A Vancouver-based freelance photographer shares career tips for people interested in starting their own photography business.
Suzanne Rushton describes the dark and light aspects of taking pictures for a living….
“Photography covers such a wide range of subjects. While I specialize in weddings, I also shoot family portraits, headshots and boudoir photography,” she says. “Recently I shot promotional photos for an exotic dancer…I shoot real estate and jewelry and events as well. There are really no limits, though for the most part I stick with people.”
Rushton began working as a freelance photographer in 2009 after taking formal training in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Her business began in a flash after booking eight weddings in the first year, and many more since.
Here, she shares what it’s like to work in freelance photography and offers career tips for photographers.
Freelance Photographer – Job Description
A freelance photographer is often seen at special events such as weddings, graduation ceremonies and other celebrations. As such they are expected to consult with clients throughout the photography process and scout out suitable locations, lighting and elements to be used in each shoot.
Rushton says because freelance photographers are self-employed, they also have to develop entrepreneurial skills.
“I create marketing strategies, generate clients and referrals, maintain relations with people, and then follow that up with amazing photographs and other photography related products such as albums, calendars or posters,” she says.
If you want to work as a freelancer, you may find Freelance Photographer’s Handbook: Success in Professional Digital Photography helpful.
How Much Does a Photographer Make?
“Salary-wise, it ranges from zero income if you are a hobbyist, to well over a hundred thousand dollars per year if you work hard, are very talented and, of course, know the right people,” Rushton says. “Wages are generally commensurate with experience. Product photography, like that used in commercials or magazine ads, is generally regarded as being less interesting, but the pay is often higher.”
She encourages photographers to keep updating their skills and develop an individual style to give them an edge.
“It is important as a photographer to carve out a niche for yourself and stay unique, rather than conforming to what the ‘standards’ are,” she says. “There will always be certain expectations placed upon you by brides, but once the checklist of shots is done, it’s important to flex your creative muscles and be yourself.”
Creativity and Flexibility – the Best Parts of Working in Freelance Photography
“I love the creativity, and the flexible schedule,” Rushton says. “I make people happy. They put effort into looking good, and it is my job to enhance them even further. People are generally excited at the prospect of a photo shoot.”
She adds that there are times when a bit of creative communication is needed to get a good result. “Sometimes when people are nervous, which does happen, then I get to coax them out of their shells and encourage them to relax and be themselves, which is also rewarding.”
Another job that involves a lot of creativity is working as a freelance graphic designer.
But, It’s Feast or Famine
While a flexible schedule can be appealing, Rushton says it can be a challenge at times.
“The flip side of a freelancer photographer’s flexible schedule is that frequently in the summer on weekends I am working. Also, the pay isn’t constant, so it can be feast or famine,” says Rushton. ”In the summer months the pay is lucrative, but in the winter one must be frugal. It’s just an exercise in budgeting, or expanding the wedding business to include destination weddings to hot spots.”
Career Tips for Freelance Photographers
“The best thing I can suggest is education,” says Rushton, “it’s a great idea to job shadow a photographer. Offer to assist for free if you can afford to do so, in order to learn how different photographers operate.”
“Try different types of photography to see where there is the best fit. There are many different genres of photography, including but not limited to sports, wedding, portraits, fashion, product, commercial, real estate, boudoir, pets and animals, kids, you name it,” she says.
Are you thinking about starting your own freelance business? You’ll find The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks, and Rewards of Having Your Own Business by Michael Port helpful – it’s a bestselling book on Amazon.
A similar type of career – working in the media and creative arts – is producing videos. For more info, read Career Tips From a Video Producer.
If you have questions or thoughts about this freelance photographer job description, please comment below.
Suzanne Rushton is a founder and photographer of Feeling Photography. She was informally educated prior to 2009, gaining experience in the field with wedding shoots. She has taken formal training courses at Focal Point Studios in Vancouver, BC, Canada; samples of her work can be seen on Feeling Photography.
About the author: Amy Bradney-George is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Her published writing work includes articles in several regional Australian newspapers as well as for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), News.com.au and The Sydney Morning Herald. She is also a contributor at Suite101 and maintains a blog for social commentary, opinions and reviews.
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