The 5 Stages in Becoming a Professional Photographer

By BeckyDembowski | goshoot.photography

Professional’s Aren’t Born Over Night

I’ve been using a camera for 27 years, back then it was capturing marching band friends, or basketball games.  Every now and then I’d take shots of trips and family events.  I was simply capturing the moment…  I would compare my journey of photography the same as other photographers in that it started with just a “point and shoot”, and progressed into a passion after learning and seeking out knowledge of the camera’s capabilities.   I’ve come up with these 5 stages in becoming a professional photographer in Boise, based on the many years of experience it’s taken me… What ever your stage is you’ll want to make a mental note as to your place and growth so that you can be aware of the progress.

Stage 1: BASIC Point and Shoot

At this stage you’ve likely been pointing and shooting with your camera to document a moment in time.  You have no style, no technique, no use of lighting considerations.  Certainly no forethought has come into play at this stage… Simply a snap shot of life, usually taken with a phone, or IPad..   You may have your camera on you at special occasions, but again it’s there to serve a basic purpose of capturing quick shots.  Shooting out of necessity..  You don’t know much about the options on your camera let alone on where to start playing around.

Stage 2: Technical Awareness

When you transition from point and shoot, you’ve become more aware of your camera.  Asking yourself “What if I used landscape, or switching back and forth from Auto to Manual setting.

By chance you caught a shot at sunset or sunrise and the photo turned out amazing.  You liked the outcome so you tried to recreate the image again.  You may notice that your positioning has changed, shooting from low on the ground, or holding your camera up high, changing your angle has impressed you to want to do it again.  Thinking more of the PHOTO RULE OF THIRD’S, has prompted you to pursue YouTube Videos, Photo classes, Tutorials on Photoshop or Lightroom.  You may also be shooting in RAW vs JPEG.  Usually people at this stage have started to purchase new lenses, flashes and accessories’ for their camera.

Stage 3: Narrowing in on Your Passion

The choices of “specializing in Photography” are countless.  You’ve likely found more enjoyment with one or two types of photography categories over another.  For instance if Portrait Studio Photography is your thing, you’ve invested in equipment like Soft Boxes, Light Heads, Backdrops for your growing passion.  If you are more into natural lighting you’ve mastered the favorite times of the day to shoot… You’ve explored places that are your favorite, parks, streets, backdrops.  You’ve found the enjoyment of shooting specific types of moments from Wedding’s, to infants, or corporate photography.  It all resonates with you and the artist your becoming with photography.  At this stage you are comfortable with Photoshop, Lightroom, or other programs to enhance the images you’ve created.  You may even be blocking time out to continue learning of techniques via tutorials, YouTube.   You’ve started to create your own niche and signature of photography.

Stage 4: Art of Who You’ve Become

Putting thought more on the inspiration, instead of technical functions.  Allowing for more time into being creative, the mental shoots before your clients arrive, on how your going to pose, position, and the type theme you are going for.  Showing off your talents, more emotion, provoking thought and energy into the meaning behind the picture.  You’ve spent more time trying to bring out the true characters of your subject then on the functions of your camera.  Less time spent on the LCD monitor and more on feelings, capturing the “True Self” with the subject in front of the lens.  You are more confident, you spend less time looking for feedback and more time in honing your passion for your profession.

Stage 5: Technical Master

Now you have been able to create a story line of your journey, that journey has depth.  This stage has occurred through years of practice, years of perfecting, and years of shooting.  You’ve mastered your specialty in what makes you great.  Chances are you’ve eliminated categories of photography through trial and error.  Often times I hear of photographers sharing nightmare stories and swearing they’ll never shoot, weddings, or real estate.  Based off of all kinds of expectations from clients and or themselves, they’ve made the decision that fits their true self too.

You are likely focused on “Getting paid for what you do”,  you’ve done a lot of pro bono work.  At this stage it’s about earning a living and rewarding yourself of the years of practice you’ve completed.  There are few photographers that can maintain this stage as they easily burn out.

It’s important to know where you’re at in the stage of your progression to becoming a professional photographer.  Never stop learning and improving your skill.  The technical world moves at a must faster pace, so keeping up on the latest and greatest is always a sure sign to success.

I consider myself at Stage 4 Art of becoming who you are, I still accept those unique shots that I later regret, and I’ve accepted shots I never thought I’d enjoy.  For example, I still swear off Wedding’s after committing to two, for friends, and I committed to family a session I thought would be a disaster.  Turns out I was wrong, and part of that is taking a chance on knowing the camera and trusting my skill, and vision.    Individual shots are still my favorite, from headshots, senior portraits, to boudoir I thoroughly enjoy connecting with people, making them feel and look beautiful, special and unique from the time we start to the time they are getting their images.  Having lived in Boise Idaho all my life and choosing photography as a second career, I’ve been able to focus on Natural Lighting and locations few know about, making the one of a kind photoshoot just for them.  I’m always learning and growing, the process is never over.. Enjoying what you do should always come first.


Join me next time as we discuss “How to Get Paid” for doing what you love.  We’ll attack self-worth and poverty consciousness how these two impact how you deal with money.  How to get paid from Family and Friends, no MORE FREE….



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