Tips to Becoming a Professional Photographer in Las Vegas
Learn the Skills
Las Vegas has some great ways to learn photography. Whether you are working in the field or studying to be a professional photographer in a classroom. Both UNLV and CSN have some great programs to turn you into a professional photographer in Las Vegas. As Alumni of College of Southern Nevada, we have nothing but great things to say about their commercial photography program. Once you have completed the basic level classes, the access to equipment and studio space that you are privileged with as a student is well worth the price of tuition. CSN has a large variety of excellent teachers with a wide range of teaching styles. Having diverse teachers is beneficial because it helps prepare you for how diverse your clients can be. CSN’s program focuses mainly on Commercial Photography, so it was a perfect fit for our goals as Square Shooting. The school has also produced some excellent portrait, wedding, and fine art photographers as well. If fine art photography is your passion, UNLV may be the best fit for training to become a professional photographer in Las Vegas. We are lucky enough to have friends and colleagues who have graduated from both and have been very successful.
In the Field
Now that we have covered the classroom, we would highly suggest on the job training. Work as an assistant, get an internship, however you can get in the field we would encourage you to do so. While a school can teach you how to use a camera in the classroom, they may not be able to teach you how to interact with a client or how to behave on set. We have found that on the job training is equally as important as the in the classroom learning, when trying to become a professional photographer in Las Vegas. Everything we learned about assisting, gripping, or being a digi-tech we learned in the field. It is where we learned to roll cords, how to take direction from the lead photographer, what tools we were expected to have on set, nicknames for equipment, how to not blow fuses, and so much more.
Get the Gear
One simply can’t take pictures without a camera. This is where some professional photographers in Las Vegas may get on their high-horse about Nikon vs. Canon, or what about that Sony. That’s great and we hope everyone can afford the top dog camera right out of the gate. But let’s be honest, you have to start making money before you can afford all that fancy gear. We are a Canon based studio, but also spent some time with Nikon in the past. Our choice to be Canon was strongly effected by what equipment we owned when we decided to launch our studio. Nikon is equally as good, and may even have the better glass, but we were comfortable with Canon and it’s results. Honestly, the operator of the camera will always be more important than the brand of the camera. So start where you can, check out Craig’s List, see if there is a place at school where people list gear for sale, Ebay, or just really hope and pray Santa thinks you have been really, really good this year. If you have saved away all your pennies and are ready to buy new, we suggest checking out and supporting a local shop like B&C Camera. It’s easy and sometimes cheaper to buy online, but you can not trade the value of building a network and community in your professional photography field. We are big fans of supporting other photographers and offering information as much as we can. Likewise, we have been fortunate enough to have some friends and colleagues here in Las Vegas that have been able to offer advice to us when we couldn’t find the right answer. However you obtain your gear, pick up what you can afford and start making it work for you.
The biggest tip we can give to the new photographer is to have confidence. Confidence is always key! If you are not confident in your skills, how can you expect others to have confidence in your craft? We have witnessed some mediocre professional photographers in Las Vegas with okay equipment make money hand over fist, because they are confident and have the gift of gab. Talk to people! I know, I know, harder than it sounds. The most successful professional photographers in Las Vegas we know have made a good living off their photography because they are confident and can network successfully. Equally on that same level we have seen some amazing professional photographers in Las Vegas with top of the line equipment that are living on a fast food workers salary because they just can’t get in front of the right client. Getting in front of the right client alone does not always guarantee success, you still have to make that client want to work with you. It is a known fact at Square Shooting, if our client is having fun on the photoshoot they are much more likely to be satisfied with the final images. When they have fun during the shoot and love the final images, they are much more likely to hire you again in the future. So remember not to get to hung up on the camera and gear. As long as it works and you have the confidence and skills to use it, you are already ahead of the curve.
So you are a photographer, a creative person who has chosen a creative field to make money in. Being a professional photographer means that you are making money with your photography, which means you have a business. Now this is the one spot we can definitely share some advice from experience. If you don’t like accounting, reading legal documents, creating legal documents, copywriting, licensing, corresponding all day every day by email, bartering, constantly educating the client, social media, marketing, being a janitor, being tech support, studying current trends, taxes, payroll, 1099’s, being a producer, then you may want to rethink becoming a professional photographer in Las Vegas.
There are so many ways to break into the world of professional photography in Las Vegas. No one says you have to do it on your own. If your goal is to be your own brand and you just don’t have the business savvy, maybe partner with a business specialists, so you have more time to spend on your craft. If you do not care about being your own brand but just want to make money being a professional photographer, there are a ton of avenues that will let you shoot as an employee. Being an employee means you just get to focus on the shooting. It’s someone else’s headache how you get paid and when your W2 shows up in the mail. Of course every option has its pro and cons, so we would suggest looking at all your options and finding the best fit tor you.
The Business Side of Becoming a Professional Photographer in Las Vegas
Square Shooting started with two creatives who love professional photography, but had never been to business school. Luckily we had some past job experience that we were able to apply to our small business when we opened. We definitely have learned a ton in the last decade about the art of owning your own business. Opening a business is no easy task and it is quite time consuming. If you have an option to bring in help with the business aspect of it, it may be a wise decision. We built something all on our own and because of that we love what we do even more, but we have had plenty of hiccups along the way. Here’s a quick couple tips we have learned during our journey, so maybe you can avoid the same pitfalls.
Stay Focused on the Creativity
Don’t forget why you got in this business in the first place. When we opened our doors we were so busy with the business side and shooting for clients, we forgot to create. A creative that doesn’t create leads to no fun. We made a point to always set aside time for personal creative projects and grabbing a camera became fun again, instead of just work.
Legal & Bookkeeping
Find someone in the legal field that can help you out, maybe someone just out of school like you. Have them help you set up your contracts, terms & conditions, model releases, property releases, lease agreement, and so on and so forth. Also, locate a CPA that is a good fit for you. Find someone that will help you set up your accounting software and teach you the proper steps to good bookkeeping. It’s like that old phrase; teach a man how to fish and he will never go hungry again.
Integrity & Pride
Stand by your word, and be about your word. We pride ourselves on being an integrity based studio and it has been rewarded with many of happy clients. Know your worth. When a big fish client tries to manipulate, guilt, or take advantage of your business, you have the ability to stand up for yourself. If you don’t stand up for your business’ worth no one else will. You will continue to be bullied into lower prices and horrible contract deals. We constantly stand up for ourselves against large casinos and ad agencies here in Las Vegas and are successful in getting paid our deserved rates with contractual terms that are fair for everyone.
It all kind of circles back to that dang confidence again. So repeat with me; I am a successful professional photographer in Las Vegas, I have the skills I need, I create the pretty pictures not the camera, I stand by my integrity, I stand by my pricing, I stand by my contracts, I stand by my results. Now rinse and repeat.
Marketing. This is so important. This is so important. Yes, we are repeating ourselves, because your branding is truly that important. Are you familiar with the term SEO? If your not, get ready to research it immediately, or hire someone to handle the hassle for you. The internet has become our encyclopedia, our entertainment, our source of all knowledge. If you are not present on the internet, you are not present. It may sound tough, but when it comes down to reaching clients, spending money on SEO is smarter than buying fancy new photo gear. That large format camera with a digi back is pretty nifty, but not if you don’t have the clients to help you pay it off and then make a profit.
Being a professional photographer in Las Vegas is so much more than your technical skills with a camera. It’s making sure the world and your potential clients can actually find you and getting them to hire you. Which bring us to social media. Yes, social media. Who has time? You do, if you want the clients. My business partner and I are not millennials, we definitely missed the cut off. However we meticulously market ourselves to stay with trends and produce fresh material. Because of that most clients see us as younger than our competition. We don’t just use our social media to put out content. We also use it to follow the advertising trends and new tech developments. By doing this we are able to keep an eye out for what our younger, hipper clients may be looking for. So when the phone rings and someone says, “Hi, we hear you are that millennial studio downtown,” we never correct them. We take it as a compliment and know our branding is working.
The Branding of a Professional Photographer in Las Vegas
This brings us to another branding topic, who is your ideal client? When we opened our studio, we had a vision of exactly who we wanted as our ideal clientele. We can now say six years later, we have completely shifted who our ideal client is. We also shifted how we should market ourselves to attract our ideal client. It is not because our original client was unattainable. It’s because after working with many different clients we figured out which clients fit our brand the best. Be careful what you wish for, because sometimes the dream jobs don’t live up to the hype. An easy-to-work-with return client that appreciates your craft is our favorite all day long. The trick is to learn from your experiences. Make the adjustments that work best for your business and your bank account.