Top 10 tips for Going Pro as a Photographer

Not long ago I wrote a post called ‘The Photo Nazi’ with some advice for a new photographer. This post generated a lot of traffic and comments, not all of it so positive. Some people thought I was a arrogant and had no tact. I have no problem with being controversial from time to time, but I thought I should make up for that post by giving some good advice for a change.
The thing is that the number of people who want to be professional photographers grows every day. With the new incredible digital cameras, many people can now produce decent images and feel they are only one step away from going pro. All they need is a little advice for the road but all they get is a serious lecture and talk about commitment, patience and persistence.
Why can’t we make it simple for these aspiring photographers? Does everything have to be so hard?
There are enough photo bloggers out there giving this kind of heavy-duty advice on how to become a professional photographer but no one is giving the right answers. Here is a list of some simple shortcuts; a few REAL tips on how to become a professional photographer, or at least FEEL like you are already there, which could be a good substitute for some.

professional-photographer-top-10-tips-for-going-proHow to become a professional photographer

1. BUSINESS IDENTITY is the first thing in the list. Make a business card saying ‘Professional Photographer’. You might want to include a picture on the card. Getting a logo using an old film perforation, a camera design or an image of and eye can make it simple for those who can’t read. Everyone will know immediately that you are into photography.
2. ONLINE PRESENCE. Get a website with lots of flash galleries and effects to stun the visitors. Use shock and awe effects. Use music to leave an ever lasting impression. HTML is way too simple and people might think you are cheap. Get an interesting splash ‘page loading’ effect.
3. DISCOVER THE ARTIST IN YOU. Once you have a website, you must create a ‘My Art’ gallery. Everyone has it. After all, you don’t want people to think that you are not creative enough, right? It is very simple to do. A few B&W pictures, a snap of a blue wall with a lock, a red door or an interesting reflection and you are there.
4. EQUIPMENT. Get a Canon camera. All the pro’s use Canon. buy two if you can afford it.
5. ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGE. Start talking only about equipment and which camera is better, Canon or Nikon. it is a very important question and you will never run out of words or people to talk with. Learn all you can about cameras and lenses, and make a wish list for the gear you want to get. If you see a picture that you like by someone else, try to find which camera he/she used and what was the settings.
6. CREATE YOUR IMAGE. Rent or borrow a BIG lens and get your Facebook profile picture taken holding it. It will draw tons of comments and people will envy you.
7. SOCIAL NETWORKING. Carry your camera bag to openings of photo exhibitions and photo fairs so that people don’t think you are just a regular visitor. It is best if you wear a photo vest. If you don’t have one you can hang your camera on your shoulder instead.
8. COMPLETE THE LOOK. Want to be a photographer? Start looking like one! If you are into photojournalism, buy a bandana, a white kafiya or light scarf and use it to complete the  grunge ‘look’. 
If you smoke, start rolling your own cigarettes. Get an iPhone.
9. ASSIGNMENTS. Tell everyone you are loaded with work.
10. YOU ARE READY. Get an assistant!

This is not a complete list and not all the tips fit everyone’s needs. Use what you think is good for you and disregard the rest. This might sound funny to you but believe me, it worked for many people out there who are now busy traveling all over the world taking pictures and making money. What if it doesn’t work out? well, you can at least say you tried, or you’ll have to work really hard.


  • Fahad Moti Khan

    it’s happening all around us….. you forgot to mention the facebook ‘fan’ pages…….. very interesting views but one very important value missing in the observation is ‘aspiration’ …….. there are ‘dhabas’ and there are fine dining outlets…… and then there are michelin star restaurants……. each one serving food of varying qualities….. each one has consumers and each category survives….. who are we to judge if a photographer uses ‘all of the above’ to pursue his passion & maybe make a living out of it……to some it may come across as condescending views of a relatively superior and experienced professional towards some others who are not as refined or talented…. if we go by Sephi’s logic, Indian athletes should stop running (at over 11 sec. for 100 mts) and playing soccer (at 132nd rank)…… the small DTP shops should shut down because they can’t design like the NID guys….. people who cannot design golden gate should not pursue engineering ……. lawyers who sit outside the courts should stop practicing ….. and so on…..yet another thought that crosses my mind is that if Sephi’s work was to be judged by someone like Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier Bresson or Andreas Gursky…… presumably superior and definitely better known……. they may dismiss his work as one that is frivilous….. commercial….. based on the most profound cliché of Indian culture like ‘Truck Art’, ‘Wedding’, ‘Street Food’ and so on……. some may even write about the ‘White’ guys who could not make it big in the west and moved towards the more welcoming and easier eastern corridors…… I’m not judging here …. I like Sephi’s work……. it’s just that perspective is such a bitch……

  • Dinesh

    this just bloody brilliant, Sephi . . . Man!!! I cant decide if you are a better Photographer or a satirist . . .
    I really wish I was 20 years younger and could start all over again using your wonderfully useful and bang-on suggestions . . . I cant stop smiling just thinking of your list of to-do's . . . and bloody hell, Sephi I went and quit smoking 4 years ago rather than learning how to roll them, just when the digital revolution started . . that's like screwing up big time !!!

  • Made my day, haha.

    I liked number 2 the most, I knew I did something wrong. Time to call a Flash artist right away. =)

  • Dinesh, I smile as I read your comment 🙂 too bad you quit smoking :-)) LOL At least you are using a Canon! 😉

  • find one quick as they will become an endangered species soon . . 😉

  • Mahesh Shantaram

    May I complete the list? Surely, in addition to all of the above, a pro must also conduct workshops to dispense knowledge and guide the other aspiring little ones.

    Sephi, please mention somewhere that you meant all this in jest, or else too many people will start making notes 😀

  • hahaha.. loved it.. and it reminds me of some ppl I know .. they are oh so typical 🙂

    BTW Who did the infographic above? It’s so accurate! The neanderthel man photographer graph :p

  • Mahesh, why do you think this was in jest? 🙂 LOL

  • Thank you for your comment Fahad. I appreciate it and sorry if you feel offended in any way by what I wrote.
    Before I answer I'd like you to know that I actually did make it in the 'west' before I came to India, and that the reason I came here was not to be the successful white guy 🙂 I'm sorry but there is nothing I can do about my skin color, but this is not the case anyway.

    This post, and now I see why Mahesh Shantaram said I should mention this was meant as a jest, is about the caricature of the 'professional photographer'. I was hoping people would understand that this is a joke as there is obviously no way around hard work. It is nice to have a laugh from time to time.
    There is a place for dhabas as well as fine dining and there is no question about this.

    Fahad, I am my biggest critique and to tell you the truth, I don't think so highly of my work. I always try to get better at what I do. It is a never ending quest and maybe one day I will feel that I have created something worth looking at. In the mean time I try to be innovative and do things that no one has done before me. My subjects might be simple but I am a simple man who documents what he sees around him. Indian photographers could obviously not see India from this angle before and needed someone to come from the outside and see the beauty in street food, trucks etc.
    More than this, I hope that if the people you mention read this post they would simply laugh 🙂

  • Fahad Moti Khan

    Sephi, before anything, I'm not at all offended by your blog post. On the contrary, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Also, I do not have anything against a 'white/yellow/pink/blue/black' guy going to any part of the world and pursuing what he may like. I have friends from across the globe and personally I do not think race matters or boundaries for that matter.

    My comments were not directed at your personal profile. I used it to illustrate how perspectives can be different and subjective.

    Some of it could have also been a response to your 'photo nazi' post that I disagree with.

  • OK, if it was for the 'Photo Nazi' than it makes more sense 🙂 perspective is indeed very subjective but this is why we have PC lenses today 🙂 take care

  • Studio Msdesign

    I don't understand why people are getting offended! I was smiling all the through reading the post! Thanks Sephi

  • He was not offended. do read the chain responses. cheers

  • He was not offended. do read the chain responses. cheers

  • Fahad, I respect anyone's point of view whether they agree with me or not. if you have something to say about the Photo Nazi please post your comment on that post. Thanks

  • Andrew Adams

    Great post Sephi! But I have to agree with Mahesh here.
    Everyone knows you have not made it as a professional photographer until you can hold a workshop and milk the newbies out of their lens money!!! LOL!

    • I’m not sure I agree, although there are many so called photographers out there who run workshops but have nothing to give. This could imply that if you give a workshop than it is only to get money out of people. What about photographers, me included, who do not give workshops? Every Cognac is Brandy but not every Brandy is Cognac. cheers 🙂

  • I'm not sure I agree, although there are many so called photographers out there who run workshops but have nothing to give. This could imply that if you give a workshop than it is only to get money out of people. What about photographers, me included, who do not give workshops? Every Cognac is Brandy but not every Brandy is Cognac. cheers 🙂

  • Leia

    Oh and you forgot “create a facebook fan page where you post all your pictures” 🙂

  • Hi Sephi,

    A while back I read notes by one Ramit Batra comparing the pro and amateur posted by Dinesh. It was awesome till this came along !

    Brilliant Satire in a long long time 🙂 .
    One more would be GENRE – Call yourself a fashion photographer and post some of your best creations – one such could be a photoshopped image of snowflakes in the desert with a woman who is draped in fabric flowing the sky and a white elephant on a plateau in the background a la dali style ( of course u will say u created it) and call it surreal interest in fashion photography.

    lol, i am sharing it in my FB group !

  • Javed

    absolutly right tips

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm… I thought going pro meant you need one of those vest thingys. Also once you feel the right to trample on other cultures with your camera, that’s when you know you are a pro.

  • Brian, the vest is of course a must and is mentioned in tip no. 7. Trampling on other cultures goes without saying as a benefit of the job . . 😉

  • Rachel

    hehe 🙂

  • Hi Sephi, awesome post. Just one thing I don’t understand, how come in point 4, you recommended Canon equipment for pros, especially since you are using Nikon equipment?

    Would you be able to elaborate?

    Thanks

  • Davidsdad987

    A lot of pros use Nikon………………………….

  • Xtellev

    I thoroughly enjoyed and the laugh set me on a good foot for the weekend!

    • Thanks Christelle 🙂 I still discover new ways to become a pro every now and then 😉 cheers

  • I have to admit- you did have me going for a second. Just for a second though!

  • Hilarious, but true.

  • Anonymous

    😀 I laughed the way down to this article..brilliantly written. Although I am too starting now as a professional..but I have seen this digital boom coming in the college..I have done my graduation in Film and Video Design which spanned across the longest 4 years..I have seen all the generation gap with my junior batches..which my parents feel with me! When we entered college only 2-3 ppl in my batch had DSLR’s..and when we were introduced to “basics of photography” course..we all used point and shoot cameras which were there at home(some of them I remember used film cameras too)..then we forced college to buy DSLR’s so that we can also use it..College got one for 30 people[as college was too in its second year]..then also we shared and used and clicked fairly great pictures..but now after 5 years of that photography course..I see same course happening with first year students and everyone having their own DSLR..and not to mention half of them having a facebook fan page too..I got mine now after the graduation got over! Its not that I am jealous or something but they think its in the camera which can get them oh-so-awesome pictures..not to mention how they actually are :/