Who is a professional photographer?
All of us, at least once in our lives, have fancied becoming a photographer. Today, with the accessibility and ever-improving quality of mobile cameras, everyone has the ability to click photos. However, professional photographers are master at taking photos with their understanding of light, framing, and composition. Professional photographers understand the working of a camera and lenses at a deeper level and have the skill to play with the focal length, aperture, shutter speed and lighting to create a perfect composition & capture it in a frame that best portrays the moment.
A good photograph has a main subject and it always portrays an interesting story to the viewer. The subject of a photograph almost always defines the type of photography like fashion, wildlife, journalistic, nature, portrait etc. Each photography type has different techniques to master to achieve the highest level of the art form.
How to Become a Professional Photographer?
- Becoming a professional photographer does not require educational achievements, but you need to learn the tricks of the trade and practice with patience.
- You can start doing photography using your mobile camera itself. In the beginning, you don’t need expensive camera gear, but you need to learn about lighting, composition, framing a shot and some similar other concepts. You can easily learn about these from the videos in the resource library section.
- The best way to advance in the photography space is to learn from the masters. Try to get a job as a photographer’s assistant, or an internship in any magazine company.
- It is important to show your work to the world and be in the community of photographers. Post your photographs on Instagram and other social media accounts. Join group photography walks and facebook photographer’s groups and take feedback from the viewers.
- Photographers usually work as freelancers, but you need to build a portfolio to get a freelance job.
- Gain experience, as with experience you will learn and it will help you make connections in the industry as well.
- In any field, it is better to finish at least basic schooling education, class 12th in the arts stream. It is always good to read up on master photographers, the advancement of modern camera gears etc.
- As in any creative field, always inspire yourself to get better at the craft. Read photography magazines like National Geography, online blogs and watch YouTube videos on tips and tricks. Always experiment and find a creative angle to view the world.
- There are many online and offline courses in photography that will help you gain the skill and experience which will help in your resume as well.
- You can do Bachelors in Visual Arts and Photography, a Diploma in the same, Communication design in Photography or a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography and Digital Imaging.
Colleges where you can get a degree in photography –
- Light and Life Academy, Tamil Nadu.
- Delhi College of Photography, Delhi.
- Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University, Hyderabad.
- National Institute of Design
- New York Institute of Photography (NYIP), New York.
- Goldsmiths University, London.
What are the skills required to become a successful professional photographer?
Hardware skills – Many different instruments come with a camera. A person who aspires to become a well-known photographer must know about his camera gear and its technical aspects in-depth to take full advantage of its capabilities and explore his creativity. In a photoshoot, some extra objects which can be used are – drones, tripod stands, multimedia ports, gimbals, flash units, etc. The person must know how to use these products and when to use them in their photoshoot.
Software skills – Software plays a big role in the photography world. It is sometimes said that a true photographer makes a photograph. The camera is the tool to capture as much information as possible. Photographers usually take photos in raw image format in which the camera captures maximum information about the shot. Photographers must have in-depth knowledge about their camera settings to take full advantage of the gear.
After taking a picture he will process the photo in a computer software called Adobe Lightroom, in which he will tweak different settings of the photograph like brightness, contrast, saturation etc to make it more expressive. Knowledge of post-processing software is an essential element of modern photography. It is also an art to create a beautiful picture from the raw image.
Creative skill – Just like any other art field, only technical know-how is not enough. You must have an eye for a good composition and a great shot. To cultivate that skill you must practice a lot. It is often advised for beginners to take at least 10,000 photos in default camera settings. No skill can be attained overnight. You must be patient, and take your time, explore and delve into the craft completely. View good photos from master photographers, learn how to frame a good shot. Move around the subject to shoot from different angles, experiment. Explore your weak points, talk to other photographers, get suggestions, and upgrade your skill level. Don’t run away from difficult situations where taking a good photo is hard for you. Try to imitate compositions from experts. Challenge yourself.
Business skill – Business knowledge is required when you decide to freelance. Based on your passion for various subjects you can choose to work as a photojournalist, event photographer, fashion photographer, wildlife photographer, product photographer etc. You may also switch between these roles as a freelancer and get hired by different organizations for varying periods of time. However, if you are aspiring to become a freelancer, you should be able to understand and grow your business in a sustainable manner. In order to achieve this, you should be able to network socially, understand copyrights and IP, master communication and marketing skills, manage finances, maintain customer relations and serve contracts to varying degrees depending on your role.
What are the present opportunities and future scope as a professional photographer?
Portrait photographer – Portrait photographers mostly take photos of human subjects, especially their faces. They try to capture human emotion and enhance their personality through composition and lighting. They mostly work in a studio with artificial lights. Portrait photographs are mainly used for magazines like Time, Forbes and celebrity photo shoots, newspapers, galleries, campaigns etc.
Scientific photographers – Scientific photographers mostly take photos of scientific experiments, materials etc to document the process in detail. Sometimes complicated camera equipment is used to capture important moments of experiments so that they can be studied later in detail by the scientists. Like a high-speed camera with an extremely high frame rate are used to capture the impact of a bullet on various surfaces. Scientific photographers usually work in private research facilities or government facilities.
Photojournalists – Many photographers earn their name from this profession. Photojournalists take photographs of important events or subjects related to a particular story from around the world for newspapers, magazines etc. Events can be political rallies, war, sports, inaugurations, important speeches etc. It can also be natural events like disasters, climate change etc. Photojournalist tries to capture important moments from the present so that it can be preserved in history for our future generations. The job is to tell a story through the photograph and express the impact of the situation to the viewer.
Freelance photographers – Freelance photographers are hired by companies from various industries or publications to work on a particular project. They also work on their own projects which can be based on a theme. The photographs are later displayed in galleries or in public events.
Photo editors – Photo editors usually work in a publication house where they lead a team of photographers working on different projects. Photo editors are mostly senior photographers who guide the juniors, edit photos, and discuss ideas about how to capture the story more effectively. They also manage the administrative side of a photoshoot like negotiating fees, permissions to shoot in a location, copyrights etc.
Wedding photographer – As the name suggests, they mostly shoot wedding events and create wedding albums for their clients. A person’s wedding is an important moment in his/her life. People spend a lot of money to have good and creative wedding albums. This is a competitive market in India. If you are very skilled, you can charge a higher amount for your shoots. These are basically event photography where subjects are constantly moving, a photographer needs to be on his toes most of the time to capture all the important moments.
Event photographers – Event photographers take photos of important events like press conferences, company product launches, music concerts, corporate events. These photographers work for news media, publication houses, corporations etc. They work in a fast-paced environment and they need to capture all the important moments as soon as they happen in front of them.
Product photographers – Product photographers take photos of a company’s product which are to be used for sales and marketing of the product. The products are usually photographed with a model actually using various features of the product in different scenarios. The job is to market the features of the product to the viewer and tell a story about the product so that the viewer could connect with the usage of the product in his/her life. These photos are used in catalogues, brochures, company websites, advertisements, packaging etc. This type of photography is mostly done in a studio environment, so the photographer has a greater ability to control the lighting, shadows, backgrounds etc.
Fashion photographers – Fashion photographers take photos of designer clothes worn by models. They also do photoshoots of fashion walks where they photograph models wearing the latest styles of clothes and walking on the runway. They mostly work for fashion magazines, news media, online publications etc.
Travel photographers – Travel photographers capture their experiences as they travel to different locations around the world. They usually work for lifestyle magazines, travel magazines, newspaper publications, online publications etc. They usually take photographs of landscapes, landmarks, markets, people, cultural festivals, food, lifestyle etc.
Wildlife photographers – Wildlife photographers take photos of animals in their natural environment like jungles, desert, ocean, aerial shots etc. The objective is to photograph the animal unalarmed in their natural behaviour. So, wildlife photographers need to blend in with their environment and be extremely patient to take the shot of the animal. They use long-distance zoom lenses to keep themselves far from the animal. They mostly work with magazine publications like Nat Geo, online publications, scientific communities etc.
The median salary of a photographer in India is around 3,87,100 INR / year.
Future of photography
In future, AI will play a much bigger role in photography. Features that are now present in high-end cameras will trickle down to regular phone cameras. Of course, technologies in professional cameras will be much more advanced than today.
We will have cameras that will shoot all the time and an AI algorithm will curate the photos which best portrays the subject. In the future, the photographers will have a large amount of data about the photograph, the art will be to select the right photo, and edit it into the most poignant and meaningful imagery.
The actual environment lighting won’t matter that much. A photographer could add his desired lighting using software based on AI and real-time 3D mapping of the environment. This means a photo can be taken in very low light, but the lighting could be enhanced using 3D mapping software.
- Cindy Sherman – the American photographer, has 2 snaps under 10 most expensive photographs ever.
- Robert Frank – Famous Fashion photographer hailing from the United States.
- Dabboo Ratnani – India’s top portrait and celebrity photographer, well known for his annual calendar.
- Raghu Rai – Indian Social and Political photographer who has bagged the Padmashree in 1972 for his work in the field.