Photography is a craft that requires dedication and hard work to master. But how long does it take to become a professional photographer? It depends on the individual, but for some, it can take as little as three months. For others, it may take up to six months or longer. It's important to remember that photography is an endless cycle of learning and failure.
I'm often asked for advice on why someone isn't yet successful in photography, and when I ask how long they've been practicing, they've only been learning for two or three years. It's impossible to know how hard they've been working during that time. In this article, I'll review my theory about how long it takes to reach various levels of photography, and analyze the actual amount of work required to reach each stage. Talent is a real thing for the 1% of people who are successful in their craft.
The rest just get to work. It's not only about doing things a thousand times, but also about learning why and when behind what is being done. However, hard work doesn't necessarily equate to smart work, which is why some people take longer (and why many never realize it). For example, there are hundreds of professional basketball players, but despite equal opportunities, not all of them are as good as Stephen Curry or James Harding.
Did you ever consider that maybe some of those people just worked a little smarter and harder than the rest? It's easier to believe that success is achieved through something that is pure chance and no effort, than to accept that you too could have achieved it if only you had tried hard. Some people can pick up musical instruments and learn to play them; others can draw or paint without training or cooking, etc. But just because someone has a natural ability doesn't mean they'll be successful in their craft. For example, I have a pretty good voice without having to think too much about it.
Does that automatically make me a great or successful musician? No, not even close. I still have to learn the rhythm and time, at least some theory, a good amount of equipment (both for playing and for recording), etc. Do I want to write my own music? Songwriting is a completely different skill than playing, and that's just music. Do I also write my own lyrics? Once again, another skill set.
Playing live for more than just a handful of people at the local school? Different skill set. And all this is just scratching the surface. You can't get to a professional level by outsourcing absolutely everything related to being a musician other than your natural voice. Of course, you still hire producers, sound engineers, other musicians, managers, roadies, etc., but if nothing else you have to do a lot of that yourself at some point because you don't start out with enough money to pay other people to fill those functions. So how long does it take to be good if you have talent? Not much. But the question of being an expert, being the best at your craft or succeeding takes much longer and some people never get there and others take longer. When it comes to photography specifically, digital cameras have made it easier for photographers to see the results of their photos immediately without having to buy film or pay for processing.
This has allowed photographers to take more photos and improve their skills faster than ever before. The turning point for many photographers is when they develop the ability to determine which shots are bad and why. This requires practice and experience in order to hone your skills. So if you want to become a professional photographer, you need dedication and hard work. It may take three months or six months or longer depending on your individual progress and experience level. But with enough practice and determination you can reach your goals.