Many retiring photographers can tell you about what inspired them to get into the profession. Maybe it was that first drugstore instamatic received as a childhood gift. Perhaps it was seeing a truly inspiring photograph in a major magazine. At any rate, becoming a professional photographer used to be pretty straightforward. Times have changed. Are paid photography gigs even still possible these days?
In a word, yes. Professional photography, as a craft, is still alive despite what mass media may claim. It may be different compared to what it was just 20 or 30 years ago, but photography is still very much alive. Salt Lake City’s Vargo Photography is proof of that.
Vargo says the real money these days is in commercial photography. What is that? It is photography designed to produce content for marketing purposes. A food photographer doing photo shoots for restaurants is providing a commercial service. So is the event photographer taking shots that a digital marketer will use to promote an entertainment venue.
The Niche Is Everything
One of the unwritten rules of professional photography is to find a niche and make sure you excel in it. The rule hasn’t changed over the years, even though professional photography has had to evolve with the times. The niche is still everything when you are looking for paid photography gigs.
Here are some examples of lucrative niches:
· Sports Photography – Pro and college sports continue to be big money makers around the world. Teams are always looking for photographers capable of producing great marketing shots. And of course, freelance photographers can sell their photographs to media outlets.
· Portrait Photography – Some commercial photographers specialize in portraits. These are not family portraits for the annual Christmas newsletter, they are professional portraits for websites, corporate promotional materials, and the like.
· Brand Photography – One of the more exciting niches in the commercial photography world is brand photography. This is an art form that utilizes photography to develop a company’s brand. It utilizes all sorts of subjects and environments to tell a brand’s story.
Your best chance of landing a paid photography gig is to find a niche and develop it. Find one that pays well, then work to make sure you are the best you can be in delivering it.
Build a Great Portfolio
Software developers and engineers submit resumes when they apply for jobs. To a photographer, resumes are meaningless. What is important is a portfolio. If you want maximum access to paid gigs, it is essential that you build a great portfolio of your work. Nothing speaks of the quality of your work better than the work itself.
It goes without saying that your portfolio should be strong in the area you have chosen as your niche. You can have other types of photos to show, but make sure to emphasize those areas you specialize in. After all, isn’t that the kind of work you are truly after?
Don’t Stop Knocking
With a well-developed niche and a great portfolio, you need just one more thing: persistence. Finding paid photography gigs requires knocking on a lot of doors. But you cannot be ready to give up after the first few rejections. You have to keep on knocking until you get a paid gig. And after you get paid, you have to turn around and start knocking again.
Paid photography gigs are still out there. You just have to know how to find them and be willing to go get them. So develop your niche, build a great portfolio, and start knocking on doors.