I’ve been a freelance photographer since 2016. I’ve always loved doing this job, but I have to admit that I made a few mistakes when I first started out.
So, I’ve decided to use my experience to tell you what a freelance photographer should and shouldn’t do.
1. Practise, practise, practise.
You don’t become a photographer overnight. In fact, it takes a lot of practice to become one. So kindly ask your friends and/or family to pose for you. The more you practise, the more you’ll know what you can do (and what you enjoy doing). Plus, you’ll have photos to share on social networks.
2. Publish your work on the internet
Once you’ve taken photos that you like and that you consider to be good (you should also ask people for their opinions before posting your photos), you should publish them on your social networks and on your website if you have one. Don’t forget to add hashtags and post regularly.
Keep in mind that you should always ask your model’s permission before publishing photos of them.
Publishing your work on the internet is probably the most effective way to attract clients and build a network, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it’s one of the tasks you really need to master if you want people to discover your work and hire you. Social networks are not easy to master especially because of the algorithm, and there’s real competition between photographers.
3. Specify the type of photographs you take
There’s nothing wrong with not liking or not being good at taking certain types of photos. For example, I don’t like taking wedding photos because I like to direct people… and it’s impossible to do that when you take wedding photos, as it’s almost mainly about taking spontaneous shots. So when people ask me if that’s something I do, I give them the names of wedding photographers I know. Plus, taking wedding photos puts too much pressure on me.
Every photographer has their own specialities, so you shouldn’t force yourself to take photos for which you know you don’t have the skills or interest. Otherwise, the result won’t be satisfying, either for your client or for you.
4. Clearly separate your different activities
I have three jobs: I’m an instructor, visual artist and freelance photographer. I rarely share things about my work as an instructor, but I do share the exhibitions I take part in and the photos I’ve been hired to take.
There’s a big difference between what I do as an artist (I create art based on the themes I work on) and what I do as a freelance photographer ( I take photos that meet the client’s needs). When I share my projects on the internet, I always keep them separate so as not to create confusion. A client shouldn’t think of my art as what I do as a freelance photographer, while a curator shouldn’t think that my artworks are the same as the photographs I take for my clients.
5. Pay attention to your clients’ needs and wishes
Your clients’ needs and wishes always come first. You take photos for them, not for yourself. Obviously, if the client has chosen you, it’s because they like your style, so take the photos and edit them as you normally would… and you can always share new ideas with them, but bear in mind that the photos must please the client. If they want the photos to be taken at night, don’t take them in the middle of the afternoon, okay? ;)
6. Talk with your client
To create something your client will love, you need to be sure of what they want, so talk with them. Exchange emails, create and share mood boards, show them your previous commissioned work… By this I mean you can’t arrive at a location without being sure of what your client wants.
I know some photographers don’t like to do this, but personally I like to show my clients the photos I’ve just taken during the shoot, so they can tell me straight away whether they like them or not.
7. Put the client at ease
Unless the client is a professional model, they generally tend to be uncomfortable when it comes to posing (and that’s understandable). So I encourage you to meet them before the shoot, over a coffee for example, so they’re less nervous on the big day and it’s also a way to finalise the preparation together. I also strongly advise you to always talk to your client during the session, you can talk about everything (what they like, what they do for a living, the weather…) as if it were a photo shoot between friends. This reduces the client’s anxiety and makes the photos more natural.
8. Setting rates
I used to set very low rates, so much so that some of my customers were surprised and told me I should be more confident and charge higher prices. So I listened to them and changed that.
It’s not easy to set rates.
You shouldn’t sell your work short, because it gives the impression that you’re not confident in your skills, but you also shouldn’t set your rates too high either, because no one will hire you if you do so. It’s all about finding the right balance.
You need to ask people how much they would pay for your work and look at the rates charged by other photographers.
9. Don’t impose the result
I used to choose the photos I took during the photo shoot, edit them and send them. I know that some photographers do this, but I changed my mind because I think that the client should see all the photos taken during the shoot (except, of course, the ones that are blurry and the ones where the client has their eyes closed and/or their mouth open). Some clients want me to choose, but I still send them all the photos (via an online gallery) so they can look at them. Once they’ve made their choice, I send them a PDF file with the first edited photos (something I didn’t do before) to make sure that they like what I’m working on.
10. Set a boundary
My last piece of advice is also crucial as it concerns the boundary you need to draw between your private life and your job. You need to set a timetable, for example by saying that you answer emails and work on images from 8am to 6pm, but not before or after. I know you love your job, but you also need to rest, watch films, read books, eat, spend time with your loved ones… Believe me, working too much can sometimes be hazardous.
I hope you enjoyed this article. The next one will focus on what a client should and shouldn’t do.