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So, You Wanna Turn Pro...

If you are like many of Strobist's readers, you are still an amateur. But you've gotten just enough knowledge and skills to be dangerous and you are entertaining the occasional thought about turning pro.

Well, I have some bad news and some good news.

The bad news is that if you just "kinda sorta" want to be a professional shooter you will never make it.

Why? Because if you do it half-heartedly, there are 100 people ready to compete with you who live and breathe this stuff. They will outlearn, out-hustle and out-shoot you. You'll get creamed.

Maybe not the first day, but eventually. And consistently.

Oh, and there's more bad news.

There are new companies popping up every day, trying to lure you into producing good work for them, so they can sell it for 20 cents (to you) a pop.

That's about 10 cents a pop after taxes.

You can argue "new paradigm" all you want, but that is simply not a sustainable, professional lifestyle.

In short, the market is ready to chew you up like a piece of cheapo gum, suck the flavor out of you, and spit you out.

And the news gets worse.

Let's say you have the drive. And let's say you are very talented. Let's even go as far as to say you are as good as you think you are.

Here's your main hurdle:

Most photographers who fail do so not from a lack of photo skills, but from sub-par business practices. The number that is commonly kicked around is 90%.

Ninety percent.

So, being a Certified Hot Shot just gets you past the 10% hurdle. If you cannot learn the business of the business, you will almost certainly still go down in flames.

So, to sum up: You have to eat and breathe the photo stuff. But you have to be a business type even more than a photo type.

Depressed yet? Had enough bad news? Well, here's some good news.

There are some very good books out there that can teach you not to do the stupid stuff that will otherwise whack your career.

Some have been around for quite a while, and are (or should be) staples on any professional-leaning photographer's bookshelf. I have a selection of several coming to the bookshelf page as soon as I can scrounge the time to update it.

But there's one in particular that stands out, and merits a post of its own.

I have a professional photographer friend in Baltimore who also happens to be a C-P-freakin'- A.

He knows this stuff backwards and forwards.

He has been raving about "Best Business Practices for Photographers," by (professional photographer) John Harrington since early on in the publication cycle.

The book, which was only just "officially" published, has been making waves among the professionals who have had early access to the info. I have heard nothing but great reviews about it.

Harrington is a business guru in the pro photo world. Shooters attend his seminars, keep his handouts and read them until the pages are dog-eared and falling apart.

And you can have access to all of his distilled knowledge for less than $20. That's like what you'd spend for just another compact flash card. A small one.

If you are even vaguely considering going pro, this is a no-brainer. If it helps to put it in perspective, consider it an essential piece of camera gear for your brain. A software upgrade, if you will. If you already are an (independent) pro, you'll definitely want to have it.

The book covers client interaction, negotiating contracts and licenses, and sticking to a good business roadmap. In short, it is about how not to be stupid as a professional photographer.

I first met John while covering Reagan's funeral in 105-degree heat in D.C. I was dragging butt and sweating like a dog hauling gear into position. John was on a Segway, toting his gear effortlessly. And had a case of ice-cold bottled water with him, to boot.

John's a smart guy.

Succeeding as a pro in photography is not easy under any circumstances. But trying it without the type of leg-up a book like this can give you would be nuts.

Even if you are only considering leaving your stinkin' day job to try your hand as a professional photographer, give yourself a fighting chance with a book like Harrington's.


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