England Studios Blog

Tips for turning pro

5 essential tips for freelance photographers

"Going pro-freelance as a photographer is a brave and adventurous move. Whether you are turning your passion for picture-taking into a new career, or you are leaving a full time position to try your luck in the professional freelance market, there are plenty of opportunities to maximize your potential and make photography work for you."

Tip 1. Service your gear

You may think all is well and therefore no servicing is required, but if you are going pro, knowing the actual state of your equipment – and knowing its been well serviced, can put your mind at rest while you concentrate on getting commissions. Make sure you have a good back-up camera too – and take it on all your shoots. Have it serviced and job-ready with charged batteries, so you can swap over if your main camera lets you down for whatever reason. There’s nothing worse than having to cancel a shoot with a client because your lens or camera body requires emergency treatment.  If you have a fully working back-up body and spare lenses, you can often salvage the situation with minimal stress. Yes, it’s expensive to invest in the ‘what-ifs’- but it can end up being a lot more expensive in the long-term if you lose a client over it.

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Tip 2. Confirm the brief

Clients aren’t professional photographers, and very often there  can be lack of communication between photographer and clients, regarding what exactly a particular shoot requires. For example, you might be asked to photograph a range of food dishes in a couple of hours. It’s important you don’t agree to the job until you know what the client expects from you. It might be that their expectations are too high, given the time and the budget available, because the dishes require the expertise of a food stylist and full lighting. Always be ready to offer your advice as a professional about what will be realistically achievable. Make sure you know exactly how many dishes you will be expected to shoot, and what the images will be used for. That way you can quote realistically for the job. If you don’t get the job, possibly because the client decides to go with another photographer on the basis of promised results, don’t be put off. At the end of the day, the quality of your work will bring in new business in the long term.

Tip 3. Find a good equipment rental service

Sometimes you will be asked to carry our jobs that are beyond the scope of your own equipment. Don’t be put off saying yes simply because you’ll need additional lighting and generators. Outdoor shoots for lifestyle photography or fashion often require industrial-style equipment that is available to hire from a good  photography rental service. You can hire a range of gear for 24 hours or more, and build the cost into the quote for the job. Very often, it makes more sense to hire on a job by job basis, as you may only be asked to shoot with such equipment infrequently. You can also rely on the mechanical soundness of the gear because hopefully it will have been regularly serviced, and if it does prove faulty for any reason mid-shoot, there is usually a way to salvage the situation through the rental service itself.

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Tip 4. Be organised

It goes without saying for any job or business, but as a jobbing photographer, you’ll have more to organise before an assignment than most professionals on a daily basis. Make sure you have all your gear packed and double checked the night before a big job. Spare battery packs, the back-up camera and lenses should all be included. Very often, if you are shooting in a public place, you will have to get permission from various sources to set up your equipment at all. Make sure you are aware of any paperwork that needs to be filed and submitted prior to the shoot. There’s nothing worse than rocking up on the day and being told you can’t do your job because you don’t have the correct paperwork. Very often, this will happen in places that require security clearance of some kind, like shopping malls or airports. Your clients may expect your to manage this aspect. Be sure to discuss it with them as they may also need to file for permission but may not realise it.

Tip 5. Know your limits

When you first start out, it’s very tempting to say yes to every job that comes your way. However, it’s equally important to know when to turn a job down because your know it will require more experience in the field that you currently have. While it’s good to get out of your comfort zone once in a while, try to do this on your own time, rather than on your clients. They will have a certain expectation in terms of results, and ‘winging it’ doesn’t always enable you to hit the mark very effectively. Building a respectful and long term relationship with a business client can lead to you being called upon time and time again for photography jobs. If you say yes to work you are inexperienced in, it may not reflect well on you once the job is done. Don’t be afraid to pass on the job to another photographer who has more experience. Ask if you can accompany them and learn from their techniques, so that next time you’ll have a better idea and some experience as well.

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