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How to become a photographer without a degree

Making a career in photography can be nothing short than a dream come true. Perhaps you wish to work as a freelancer, traveling across the globe, capturing the beauty of different cultures. 

Or maybe your dream job is equivalent to working for Discover Channel and catching the magnificence of the wild. 

Whatever may your reason be to pick up a camera, you must have thought about these questions:

 

  • How to become a photographer?
  • Will you need a degree in photography?

 

The short answer is No

Photographers are artists and their art is to capture light for the most attractive outcome or photograph. You don’t need a degree in photography to call yourself the same. 

As far as answering the question of how to become a photographer without a degree goes, then this article will help you find that out.

But before you venture out into the journey of clicking photos, ask yourself these two questions: 

  • Why do you want to become a photographer?
  • What is the purpose of your photography?

Answering them may seem like an unnecessary step but doing so can help you understand yourself as well as your style of photography better. 

Advantages and disadvantages of photography schools

While going to a photography school is not mandatory, it has its perk as well as cons. We recommend you evaluate each and then make a decision that suits your liking. 

Pros

  • Understanding the history, development, and art of photography
  • Learning from photographers who are successful in the field
  • Chance to gain a mentor for a lifetime and network with other photographers
  • Understand the theories related to lighting and composition techniques

Cons

  • Photography institutions usually have a high fee. One can utilize this high cost to study in buying cameras, lenses, or other equipment and accessories
  • Despite any or all promises made by the institutions, getting a degree in photography does not assure you of getting employed

 

How to become a photographer without a degree in photography?

The above were just some of the advantages and disadvantages of enrolling in photography courses in India

We are sure that before making a decision if you surf the internet and/ or ask someone that has attended photography school, you will be able to make a more educated guess on whether to get a degree in photography or not. 

Despite what you choose, you must have a driving passion to become a professional photographer. Photography is a difficult industry to cut in and must always persevere against all odds if you wish to “make it”. 

As the Japanese proverb says, “Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

Here are the tips that can help you make a career in photography without a degree.

Take out a notepad, a pen but don’t forget your camera…

Understand your camera

The first tip for becoming an expert in handling a camera is to understand it thoroughly. You will need to understand every aspect of the camera and what better place to start than reading the manual that comes with it. 

It may seem like stupidity but no one and we mean no one knows your camera better than the people who made it. So take some time out of your day and skim through the gracious manual provided by the manufacturers. 

You can also understand about the camera by looking up the company’s website and finding your model in it. 

Start educating yourself

Once you are done educating yourself with your camera (and no, it doesn’t actually matter what camera you use), you should progress towards photography education. 

Start watching online tutorials on YouTube. These channels can teach everything from setting up your frame in different situations to playing around with your camera settings. 

You can even draw inspiration from popular channels like MangoStreet or Peter McKinnon

Speaking of inspiration, another great way to learn as well as get inspired to by looking at online portfolios of other photographers. There’s a wide variety of photography and if you wish to make a career in photography, you will need to become an expert.

Pick a style and look for portfolio websites of photographers in that niche. 

Read books and enrol in online courses in photography

While photography may seem like a skill that cannot be learned by reading, books can actually help you understand the theories behind photography. Books like Understanding Exposure By Bryan Peterson can truly help you grasp the concepts. 

In addition to the above, enrolling in online courses in photography can also be an amazing way to help you get started. 

Online courses in photography are quick, fun, and some can even help you learn by working on your own projects. You will be taught by a mentor or an instructor that is a professional in the field. 

 

Here are the top 5 free online photography courses in India:

  1. Basics of Photography: The Complete Guide By Lifehacker (Beginner level)
  2. Introduction to Photography and Related Media By Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Beginner level)
  3. Commercial Photography: Still and Moving Image By Future Learn (Intermediate level)
  4. Documentary Photography and Photojournalism: Still Images of a World in Motion By MIT Open Courseware (Intermediate level)
  5. Advanced Digital Photography By Alison (Advance level)

 

Learn by clicking 

Its time for you to pick up the camera and just start clicking. Most photographers when they begin have no idea about what their style is or what kind of photography they wish to make their name in. 

Picking up the camera and simply capturing images of the things you are intrigued by the most can not only help you develop a style but also some skills. 

This is also the time for you to put everything you have learned by watching tutorials, observing professionals, and reading books into practice. Practicing is the only answer to becoming better at a skill like photography. 

So don’t let that camera gather dust on it, instead use it to capture the dust. 

Focus on networking

Having a strong network is one of the most important aspects of making a career in photography with or without a degree. 

From landing clients to working as part of a crew making a short film, having connections in various places can really help you make a consistent living. 

Moreover, networking also helps you gain valuable skills and is all about knowing the right people and maintaining a long-term relationship with them. 

One of the best ways to grow your network is to hit the streets with a camera. You might run into someone that could help you.

Another really good way to network is by simply shooting mails and dm’s on Instagram. Look for people that are about to start a project and/or might need help from a photographer. 

Wedding and event planners are a good place to start if you are looking to become a wedding photographer. Similarly, advertising or digital or creative agencies are good for starting out as a commercial photographer. 

Look for anyone that can use your expertise and don’t shy away from contacting them

Become an apprentice

One of the most important tips for anyone looking to answer, “how to become a photographer,” is to find a mentor. 

A mentor is a specialist in the field with preferably years of experience. Finding one for yourself can really help you learn the ropes photography and climb the ladder faster. 

Working under a known photographer can really be one of the most important steps you can take for making a career in photography. Look for an internship or apprenticeship opportunities. 

But before working for anybody, perform your own thorough research. Your goal is to learn and network as much as possible. But you won’t be able to do it if you end up working for someone that directs only the paperwork towards you. 

 

Start working on real projects

By working on real projects we mean getting some field experience. As established before, you cannot learn by simply reading books or watching tutorials. 

You will need to practice, practice, and wait there’s one more thing – practice! 

Well… what better way to practice than work on professional projects. 

Look in platforms like Insternshala and Frapp for internship opportunities. Internships are an amazing way to learn professional skills, improve your art, as well as network with other professionals of the fields. 

Most self-taught photographers will credit the internships that they went through as the game-changing factor for making a career photography

Another equally amazing way to cut into the industry is by joining photography workshops. Just like online courses in photography, workshops too are fun, quick, gives an opportunity to network, as well as includes practical projects. 

Just like My Captain’s LIVE photography workshop where you get a chance to learn and interact from young and professional photographers.

Look for workshops online, on platforms like Facebook, and even in your locality.  

Stefen Chow, a photographer from Beijing, went to the Eddie Adams Workshop. Upon seeing the instructors being from the biggest of magazines such as National Geographic and Time, Chow got fully emerged into their wisdom. 

Chow said, “I felt there was no greater gift than to be a receiver of such unsolicited goodwill.”

Set goals

You cannot hope to conquer the giant mountains without taking small steps. So to conquer the giant mountain of becoming a professional photographer, you will need to set goals for yourself. 

You can even start setting goals by simply noting down your photography bucket list. Just make sure that you are setting an achievable goal for a reasonable amount of time.

Setting those goals and achieving them will not only make you better but also help you stay motivated throughout your journey

Enter competitions

You cannot hope to improve upon your work without getting some constructive feedback. Yeah, you could ask your friends but you will often hear them say that you are doing good and not get any good feedback. 

The best to gain some feedback for your work is to enter into photography competitions. There are constantly many held around the globe and most of them are available for international photographers as well. 

One additional, as well as the situational benefit of entering these competitions, is that you can earn an amazing cash prize if you win. But before entering into any of them, do research. 

Is the competition legitimate? Has it been held previously? What’s the motive behind the competition? 

Don’t pay the entry fee to any which you may find “fishy”

Learn post-production tools

A photographer’s work doesn’t end after clicking a photo. That’s just half of the job role. The other half includes editing it. 

A perfect photographer, one for which people are willing to pay a hefty amount, cannot be created without editing it

So the next tip is to learn some of the post-production tools used by the industry as well as the various kinds of editing techniques

Create a portfolio

Would you hire someone without seeing their work?

Any sensible person would say no to the question. So the next tip and a very important step in making a career in photography is to create an online portfolio. 

Your portfolio should consist of your best pieces of work. It is how you will be convincing a client to hire you based on your skills. 

Think of your portfolio as your resume as well as a way to understand how much progress you’ve made as a photographer. 

Here are a few tips to make your portfolio stand out:

Once you have created an online portfolio, learn to advertise and market yourself and your skills. This will help you land more clients and earn more money

Focus on building a brand

Photographers are like artists and just as a painting would have more value if painted by a renowned painter, a photograph will have more value if clicked by a renowned photographer. 

The final tip is to focus all your energy on building a brand out of your name. Lading clients and photography gigs are indeed amazing but if you wish to build anything sustainable then building a brand is the answer. 

Yes, it is difficult to build a brand in this highly competitive field but it isn’t impossible. Moreover, social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have given many a new way to grow. 

So… build an audience around your name, start a photography or travel blog, as well as start posting on social media platforms. 

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