How to Become a Commercial Photographer

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Commercial photography is a dynamic and creative profession which covers many areas. However, to be successful you need drive, enthusiasm and investment of both time and money. It helps if you specialise in a certain area, for example advertising or wedding photography, and have a varied portfolio to show prospective clients. Many commercial photographers also hold professional qualifications.

Commercial photography has been simplified enormously by the arrival of digital technology. Reels of film and tricky photo processing are things of the past, and although digital SLR (single lens reflex) cameras are still the preferred tool of professionals, they're not essential for those just starting out. Good results can be obtained from high-quality compact and bridge cameras (which cross the divide between SLR and "point and shoot" models), making professional results viable for the most amateur of commercial photographers. Cameras like the Panasonic Lumix and Nikon Coolpix have the looks and results clients are after, yet are highly affordable - and easy to use.

Selling to commercial buyers

If you enjoy amateur photography, and know how to use a computer, then you can become a commercial photographer . Agencies and art buyers have been hit by the recession too, and are constantly on the look-out for online images that they can use. Recently, an entire Mercedes-Benz brochure was furnished with images found on Flickr - though this was an exceptional case.
Getting into commercial photography has never been easier, though you should realise it's not a "get rich quick" option. It's a highly competitive business, with clients constantly expecting more for less. Few commercial photographers reach the heady heights of David Bailey these days. However, if you have a good head for business, and are prepared to work hard, you will make a good living, albeit a somewhat exhausting one!

Training in commercial photography

Whether you are a photography student or skilled hobbyist, it is essential you discover what areas you excel in, because this is where you will be selling yourself. It's pointless setting yourself up as a wedding photographer (a highly competitive arena) if you prefer taking close-ups of still life. For you, the editorial or advertising route would be better.

Commercial photography is very different to artistic photography, because you are having to take pictures based on other people's concepts, rather than your own. It's often a good idea to take a few short courses in different aspects of the industry.
commercial photography courses include editorial photography, photojournalism, fine art, portraiture, fashion and architecture. You don't have to be an experienced photographer to enrol - there are basic courses to teach the basics of movement, colour, light and montage, and advanced diploma modules during which you'll create an entire advertising campaign, complete with artistic layout and logos. Commercial photography courses can also include principles of business start-up, self-marketing techniques, basic law and commercial portfolio consultation - well worth the investment.
Alternatively, you can simply start off with a simple camera, offering your services to family and friends, put together a portfolio and then offer your talents as a freelancer to local photography firms. There are many routes into the commercial photography business, and they needn't be expensive.

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