How to get paid to shoot what you love

The other day I had a bit of an Aha moment.

There I was, trying to think of names for my new 8 week Bootcamp.

I was endeavouring to come up with all sorts of clever ways to explain how I uncover photographers’ essence, help define who they are, show them how to them reveal their own authenticity, and change their lives. How the hell do you say all that? Really it was doing my head in!

I mean, it’s true, but it sounds like a great big smoke-blowing exercise, and at the end of the day photographers come to me because they want to get paid to shoot what they love. The other stuff is the PROCESS.

Hence the Aha. OMG. There I am, constantly chastising photographers for their boring rants about what gear they used and how they got the shot, and there I was doing exactly the same. Doh. You could practically hear the penny drop.

So no more fluff. I wanted to write this post for a while and I know you may have seen the beginning a few times (that’s because it’s so goddamn important!) but it’s a process worth following because it works. And yes, it’s a process- one which you (if you are a serious photographer) should take note of.

So here’s a straight up, no fluff guide on how to get paid to shoot what you love. Give it a go and get ready for 2017 !


1. Define your best work

Work out what you are good at shooting. What images sing? I guarantee this is also what you love shooting. Be tough. Throw out the mediocre, and hone in on the excellent. Seek out help with this- most photographers are too close to their work to be able to step back and edit in an unbiased way.

© Danny Eastwood
© Danny Eastwood

2. Define your direction

Where do you dream of living? What can you see out of your window? How does a dream shoot look for you? Huge crew helping you set up? Just you on your own in a remote location? Studio? In various places around the world? If you are clear on where you’re heading, you can start behaving like that now.

© Mark Carter

3. Define your purpose and values

An awareness of your values and purpose is one of the foundation stones of your business. Knowing this will help you understand which charity or pro-bono jobs to turn down, and what to charge more (or negotiate) for. It will help you figure out relevant personal projects that compel you to keep shooting, no matter what. It will help you find the right clients, and in turn it will help them find you, and get you across the line when you’re up against others.

‘Where Hunting Dogs Rest’ © Martin Usborne
© Martin Usborne

4. Define your clients

Stop targeting everyone in the ad industry. Find the creatives who are working with photographers who are shooting the campaigns you could do. Maybe there are brands which would be a great fit for your style. Who aligns with your values? Don’t change your work to suit your perceived clients. Instead, find the people who’ll want to pay you because they want your style of work. What could be better than clients who pay you to shoot what you love?

© Simon Harsent
© Simon Harsent

5. Refine your website

With all the above in mind, tackle your website. How do those target clients search for work? What is their journey and how are you going to help them find their way?

Give them the tools to help them sell you to THEIR clients. Show them you have experience, without showing ugly ads. Tell your story in an engaging way. Help them find what they need quickly and without having to click a trillion times, or wait an age for every shot to upload.

© Billy Plummer
© Billy Plummer

6. Create a world

Create a personal project that reflects your style, purpose and values. Share it in a world that your clients want to be a part of, and which reaches them where they hang out. And yes- that probably means social media. Unless they’re too old to use a computer.


7. ‘Warm up’ your clients

I don’t believe in cold calling. Whoever they are, your clients are probably busy and you’ll have to dodge gate-keepers. Research your clients well, and make sure they know who you are before you call. Mail outs, Emails, and a strong online presence- all ways to ensure you’re a familiar name when they pick up the phone.

© Sue Stubbs
Shot on card © Sue Stubbs

8. Stay in touch

Having a job on their desk on the day you call, Email or visit is a possibility, but more than likely it won’t happen. Even if they loved your work they may be be saving you for the right job, the right opportunity. So make sure you stay top of mind, all the time. You’ll be surprised how many people love your work but are just waiting for the chance to use you. Don’t let those chances slip by!

© Andrew Martin
© Andrew Martin (yes- that’s me)

Whatever kind of shooter you are, wherever in the world, if you stay true to who you are, and build from there you’ll attract the best clients for you.

If you want to delve into these steps in more detail jump over here to find out more about my new bootcamp, launching online from 30th November.