How to go from amateur to pro photographer, with Michael Hanson

Michael has a unique background. Starting out as a baseball player, Michael later learned that his true talent was in documentary photography. After several years of hard work and research, Michael has emerged as an expert at telling stories through photo and video.

In this interview Michael shares his story and gives advice to those seeking to make a similar transition from amateur to pro.

Starting your own photography business can be intimidating but if you focus on a few things, it will seem a little less daunting.

Shoot as much as you can so you can figure out your style.  Very few people can shoot food, wildlife, lifestyle, photojournalism, portraits, fashion, etc.

It is much easier to nail your style and market yourself with that style in mind.   Plus, you’ll be happier shooting what you like and not trying to do everything.

It took me a while to get used to the ups and downs of freelance. For a few years in the beginning, it might be weeks between assignments and how you handle that down time can determine your success as a freelance photographer.

Lastly, a tip when shooting a portrait is being aware of your subject before you start shooting.  Notice how your subject looks before he/she knows the camera is being pointed at them. This might be the pose that makes them most comfortable and you might want to keep them in this pose when shooting.

 Five things to remember:

  1. Starting a business: Shoot a ton so you know your style and focus on that style. Try not to shoot food, wildlife, lifestyle, photojournalism, portraits, fashion, etc. Narrow your style to what makes you happy and what you can realistically market.
  2. Running a business: As a freelance photographer, you might go weeks between assignments before you get really busy. Understand the business is made of ups and downs and how you handle those shifts can determine your success…(and moods!)
  3. Portraits #1: Notice the position your subject is in before shooting. This might be the most comfortable position for them and can be useful during shooting.
  4. Portraits #2: Humans are vertical, try to shoot some portraits horizontally. It shows a sense of place and puts the subject in an environment.
  5. Don’t give your images away for free! You will never make money, nor learn how to make money by giving work away for free. You have to make a profit to stay in business and get good at what you do.

-Michael Hanson