How to Become a Professional Photographer: Define Your Goals

How to Become a Professional Photographer: Define Your Goals

So you want to become a professional photographer? It can be difficult and intimidating to launch into your own photography career, but it can also be a highly rewarding and fulfilling pursuit for the determined photographer.

The secret is to have steadfast discipline and willpower along with a clear plan to excel through the growth stages of this career. If you can conquer your fears and maintain a focused, disciplined approach, you can succeed in a professional photography career.

This is the first of a five-part series on becoming a professional photographer. We’ll start with how to discover and define your goals.

Part One

This is part one in a five-part series about becoming a professional photographer.

Part 1)  Define Your Goals
Part 2)  Establish Your Business
Part 3)  Master Your Skills
Part 4)  Produce Defining Work

Discover & Define Your Goals

This is a crucial and often overlooked first step when you’re just starting out in a creative field. With so many different career paths in photography, you need to  determine your own personal career goals so you know which skills are essential to master. It’s OK if you aren’t sure what to focus on just yet, this is your time to explore and discover your specific interests.

Discover Your Inspiration

Spend several days or weeks exploring the work of other photographers. With an open mind, browse through community photo galleries on sites like 500px or Flickr, visit local art galleries and museums, and leaf through a few photography books covering a broad range of genres.

Consume as much as possible, and take note of the type of photography that excites and inspires you. Are you drawn to particular subjects or messages, or is it a certain play of composition and light that moves you? The more clearly you can identify the areas of photography you’re passionate about, the better you can focus your efforts.

For example, I’ve always been moved by photojournalism and the compelling, emotive images that have been captured by photographers out in the field. I’m also intrigued by photos of unique places and striking natural landscapes. Therefore, I’ve focused my recent work on editorial imagery and travel photography.

Conversely, I have zero interest in sports photography, so I have declined to pursue or practice this genre; it doesn’t inspire me. If you don’t care about what you’re shooting, you won’t shoot it well. Keep this in mind as you explore your own photographic interests.

Determine Your Type

Take into consideration what type of photography best suits your own personality. Determine if you are an active or passive photographer. In general, introverted personalities will tend to be more passive photographers, while extroverts will thrive in active photography. Those who are very polarized in this regard will find this has the biggest impact on their career paths.

Concentrate on a genre of photography that compliments your personality. Practice shooting and test out different types of photography. Do you resonate with the quiet solitude of shooting landscapes, or do you flourish in the boundless energy of nightlife photography? Do you thrive in the high-pressure, fast-paced environment of wedding photography, or do you prefer the low-key setting of product photography? Consider the vast differences, and the level of energy and assertiveness required.

When your personal inspiration aligns with your own personality type, you have a winner.

Define Your Career Goals

Decide where you ultimately want to take your photography. If you love shooting scenics, you might enjoy working as a travel photographer. If you have fun photographing families, maybe opening a portrait studio is for you. Think big and dream well into the future. The purpose of defining these long-term goals is to help you remain focused and give you a sense of accomplishment every time you move towards them. It’s motivating to define a dream and then inch closer and closer to it. It keeps you on task.

Continue Reading…

Read Part Two: Establish Your Business.

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© bowie15 / 123RF

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Written by Hillary Fox

Founder of OnGoingPro, Hillary Fox is a travel and lifestyle photographer working throughout Europe and Africa. Visit her site at

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