How to become a professional photographer

Do you need qualifications to become a professional photographer?

How to become a photographer Tom Mackie

Studying for a photography qualification can help to fill in any gaps in your technical knowledge, strengthen your portfolio and demonstrate your commitment - something that can certainly make a difference when you're looking for your first job.

But how relevant is it for the keen amateur looking to become a professional photographer?

"I feel it's important to have a good technical understanding of photography and the business of photography, so a higher education degree from a respected institution is a good starting point," advises Tom Mackie.

"Photographic workshops are also a good way to learn from professionals. I have had many amateur photographers on my workshops who have eventually taken the plunge to become professional photographers.

"There is a distinct difference between a photographer and a 'professional' photographer in the way they work in the field and with clients."

SEE MORE: 77 photography techniques, tips and tricks for taking pictures of anything

University of life
Like many pros, Richard Peters didn't study photography: "I opted for the hands-on approach of trial-and-error, instead, sharing my images on forums with others to seek feedback and help me develop.

"Anyone can pick up a camera and learn what buttons do what and take a technically brilliant record shot," he adds.

"However, the real challenge is understanding light, how to work with it and how to create something a little different from the rest. It's not easy, and not every shot you take will be an award-winner or a big seller. But the more time you spend behind a camera, the more you'll grow and learn."

"I have only two qualifications," adds Alex Bailey. "A driving licence and a City & Guilds in photography - I didn't get any other qualifications at all! If you actually delve into the history of a great deal of well-established photographers, many of them have little or no formal qualifications - they have done it through hard graft from the ground up."

If you're considering turning professional then you're confident in your photographic ability and maybe a qualification isn't for you. But how much thought have you put to managing your business?

You'll need to have a sound grasp of the financial side. Getting to grips with accounting, tax payments and insurance - in addition to covering your gear for damage and theft, you'll need public indemnity insurance - is vital, and attending a short course on setting up and running a business is likely to prove as worthwhile as studying for a formal photography qualification.

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