How to Get into Photography and Start a Career

Beginning a career in the photography industry can seem like a daunting endeavor. Yet, with the abundance of available resources, tutorials and knowledge on this creative path, jumpstarting your photography career can be a relatively seamless process. In order to determine if being a photographer is the best path for you, you will need to focus on a few important aspects of this industry.

In this article, we will cover which camera you should purchase as a beginning photographer, how and where you can learn photography and which type of career path you should follow from being contracted to freelance to owning your own business.

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Which Camera Should I Begin With?

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Choosing the right camera for your photography career depends on a number of factors including quality, capabilities, and affordability. When starting off you should consider keeping your expenses low and purchase a camera that is accessible and easy to learn. 

If you’re looking to shoot digital photography, a standard DSLR with a basic kit lens can be a great first camera for any budding photographer.

A DSLR from brands such as Canon, Nikon or Sony have a high megapixel count and quality lens glass – making them viable options for professional use. For example, consider purchasing a DSLR from the Canon EOS Rebel line or the Nikon D series.

On the other hand, jumping into photography can be incredibly inexpensive if you start off shooting film. Finding a starter 35 mm film camera can be done through eBay, thrift stores or even local online sellers.

The price points are substantially lower than digital, which can make this appealing for photographers on a budget. Additionally, learning on film is a great way for any creator to truly understand the mechanics and basic principles of ISO, aperture and shutter speed. A recommended starter film camera is the Canon AE-1 Program.

As a beginning photographer, it is important to remember that great images are not created solely because of expensive gear.

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When you are learning the art of photography, you should strive to know how to take every kind of picture given the camera you have. When you focus too heavily on the technical aspects, you disregard the importance of creative vision and artistic direction in your imagery.

What Should I Learn About Photography?

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When starting your path in photography, it may seem as if there is an overwhelming amount of information. From technical aspects to the steps in creating stunning images, there is a massive online presence of how-to guides and tutorials for learning any and all aspects of photography.

To learn more about the medium you have several options for educational and professional insight. You can:

  • Choose to pursue a professional degree in photography at an arts university
  • Enroll in several workshops for photography based on your niche such as “Portraits for Beginners” or “Creating Stunning Landscape Images.”
  • Bypass proper education and self-teach yourself.
  • Consult the Internet for learning resources such as photography dedicated blogs, online learning tutorials, teaching websites and instructional video components. For example, a helpful online tutorial website is Skillshare.
  • Find a local photographer in your area and reach out about assisting opportunities. This will help you learn the process of shooting and the business of photography.
  • Consider a part-time job at a photography studio to learn lighting, gear, and photographic setups.
  • Become a second shooter for successful wedding photographers in your town.
  • Recruit family, friends, and strangers to be the subject of your images. Practice your craft every day.
  • Shoot a lot of images – to become a better photographer, you must always be honing and perfecting your skill set.

These are just a few ways you can start jumping into the photography industry and gaining hands-on, practical experience in creating imagery. Whether you choose to follow a standard educational route, earning a photography degree, or bypass this to pursue a self-taught approach – you will learn the essentials of this medium.

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In order to truly become a photographer, you should be relying on trial and error to grow in your work. With the birth of digital photography, we now have the opportunity to fix and alter our mistakes in an instant. Using your digital camera, you can now teach yourself how the main components of taking an image work.

As we know, to compose an image you must understand the relationship between ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture – better known as the exposure triangle. As interrelated components, the best way to develop your form is by taking images in different lighting setups. Take photographs indoors, on a cloudy afternoon, in the bright sun or even in the dark of night – understand how to adjust and alter your settings to match your situation.

Once you have learned the process of the Exposure Triangle, you can now start creating images with ease. Aim to shoot every day to grow your body of work while employing your own personal touch and creativity in your images.

What Kind of Photography Career Path Should I Follow?

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The last component of kickstarting your photography career is to determine what kind of employment you will seek in the industry.

This choice depends on a certain number of factors such as financial stability, comfortability, photography niche, and marketing abilities.

Photography has never quite fit the standard job description as there are few traditional photography positions that follow the 9-5 method.

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With this being said, there are still options for contracted positions – you just need to seek them out. On the other end of the spectrum, a majority of photographers will choose the self-employed route. Which path you choose is unique to your own preference. Let’s explore these options below.


A contracted photographer may be someone who works solely with one client, studio or agency to produce images. For example, a contracted photographer could work for:

  • An e-commerce brand at their headquarters where the main responsibility is to create photographs for their online store and product distribution.
  • A photography studio within their city focusing on capturing portraits of clients that come to the studio.
  • A photography company that hires photographers to capture events or tours.
  • A wedding photography company that hires photographers for their client’s special day.
  • Working with a modeling agency to photograph all new talent in their studio.

These are all examples of working as a photographer under the employment of someone else. These positions can range from part-time to full-time opportunities, but the majority of true contracted photography work is salaried and meant to fully support you financially.

If you’re a photographer who wants consistency and the satisfaction of having work, you should consider working in a contracted manner.

Freelance / Self Employed

On a completely different note, many photographers prefer the freelance, self-employed route of the industry. In this way, your business is built off of multiple client contracts and the ability to take work on from anyone you choose.

Freelance opens up a plethora of opportunities for the budding photographer. You can choose to work with fashion brands, magazines, news sources, online publications, bookstores, agencies, and studios – all on retainer or project to project basis.

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While this flexibility is great, it is important to remember that freelance and self-employment can be inconsistent and stressful. Finding clients can be a daunting and difficult process that will take many hours of dedication and perseverance. When working as a freelance photographer, you have to remember that you are now running your own business.

If you’re considering jumping into this route of photography, you will want to have some client leads or financial savings to keep you afloat while you aim to land work. Being a freelance artist can be difficult at times, but the end payoff makes it a worthwhile experience. Being able to choose your clients and projects is every creative’s ultimate dream.

Home Studio

The final path you can choose as a photographer is to work solely out of your own home studio. This aligns with the idea of self – employment, but calls for a reliance on creating only studio work. This option can be great for portrait photographers or even product photographers who capture images exclusively on backdrops.

A home studio can be relatively inexpensive to set up, making it a viable option for building your business.

If you are considering setting up a home studio, you will need to identify your ideal client base.

  • Are you located in a small city and want to focus on headshots or individual portraits?
  • Or are you located in a thriving metropolis where you can photograph models, celebrities and powerful industry leaders?

Whichever you decide, creating a home studio allows you to work from home, determine your ideal clientele and market your work with consistency.


As you can see, starting a career in the photography industry can be achieved in various ways. From choosing a simple starter camera to learning the basics and determining your ideal level of employment – you can kickstart your career in little to no time.

As a photographer, what was most helpful to you when beginning your journey into professional photography? Share with us your experience and insight in the comments below.

About the Author

shannon ciricillo author

Shannon Ciricillo

Shannon Ciricillo is photographer working with digital and film formats, she is currently based in New York City.

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