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6 key attributes of a successful photographer

A career as a photographer can be hugely rewarding if you have the knowledge and key traits required to flourish. Not only is technical prowess an essential part of your photographer’s armoury, it is also vital that you’re both a shrewd businessperson and possess valuable people skills.

Below are the six traits and habits that many successful photographers have in common. If you’re considering starting up a photography business, think of these as the qualities you'll need to rise above your competition and pave your way as a freelance photographer.

1. A true grafter’s attitude

Success is what you put in to any project, and building a career as a photographer is no different. Be prepared to go out into the world, hustle for business and work hard for your money. Even when the pressure mounts, a successful photographer will remain cool and regain in control of a situation.

Become an expert in your field. Know how to use your flash, choose your angle and manage your settings to get the lighting and exposure right. Master of the art of HDR to offset the contrast between dark rooms and bright windows. But realise this is only half the battle.

Most photographers do what they do because they are passionate about photography; that’s why they’re so good at what they do and how they pull through when times get tough. Your willingness to learn your craft and be the best you can be will prove vital, not just in the beginning stages but throughout the entirety of your professional life.

Get out there and shoot! Be a self-motivated, tenacious photographer through and through; ensure your service, commitment and results are unparalleled to secure repeat business and referrals via word of mouth.

2. Opportunism

Grasping every opportunity is a large part of achieving better-than-average photographs in a technical and creative sense. Shooting with optimum natural light conditions, candidness and being in the right place at the right time all play a part in achieving great shots.

When it comes to the business side of photography too, you must be an opportunist. Say yes to any experience you can get, whether that’s as a second shooter, a friend’s wedding or a local event. It all helps build your portfolio.

Opportunities for new photographers can be few and far between, so with each contract, project or commission, it’s essential to learn new skills, pick up more best practices and make it your best yet.

Having an outward-looking mindset is critical to both your technical ability as a photographer and your commercial acumen.

3. Communication

The ability to listen, take onboard feedback, ask questions and share ideas is critical when it comes to running your own photography business. It’s somewhat trickier than the kind of shoot where you simply turn up and click away.

Clear communication is key, since you’ll have to consider the opinions and objectives of each of the stakeholders involved throughout the process: your client and their clients, for example. Discuss their expectations and your process and how the two fit together, so you can ensure a positive experience for everyone. Aim for happy customers and glowing testimonials at the end of the day.

Understand who you're working for; when working for an estate agent, for example, it’s unlikely they will want you to send the images directly to their client without their prior permission.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions or make polite requests. For example when taking photographs of a property for sale or let ask the owner of the house to tidy up, move their car; or ask the stakeholders their preferences and examples of previous work they have seen. It’s all perfectly acceptable and most likely to their benefit.

4. Creativity

All photographers, from the amateur hobbyist to the veteran professional, know the importance of having a creative mind and soul in developing an impressive portfolio. Having a keen eye for capturing a great photo is bread-and-butter stuff, but it goes deeper than that.

Going the extra mile to seek out and create work that is new and unique is the key difference that separates the vastly successful from the distinctly average. Be inspired by what’s around you, but find your personal style. Learning to channel your individuality and creative spark into every shot will make your work truly your own, setting you apart from other photographers.

This blog post on Fstoppers highlights the importance of being different: The Hard Truth Why No One Will Hire You As A Photographer (https://fstoppers.com/business/hard-truth-why-no-one-will-hire-you-photographer-66349).

5. Organisational skills

For small business owners, it’s highly important to be able to manage your diary and schedule, allowing plenty of time for each session as well as for editing, networking and new business acquisition. This way, you’ll avoid being overworked and be able to meet the expectations of your stakeholders. 

At the same time, know your process. Working quickly and effectively means you can provide a cost effective service, which means knowing your photography procedures and processes, and being prepared for all eventualities.

Smaller commissions are a great way to fill gaps in your diary around larger commissions. However, increasing your efficiency and effectiveness with a well organised diary is essential, as it will allow you to schedule your photography work far in advance and maximise your income.

6. Customer service ninja

Another key part of being well organised is attention to detail. Keep in contact with your clients and customers by calling before appointments and emailing them throughout the process to show that you’re attentive and on the ball, clear and open communication is essential.

Take the time to dress professionally but comfortably, be considerate and polite and include nice touches like appropriately sorting and naming your photos.

You may also be interested in reading 5 tips for becoming an extraordinary property photographer.

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