Every amateur photographer wants to become a professional one day. The ultimate dream of every photographer is to get their photographs featured on various platforms like social media, stock libraries, posters & magazines.

But how do you become a professional photographer in this constantly changing industry? Is getting a degree in photography an answer? Maybe all the high-end equipment can fulfill your dream. No matter what it takes, you need to make the journey yourself which sometimes can be a frustrating one in itself.

So, this article will guide you through some technical and non-technical aspects that are essential to take your photography from amateur to professional.

how to become professional photographer

1. Talent Isn’t Everything 

Before we even go into the technical tips and strategies, there’s something important that you need to know. “Talent isn’t everything”. Because every time we slip, every odd that comes in the way and every failure that you face, you would question yourself and people will say that you are not talented enough. But do not let their opinions get in your head.

You faith and your belief is everything. If your mind is not ready, no matter how good you are, you won’t make it. So, have faith that no matter how many times you make a mistake, learn from it and become better.

“A winner is a loser who tried one more time”.

2. Don’t Miss The Golden Hour

We can all agree that lighting is a key factor that makes a photo go from “Okay” to “Perfect”. Now a lot of people assume that more lighting you have, the better it is. But this is a typical amateur mistake.

Golden Hour
Image by Tim Hill

They also assume that it is hard to focus and get clear and crisp images in low light conditions. Let’s just say – “anything in extremes are awful” but we need to find the perfect lighting and if you are a landscape photographer, you must have heard the phrase “Golden hour”.

It is the hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. Around this time, the skies will be glowing with the sun just below the horizon casting a soft golden light which is so much more flattering than the harsh mid day sun.

Remember, you need to stand out of the crowd, and so you need to get the photographs clicked around golden hour to make your images look amazing.

3.  Use Spot Metering For Precise Exposure

Every camera has a basic “Average metering system”. It calculates the exposure based on the overall luminance. Now this works well when there’s a uniform lighting but the problem arises when it doesn’t average out to the standard 18 percent reflectance (When the lighting and exposure isn’t uniform).

Now if you have a scene where there’s a region of darkness and a region of light, the exposure still needs to be on the central subject where we want the viewer’s attention. This is best done with spot metering where you can select a region of the central subject so it would have a good exposure even with non uniform lighting.

4. Say Goodbye To Bad Compositions

Have you heard of the phrase “rule of thirds”? The rule of thirds involves dividing up your image using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, as shown below. You then position the important elements in your scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet.

rule of thirds

But with modern photographers and their unique perspectives, the subject matter can lie almost anywhere to look pleasing and good. Now many camera’s shows us this grid and I recommend you to make use of this feature to take better photographs.

5. Use Different Lenses For Different Scenes

If you are a beginner, yes! Having a single lens for all purposes works just fine. But if you want to become a professional photographer, every detail matters and using the same lens for all purposes will not work well. And that’s why it’s recommended to buy the camera and the lenses separately!

When I shoot food photography, I usually reach for my 24-70 mm zoom lens, or my 100 mm macro. For portrait work, I prefer 70-200 mm lens. If you’re travelling or doing landscape shots, you’d be better off with a wide-angle lens.

Just make sure your lens is compatible with the camera you own and you’ll be good.

6. Change Your Perspective

This is more important than anything else mentioned here. Perspective makes the photographer go from “good” to “great”. If you are just starting out you would probably take things as you see it but as you become experienced you would start getting an eye for things. You view things differently from others. .

Use your imagination and try different angles. There are a lot of factors that you can change but make sure you have an objective in mind when you are working on perspectives.

7. Keep Your ISO in Control

ISO is part of the Exposure Triangle. It affects how sensitive your camera sensor is to the light. As you increase your ISO, your image will become brighter.

But brightness is not always good as they lead to something called “Digital noise”.

ISO comparison

One might argue that technology today has grown enough for us to stop worrying about noise. But they still do have an effect on the photograph and every professional photographer take this into account.

So, working with higher ISO can tackle this problem but it also has it’s disadvantages. Make sure you test how far the ISO can be increased to minimize the so called digital noise in your photographs.

8. Go Online With A Portfolio Website

One might argue that their social media account is their portfolio but you need to understand that social media is to draw attention to your portfolio website which needs to talk about you as a brand.

When you have a website, you get to add an About Page and tell the world your story! You can segregate your photos with niches and types and make it easier for everyone to find your photos.

ready made photography portfolio website

Your portfolio website is the place you direct your clients to so they can hire you and as a professional. This is very essential as it sets you apart from rest of the competition.

This concludes our list of steps that takes your photography from amateur to professional.  Hope this article helped you and gave you some insights and value.