Tips for Your First Photography Job

Recently I wrote several posts for first time wedding photographers. You can find those posts here:

This week I have been fielding questions from photographers about to shoot their first paid job. However, they are are not shooting a wedding, but are about to shoot a family portrait. For those readers here are some tips for your first photography job.

The Job

Congratulations on reaching a milestone! Your first paid photography job.

Tip #1 – Focus on Happy Customers. As you get started in paid photography it is easy to obsess about the money you will bring in from this first job. If you find yourself saying ‘this is fantastic, I’m getting paid $500 to shoot family portraits’ you might be falling for this trap. Believe me, this is the wrong area to focus. If you are going to make a living from this – having happy customers is far more important than the amount of money you will get paid from one job. Charge what is fair, and do everything possible to make sure you have a happy client. Happy clients come back again and again, and will refer you to their friends.

Tip #2 – Get a Contract. This point will turn a few people off! But, you need a contract with your client. This will cover what services are being provided for what compensation. Importantly, your contract also needs to cover issues around copyright, use of images, and model releases. If you are a member of your national photographic body they will have sample contracts.

Tip #3 – Know Your Equipment Well. Nothing will turn a paying client off more than if you are trying to work out how to use your equipment while shooting images for them. Shooting in light conditions you are familiar with will limit this risk. If you are used to shooting outdoor, shoot the family portraits in a park. If you primarily do studio work, organize for the shoot to be in a studio. Don’t do a studio shoot if you are not familiar with studio lighting techniques.

Tip #4 – Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Finances. If you are shooting a paid job, the client expects to pay. Make it easy for them – talk about what they need to pay by when, and how they can pay you. It is much better to have this discussion early in your relationship with the client than to leave it.

Tip #5 – Ask for Payment in Advance. I ask for payment in advance for weddings and family portraits and have never had a client balk at this. Again, I make it clear and easy for the client and it is covered in my contract. If the client would like some flexibility in payment terms I am happy to help – but I know I will do a better job if I’m not thinking ‘I wonder if these people are going to pay me?’

Tip #6 – Think About Presentation. The photo shoot is only one element of the client experience. When you are starting out, it is easy to think only about the shoot. You should also consider how will you present the images to your client. Will you take them through a slideshow in their own home? Will you just send them a USB in the mail? The approach you choose makes an impact on your clients experience. Consider the type of experience you want them to have.

Tip #7 – Carry Backups. It is very risky not to have back ups with you on a paid shoot. That includes spare camera body, lens, memory cards, batteries, and flashes. If you are starting out you may not own back ups of all of these. If that’s the case, ask a friend and borrow their gear.

I hope these tips for your first photography job have been useful. If you have any questions, please comment on this post. I will be happy to try and answer them. And if you have lots of questions I’ll write another post on this topic. Thanks for reading this post. Good luck for your first photography job.


Focus on generating a happy customer not maximising the financial return from your first job.

1 thought on “Tips for Your First Photography Job

  1. MaxRyan

    This is definitely one of the most valuable sites with information that I have seen. Thanks my friend keep of the good work I will definitely be looking forward to more information.


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