When asked, “What motivates you to create images?” Matt’s response is short and sweet: “I don’t need any motivation. It’s my favorite thing to do.”
Like most of us, photography began as a hobby for 31-year-old photographer Matt Lief Anderson. He bought his first camera as an English teacher in Asia, started taking photos during his travels and started working for a magazine. Since then he’s worked with a range of clients from Deezer and Bang and Olufsen to Ford Models and The Huffington Post, shooting fashion, music and travel based out of Chicago, USA.
So how did Matt take the leap from photography being a passion to a way to pay his rent? Here are his 10 tips to becoming a professional photographer.
From the desk of Matt Lief Anderson:
Learn how a camera works. Use it with manual settings and play with all the different functions. A great photographer can take incredible photos with a terrible camera.
Edit your photos. You can start small by adjusting settings on your phone – exposure, saturation, tint. Then graduate to more complex programs like Lightroom and Photoshop. Mastering these programs is absolutely vital to becoming a pro.
3. Don’t over process
Be careful not to over process everything. Nothing is worse than a photo that is way too contrasty, saturated, and otherwise manipulated. Your shots should still look natural.
4. Build your social networks and be consistent
I try to post on my social media channels consistently – one photo a day on each network. I have some people who really like my work and follow me on all of these sites, but in most cases I have a different audience for each.
Consistency is very important, so if you don’t have a great portfolio it may be a good time to go out and shoot more.
5. Only post your best work
I never post more than one photo per day because it’s all about consistently putting out your best work. Most people struggle to find 365 of their best photos to post every year. Two a day is next to impossible.
If you post great work you will eventually be recognized. Becoming a recommended user on EyeEm or highlighted on other platforms can literally give you millions of views on just one photo, which can lead to interviews, articles, photo licensing, and other work.
6. Get a website
Places like Cargo Collective and Squarespace are a great place to start. The design of your site is really important. A bad site can really hurt you. Make sure it’s easy to navigate and, just like with social media, only post the creme de la creme. When you’re starting, 10 images is absolutely fine. You can add more later.
7. Check out other artists
I have countless people that influence me. I find myself pausing movies when I see a scene that really blows me away. I think about the lighting, composition, and other elements that make the shot so incredible. I also scour the internet for incredible photographers and go to a lot of gallery shows. It’s important to see good work.
But make sure that you try to build your own style. Don’t rip off other artists. You will never be as good as they are at what they do. You need to find your own way and figure out what you’re good at and capitalize on your talent.
8. Find your focus
What kind of photographer are you? Do you shoot travel, portraits, weddings, music, fashion, events? You don’t have to choose only one, but what makes you the happiest? Play to your strengths.
9. Email, Email, Email
You gotta get your name out there. You’re in sales whether you like it or not, and it’s time to cold call. Send your work to creative agencies, producers, and creative directors. If you shoot music, email bands in your town, venues, record companies, music sites, and other music related publications. If you like fashion, email agencies and ask to do a test shoot. Whatever your focus is with photography, email people in that industry. Sometimes you gotta cast a 1,000 times before you catch a fish.
10. You’re a business, be a professional
If a client contacts you, always get back as soon as possible. Never wait more than 24 hours, even if you’re busy. If someone isn’t happy with your work, find a way to make it work by reshooting or reprocessing. Keep track of your receipts for cameras, batteries, lights, and any other business expenses. Keep track of your invoices and correctly file all of your taxes. Keep all of your photos backed up, but make sure all your work is accessible. Stay as organized as possible.
See more of Matt’s images on his EyeEm profile.
What do you think? Sound like something you can do too? We believe it!