How To Land Your First Photography Gig

You’ve bought the camera, you’ve done your research, you’ve been practicing shooting for months with friends and family. Now it’s time to land your first paid photo gig. So how do you do that? And what exactly do you need to know?

H is here to help you out with all of the basic information so that you can get your first client with a minimal amount of stress and anxiety.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you have your first paying client. In order to continue the success of your growing business, you need to make sure that the client knows without a doubt that they made the right call in hiring you. This will ensure that you get hired again, and it will also mean that this client might go and spread your professionalism around my word of mouth and your business will take off. So how do you accomplish this? With the tips below you will be well on your way to doing just that. And even if some of this advice appears obvious, these tips are all important basics to keep you from forgetting the simplicity of where it all began.

  1. Communication

First and foremost always communicate, and communicate as transparently as possible. Communication is key to every successful relationship, and so your client should be no exception. It’s very important to make sure that you and your client are on the same page before the first photograph is taken. You should meet them to discuss some things like, what they hope to achieve and what they hope will be the result of the shoot. Ask tons of questions and take notes so you have an idea of how this session will go. You should always be available to your client before, during, and after the shoot. It will be greatly appreciated and certainly enhances professionalism.

  1. Confirm

Everything between you and your client should be confirmed in writing. This holds both sides accountable. You should draft a contract detailing who is responsible for what. Always be thinking of protecting yourself first and foremost. This may feel like a lot of effort before the work really even begins, but you don’t want a last minute surprise going into the day of the photo shoot either.

  1. Know Your Gear


Know as much as you can about every aspect of your gear. You never know when you will need to know some of the more obscure information about whatever equipment you are using. You also don’t want to look unprepared or inexperienced during your shoot. There are many equipment related issues that can crop up on a shoot. Know what those issues are so you can successfully avoid them.

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to record over or format media that hasn’t been offloaded. If you can’t afford to have enough cards to last your entire shoot without reusing them, be 1000% sure before you record over any footage. Have a laptop on set that can access your media. I have seen an entire day’s work be lost to carelessness. Check and then double check. And extra batteries, always have extra batteries charged and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

  1. Don’t Oversell

If someone asks you if you can do an underwater photoshoot and you have never worked underwater before nor do you have the appropriate equipment then please, let them know. I’m not saying to turn it down, just make sure you are honest in your dealings. That way both parties know what they are dealing with. You may think that you can fake it to you make it, and there is a chance you may get away with it, but if you don’t you will have burned a bridge. Most people are very accepting when someone else is honest with them, and they will probably give you a shot anyway.

  1. Be Flexible

Bruce Lee has a great speech where he tells the viewer they must be like water. Water is adaptable. It takes the shape of the container it is placed in. You will be presented with many situations that will challenge you. Adversity can bring about amazing results. Learn to make the best of bad situations and your client will not only use you again, but they will also rely on you. You can build lifelong partnerships if you learn to make sure that when you are faced with a challenge, that you can still make things work. Flexibility is a huge part of making that first shoot a success.

  1. Be Professional

Being professional is a mindset. While you can be friends with your clients, there should always be an understanding that you will treat your client and their needs professionally. You build your business one client at a time. If you make a promise, keep it. Simple right? It won’t be. You will find yourself literally losing sleep trying to make good on your promises. However, trust is a huge factor in a client feeling comfortable using a photographer again. Naturally, the work should be what they wanted, but they also should feel comfortable with you. Just remember to keep the line between professional and causal very clear for yourself. I’ve seen the careers of a few photographers fail because they were not able to do this.

  1. Manage Your Time


Meet your expectations regarding time. It is a cliché but, time is indeed money. Show up early and be ready to roll before your scheduled start time. I always allow for a 30-minute buffer just to be safe. Another issue in regards to time is scheduling. Early on you may believe you can get a lot more done than is actually possible. Give yourself more time than you actually need.

Another integral aspect of time management you need to maintain is the ever-looming deadline. You have only so many working hours in a day. If you struggle with time management, there are many methods people use to become more effective and to keep track of their projects and time. Again, this may seem tedious, but it will only benefit you in the long run.

A few other pointers when embarking on this first shoot are never to hesitate to interact with the client. Maybe you are a little on the shy side, that’s ok. Just remember that your client will be more at ease if you talk to them and ask them questions about themselves. Also don’t ever lose sight of the task at hand. It is a great thing to get into a groove during a shoot, and you shouldn’t shy away from that, but you should always have the client’s needs and goals in mind.

And if you haven’t yet gotten your first client here are a few things that will help you land them.

  • A stunning portfolio; one that is easy to access, understand and has all of your contact information.
  • A Facebook business page with reviews from people you have worked with before, whether that’s family or friends asks them to help you out a bit as you start out.
  • Business card. Ask to place them in certain places and hand them out whenever you get the chance.
  • An approachable manner; the more approachable you are, the more people will feel comfortable to talk to you.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go kill it on your first photo shoot!


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