly. His website, like his style, is consistent.
  4. Skyler Knutzen: A wonderful example of a complex and unique portrayal of creative style.
  5. The Wild Bride: Their website includes their packages as well as a FAQ page.

How Much Does a Photography Portfolio Cost?

It is true, professional portfolios can be expensive.

As a photographer wanting to up your game, you might not have any coding experience. This means you will need to hire a developer who typically charges $70-80 per hour. A good alternative would be using an e-commerce site.

Most sites offer free plans with very little customizability or entry-level $15/month plans. So, if you are not ready to spend money on your website yet want to create a free, professional website with high customizability, Ecwid is the best option for you!

After signing up, you get clear step-by-step instructions to a beautiful, fully hosting & secure website. You can add all of your photographs with just a few clicks, and be ready to promote your work in no time.

How to Create a Photography Portfolio Using Ecwid

First, you need to sign up with Ecwid for your free site. The instructions are quick and simple. Once you’ve entered your details, you’ll be able to edit the website using the Website Settings. This takes you to the site blocks.

Familiarise yourself with this page by clicking on each block. You will be able to see the high level of customizability instantly.

So, you’ve already decided on your creative style, now, it’s time to start making changes to the website. Some things to remember while working on your website are:

Your creative style is constantly evolving. And so will your website. Don’t fret if you feel the need to make changes to your website after a shift in your creative style. Consider this an essential step to further advance your career and portfolio.

Stay minimal. A minimalist website is easy to maintain & navigate especially if you are a new photographer in business and people are yet to see how fantastic your work is.

Put your best photography on your homepage. Your best work should be the first thing on your website whether it is a sample portrait of an abstract photograph waiting to be sold in print.

Use images consistent with your style. A portfolio not only shows a client that you are a competent photographer but also helps them see if your styles align. If you have a photograph with excellent exposure & composition but doesn’t go with your usual style, don’t include it.

Make it easy to contact you.  Once a client knows they want you for their next photoshoot, it should be easy for them to contact you. Your portfolio’s menu should include a contact page.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. As a creative, you should consider your website your creative child & should not be afraid to groom it. Keep experimenting to find your perfect website style!

How Much Do Photographers Charge?

Alright, so you now have a website and portfolio in place and you’ve been contacted by your first client. How much do you charge as a beginner photographer? We would recommend following the beginner photographer ladder.

In the first few gigs, you should have flat rates ranging from $25-$70. While it is good to keep rates low in the beginning, don’t exploit yourself. After a few photoshoots, you will want to start charging per hour. Consider using use the following 2-steps pricing calculation:

  1. Cost of material + Cost of labor + overhead = total cost
  2. Total cost + Desired profit (e.g. 15%) = final sale price

However, most beginning photographers start off by charging $15-80 per hour.

Ready to Start Your Journey as a Professional Photographer?

No matter where you start as a photographer, remember that this world has a place for your art. Your website will remain unique to you if you remember to be yourself. Join Ecwid today for free and start promoting your work as you get ready to take on new clients. Tell us in the comments below if this article was helpful and how you plan to get rolling!


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About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

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