After being in Photography for around two years now and starting from no experience with dSLR's to now having it as a second job I thought I'd share my story how I went about it and perhaps others reading might find some value in it if wondering themselves how to take the next step and turn a hobby into a casual income earner.
For ease of reading, I will do this in point form.
1.) Obvious yet I will say it anyway. You'll need dSLR gear...that being of a body, a wide-zoom lens, speedlight flash and a bag to carry it in (I just use an ordinary backpack). I have a D7000 with a battery pack grip (I mostly got this because my hands are big so I could get a good hold on the camera, however the extra battery is very useful). I started with a 50mm prime and used for a few events however I found this very limiting in tight spaces for shots I wanted so I found myself getting the 17-55mm f/2.8. It stays on my body 99% of the time now. I say a wide-zoom rather than a tele-zoom because most work you will be after will require it. How much you choose to spend is entirely up to you...I'd say starting out around $2000 is great. Don't be afraid to get second hand either.
2.) Learn, learn, learn. A few weeks later I did a short course (8-12 weeks) at TAFE on Photography and really got comfortable with using the Manual setting. Do a course in Photoshop. Online, wherever...read lots, then try it out! Apply what you learn...
My favorite Photography teacher is Bryan Peterson. YouTube him and read his books also.
This site AusPhotography is also a good tool for learning when you give critique to others.
3.) Take photos. Very easy to just go click crazy in the beginning however do try to resist. Think of your camera as a film camera...each shot is worth $2...is your shot worth $2? Offer to take photos of friends during dinners out, take formal photos and candids at Weddings, Christenings etc. then after a few attempts or when confident enough create a photo album with the photos and give as a present when you believe you have a solid 200 photos from one event. Compile the photos from the start of the event to the end also. If candids are something you are not comfortable with, enlist on various sites to shoot as a cat walk fashion photographer for student designers. You won't be paid for it, but at least it gives you practice with technique and most importantly confidence.
Take photos of things that interest you in your spare time also. Try to do 20 mins+ a day. Keep your photos also...don't delete old albums of what you considered good back then. It is nice to look back and see how much you have improved.
4.) Seek work! About 5 months in I started by looking on Gumtree and searching things like 'photographer required'. The pay won't be amazing but it is a start. I begun by shooting the back of taxi's that had advertisements on it...odd job, but I got $50 cash for 6 hours of work across two days...so 3 hours a day. I kept asking my employer, who was a designer what he thought of my photos each time and if he knew of someone needing a Photographer to get them in touch with me. Sure enough, after a few weeks of persistence, I got another job with Haymarket Chamber of Commerce and I worked with them on providing photos for an app. of theirs they were making. If you own an iPhone, it can be searched under 'HHC' or 'haymarket walking tours'. It is a free app. and all the photos were done by me.
After that, and the app. launched I asked again if there was other work for me and eventually I got asked to shoot their events and City of Sydneys collab. parties. I have been doing this since and for 3 hours work it is $99 for around 30-50 photos at a time which occurs on a fortnightly/monthly basis.
- Treat it seriously like a business. No good spending $50 to reach a spot with fuel and parking if they pay is $60...etc. However, if you can see the work leading to bigger things, then might be worth sticking it out short-term.
- Treat everyone like a customer and put excellent customer service into practice...learn this if not sure how.
- You will need to be outgoing and prepared to talk to strangers with a friendly and positive approach. No one wants to be photographed by a sorrowful looking person...they will think something is wrong with themselves when getting their photo done.
- Be efficient. 90% of my photos are taken in the first shot. Look in the background of shots, make sure everyone is in frame and not chopped off unintentionally, make sure people are not holding half eaten chicken drumsticks etc.
- Be early to events, dress the part, be polite, ask the organiser who the important people are that need photos taken...ask how they would like the photos in size etc. and whether emailed, usb stick'd...be proactive!
Extra work to come through includes band nights and company events. Again, don't be afraid to walk into a pub, talk to the band before they start and offer them photos...say, 20 for $50 that they can have.
5.) Consider holding your own exhibition. I have had two exhibitions so far with a friend. Sold two small photos for $20 in my first exhibition which was a great experience. I sold 3 photos or $150 each in my second exhibition. Don't be afraid to have a go...don't just be stuck posting on the net only. Choose a topic to shoot you are passionate about, practice it...have a go at getting them printed...see how they look. The first topic I did was black and white street art...not very strong looking back however at the time I thought it was. Second topic for exhibition was street photography again in colour mixed with some drawings of mine.
Here is a blog from my first exhibition. Last article...
I hope these five points are of use to someone out there and in making a bit of money from the great hobby that is Photography.