How to be a Successful Photographer in Kitchener-Waterloo

Doing photography for a living isn’t easy and there are lots of people already doing it right here in K-W. That can make it a bit more challenging compared to some other jobs, but with a solid plan, hard work and a whole lot of passion, it’s totally doable.

Welcome to the 21st century, where everyone has a camera and is probably doing better than you!

Okay, that’s probably a bit dramatic, but it sure feels that way, doesn’t it?

A quick Google search will show you that there are a ton of photographers here in Kitchener-Waterloo, and many of them are really good.

And we’re going to guess that if you’re reading this, doing photography for a living sounds pretty amazing. But with so many others already doing it, why even bother?

Well don’t put your camera away just yet. Yes, this is a very crowded industry, and that can make it a bit more challenging compared to some other jobs. But with a solid plan, hard work and a whole lot of passion, it’s totally doable.

We’re going to assume you already have a DSLR camera and know how to use it. Instead, this article is going to show you how to turn that into a potential career.

But where to start?

Find local photographers, and learn from them

Remember those other photographers we mentioned at the start? Get ready to stalk them.

Yes, we know how creepy that sounds, but if you want to earn money from this (which we know you do), what better way than looking at what the successful ones are already doing?

The easiest way to do this is by opening up Google or a social media platform and finding a photographer who is doing well. Then take a look at their website and social media platforms and take notes:

  • What kind of photography do they do?
  • Do their photos have a certain ‘style’ to them? How would you describe their photos to someone who has never seen them?
  • What are their clients saying about them?
  • What social media platforms are they on and what are they sharing on there?
  • How have they organized their website?
  • What equipment do they use? (this one might be harder to find, but in general, photographers are pretty transparent about what they use)

You might not find answers to all of these questions, and that’s when it’s time to reach out and ask. Send them an email or give them a call and offer to take them out for coffee.

Maybe they’ll say no, but the ones who do say yes will likely be quite willing to ‘pay it forward’ and help out an aspiring photographer. Learn as much as you can from as many people as possible.

Here, we’ll even get you started. Here are some local photographers we really like:

When you feel like you’ve learned as much as you can, it’s time to figure out who you are.

What kind of photographer are you?

This one might be really easy for some people, and it may be incredibly hard for others. But no matter how long it takes, it is absolutely essential to decide what you want to be known for.

For example, if you have been shooting landscapes for a few years, then it might really easy for you to say, “Okay, I’m going to be a landscape photographer.” On the other hand, if you’ve just bought your first DSLR camera and have never used it before, you may want to take a bit more time and practice to really figure out what you’re passionate about the most.

The idea is to brand yourself, and to do that, you need to be as specific as possible. Pick one or two styles of photography you love or are best at and stick with them. Any more than that and you will be stretching yourself too thin.

Now that we know what we’re going to be sticking to and branding ourselves as, it’s time to get to work.

Be a Machine

So by now, you should have learned a lot and have a plan for what kind of photography you want to do (even if it’s just a rough one). So, go out and do it! If you’ve settled on event photography, start attending and covering events happening near you. Portraits? Ask your friends to be your models! Landscapes? Wait for those sunsets and capture them!

If photography really is your passion, this should be the fun part. But if you want to create a brand and build a reputation, it’s also going to take a lot of work. In an ideal world, you’d want to be shooting at least once a week. A paying job will always come first, but if you ever want to come close to competing with the bigger names in Kitchener-Waterloo, you’re going to need to out-work them.

Not sure where to shoot? Here are some great locations in KW that would make great backdrops for your photos:

  • The Clock Tower in Victoria Park
  • The Lake in Victoria Park
  • The Town Square in Uptown Waterloo
  • Kitchener City Hall
  • Downtown Cambridge (Yes, it’s not KW, but it’s totally worth the extra travel time)
  • The Museum in downtown Kitchener
  • The “Kissing Bridge”, or the West Montrose Covered Bridge, in Waterloo
  • The Doon Heritage Village at the Waterloo Region Museum

Get your social media game going

If you haven’t already, create social media business accounts for your brand: i.e. Chuck Norris Photography (Unrelated, but is anyone else curious to see Chuck Norris as an amateur photographer?)

We recommend sticking with Facebook and Instagram to start so you don’t get overwhelmed, and then once you get into a rhythm you can include other social media sites too.

Get those accounts set up, and then share your photos on there! Doing it consistently should be your goal, but also keep in mind that you want to share quality photos. It’s a good rule of thumb to only share your very best photos.

If you keep that up, you’ll likely start getting fans and followers of your own. Once that happens, you’ll want to have a place to send them to.

Create a website

Having a professional website to showcase your words and get contacted by potential clients will be an absolute must at this point. The good news is that you don’t need to know how to code or hire a web designer to do it.

WordPress makes it super easy to create a website in no time and at no cost to you. If you don’t mind paying a bit, we also are huge fans of Squarespace. But either option will get the job done.

Eventually, you’ll want to purchase your own domain so that you look like a legitimate business, but when you’re first starting out, it’s not as big of a priority.

At this point, you should be building a portfolio in whatever style of photography you decided on, and you should also be sharing your work on your social media channels and your website.

Now it’s time to go offline.

Spread the good word (in person)

Up to this point, everything you’ve done has been to simply be on a level playing field. As awesome as it all is, it’s also all expected from 21st century professional photographers. If you want to get clients (who pay), you need to stand out.

There are a million ways to do that, but we think the most important one is to build positive relationships.

Relationship-building is a game-changer is professional photography.  You may be the one behind the camera, but having great social and communication skills make all the difference in the world (sorry Introverts). Being personable, likeable and easy to work with will get you clients if you put it to good use.

In practice, this means making cold-calls/emails, chatting up organizers and committee members at events, and interacting with fans on social media, just as a few examples. Doing these things gives you opportunities to sell yourself in an authentic and organic way, and if you combine that with quality work, you’ll be earning money a lot sooner than you think.

One last thing…

Everything here doesn’t mean squat if you aren’t consistent or don’t throw yourself into it. If you only share a photo on Facebook every 3 weeks, you’re not going to get and keep followers. And if you don’t showcase your work or build relationships, it’s going to take a lot longer to make this into a career.

Because after all, there are a ton of photographers here in Kitchener-Waterloo, and many of them are really good. But if you follow these steps, stay relentless and always keep improving, you can be really good too.

Did you find this article useful? What techniques have helped you become a more successful photographer? Let us know in the comments and be sure to subscribe for more great articles like this!

~

The photos in this article were taken by Viktor Hanacek, a 22-year-old entrepreneur living in Europe. He provides his photos for free on a website he founded called Picjumbo, and you can also see how he goes about his business as a photographer on his personal blog.

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