If you’re a photography enthusiast that’s serious about your craft, the chances are pretty good that you’ve at least considered going pro someday and with good reason. Earning even a little money doing something you’re truly passionate about is really rewarding to say the least.

However, it’s also likely that you have a few misconceptions about what life as a pro photographer is really going to be like. Here we’ll go over some of the most common ones, as well as cover the associated realities. How many of the following are you guilty of believing?

  1. Professional photographers get to work their own hours.

Yes, once you go into the photography business for yourself, you’ll ultimately get the final say in what projects you take on. However, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment if you think that’s the same thing as working your own hours. Let’s say, for example, that you’d like to break into the wedding photography business. Your work schedule will be at the mercy of your clients’ schedules, as most people want to get married on the weekends or in the evenings.

That said, take the kind of hours you’d really like to work into consideration before you go pro. If it’s important to you to maintain a schedule closer to normal business hours, you’d do better shooting children, families, and or other similar subjects.

  1. Getting lots of compliments on your photographs means you’re ready to go pro.

If you’re like many photographers, you first starting thinking you might have what it takes to be a professional photographer because your friends and family have nothing but great things to say about your work. While you may well be very talented, it’s important to realize people that like you are a little biased. They like you, so they’re naturally going to like your work, especially since it’s probably light years better than the snapshots they take.

Your potential clients and customers are going to be much tougher critics. They’re comparing your stuff to the type of imagery they see in magazines or on the television and that’s the standard they’re expecting you to meet. That said, consider going pro when people start offering to buy your work or pay for your services.

Pro Photographer
  1. Paying clients will always appreciate your creativity.

One of the hardest lessons you’ll learn when you become a professional photographer is that people aren’t always going to “get” your vision or want you to pull out all the creative stops on a shoot. Yes, your photos need to be creative and out of the box. However, your client is likely to have his or her own opinion when they see the finished shots. This is especially the case when it comes to portrait shots.

At the end of the day, most clients will care a whole lot more about what they look like in the shots than the actual creativity of the shots themselves. That said, keep the client involved in the process. Ask them to show you examples that reflect what they’re looking for before you start shooting. Ask whether or not they’d like any part of the finished shots Photoshopped as well and always let the client decide which pictures to buy at the end of it all.

  1. A flashy website is all you need to attract clients.

Yes, you’ll need to build a website people can visit to see what you can do. Yes, unless you’re a web designer yourself, you’ll probably need to pay someone to help you make it look and function professionally. However, it’s important to realize that it’s possible to have the slickest website in the world and zero customers. People also need to be able to find your site and that means optimizing it for the search engines.

In addition to a web designer, you might also want to consider hiring someone that can help you with search engine optimization (SEO). Sites that rank well in search listings also need steady streams of relevant content, so you might want to think about hiring a content manager or a freelance writer as well.

  1. Contracts are optional.

Although the idea of considering something official because you shook hands on it may sound appealing, don’t be fooled. If anything goes awry at any point during the transaction, you’ll regret not having a contract to protect both your interests and your client’s. All it really takes is one really bad lawsuit to end a budding photography business. Even if you win, the legal bills could well be enough to ruin you.

That said, always have a contract in place. Don’t draw it up yourself. You need an expert to close all the loopholes and make sure everything’s as it should be. Talk to an attorney that’s experienced when it comes to your profession. Alternatively, you can join a professional association like the WPPI, as they will be able to help you with standard forms.

  1. Networking is a good idea, but not required.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because photography is a creative field you won’t need to network. Networking is just as important in your industry as it is any other. To begin with, it’s essential when it comes to getting jobs and landing gigs. It’s also quite useful when it comes to meeting other people in your field that can help you out in a pinch or talk shop when you need a few pointers.

It’s important to know how to spot opportunities to network as well. Shooting a wedding? Take a few shots of the venue while you’re on location and send them to the owner. Got some awesome photos of the food spread from an event you shot last month? Send them to the catering company. You’ll not only be establishing a relationship with those service providers, but possibly their clientele as well.

At the end of the day, it’s important to realize that photography is a business. That said, it’s important to be realistic as far as expectations, as well as to make sure all of your bases are always covered.