December 11th, 2018
How to Become A Professional Photographer
Words by Dillon Bonk | Photos by Dillon Bonk
The most frequently asked question I get on Instagram from beginning photographers is, “How did you get started?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy step-by-step guide on how to become a professional photographer, but I thought I’d write a quick post about my experiences. Before I start, I must note that there are many different types of photography (wedding, landscape, etc.) and each area has its own learning curve. I shoot mainly wedding, automotive, and lifestyle jobs, but the same concepts apply to any kind of photography.
My path to photography was anything but ordinary. I was studying Electrical Engineering in college when I started taking photos. I had just learned C+ programming and was able to piece together enough knowledge on HTML and CSS to land a website management summer job at a Land Rover parts company called Rovers North. Quickly learning that the key to success with any brand was great content, I decided to pick up a camera.
Less than a week later the company photographer decided to take another job. Already on the fence about returning to engineering school, with a push from a good friend and colleague, I decided to apply for the photographer position.
From there it was really just finding what I liked shooting and finding my style.
I hate to say it, but practice does make perfect. When you start taking photos, you’re going to be really, really awful. And that is okay. You’re going to post terrible photos on Instagram and your friends are probably going to give you shit. And that’s okay. Don’t get deterred because you’re not seeing results quickly. Keep practicing. Keep shooting. Eventually you’ll cross the threshold and all of your hard work will pay off.
I highly recommend finding mentors who will always tell you their honest opinions on your work and show you the ropes. I was lucky to have @zgriswold and @sherrvt to do exactly that. They taught me almost everything I know about photography. That being said, it’s also just as important to do as much free work as you possibly can at the beginning of your career. Don’t overvalue yourself and lose out on opportunities to gain experience and build your portfolio.
No career path is straight. Engineering lead me to find coding, which lead to web design, which then lead to photography, videography and social media marketing. I’ve never taken a photography class or been to a single workshop. Don’t feel like you need to follow a specific route. As long as you are passionate and are willing to dedicate the time, you will get there.