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How to Become a Successful Photographer by Douglas Sonders

By fotosiamo on September 11th 2012

Highly successful commercial photographer Douglas Sonders recently guest-blogged on Frank Doorhof’s Blog about what it takes to become a successful photographer. You may have heard the challenges that come from pursuing a photography career, and for the most part, they are true. With the proliferation of digital cameras and the internet, there has never been a time where it is so easy to get into photography, but so hard to stand out and make a successful career out of it.

As photographers, it is easy for us to assume that our photography will speak for itself. But in truth, our time should be invested to 25% photography and 75% marketing in order to get our images in front of our prospective clients whether they are a creative agency, a magazine publication, or an engaged couple.

Casino by Douglas Sonders

Douglas Sonders has been named one of Washington D.C.’s most influential people under 40 by Washington Life Magazine, and named one of D.C.’s top 25 creatives of 2010. He has been profiled in Photo District News on several occasions for his lighting-style, body of work, and professionalism. So in regards to the business of photography, Douglas is no stranger to what it takes to make it in the industry.

Bugatti by Douglas Sonders

In his guest-post, Douglas covers 16 essential rules and guidelines that will help you maximize your time and effort as a burgeoning photographer trying to cross over from shooting as a hobby to getting paid to shoot.

Here are just 3 of the rules from the post. Be sure to check out his guest post, as well as his blog, to read the rest:

  • FOLLOW UP: Hand out your business card? Ask for one in return. Always follow up. Chances are, they won’t remember to message you. It’s happened to all of us. Send them a nice note or email reminding them of your meeting and offering your services. Same goes across the board. Following up on any lead gives you a greater chance of landing jobs rather than sitting and waiting for someone to call you. FOLLOW UP FOLLOW UP FOLLOW UP (oh and thank you cards are effective too). Have a client you like working with already? Don’t forget to check in with them from time to time as well!
  • BE TENACIOUS: Want to work with someone or some organization or client? Be vigilant. Follow up, harass them (nicely), research them, and find a way to reach them. Network your way up the ladder! There have been times in my career that I found companies and magazines and individuals that I wanted to photograph with or for and I did everything in my power to find a way to make that happen. That is probably one of the biggest keys to my career success so far. When I WANTED something, I didn’t wait for them to call. I found a way to get myself in front of them. You want it? TAKE IT.
  • MEETING IN PERSON IS BETTER THAN OVER THE PHONE OR EMAIL (EVEN MAGAZINES): Maybe I am old-fashioned, but if you want to really close a deal with a new client, see them face to face…makes it harder for them to say no. This even goes for magazines. In NYC or some town that has one of the magazines you want to work with? Set a time to stop by with your laptop, portfolio, iPad in person. Don’t know how to contact a magazine? There are sites like Agency Access or Adbase, where you can buy contact lists, but there is an easy way if there are a handful of specific magazines you want to reach… Go to the bookstore and pick up said magazine. Go a few pages past the table of contents and there will be a list of staff. Look for the names of the photo editor or assistant photo editor or creative director if that’s all they have. Sometimes they have an email or phone listed next to the name. If there isn’t, there is ALWAYS an advertising department phone number (magazines thrive on ad sales). Call the ad department and say you accidentally called the wrong extension and if they could connect you with the editorial department. When you get the editorial switchboard, hit up the photo editors. An old trick I used to use. Shhhhh!

  • To read the rest of his 16 guidelines to being a successful photographer, check out his guest blog on Frank Doorhof’s blog.

    You can also see more of Douglas Sonder’s work on his website, follow his awesome blog, and follow him on Facebook. (All photos are copyrighted by Douglas Sonders)

    Readers, what are some good advices that you follow as a working photographer that brought you some success?


    Joe is a rising fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs. Be sure to check out his work at and connect with him on Google Plus and on Facebook


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    1. Joseph Prusa

      Thanks for sharing

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    2. Ed Rhodes

      love the poker pic

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