Turn your eye for photography into a career

Turn your eye for photography into a career

Do you want a job that’s interesting, creative and varied? Here’s how to become a photographer in Australia.


Photography can be an incredibly rewarding and exciting career. Not only does it allow you to express your creative talents, but you can also meet loads of interesting people and each day on the job is different.

There are also lots of photography pathways to choose from. You could find yourself working as a travel photographer, wedding photographer, fashion photographer or shooting real estate photos.

We spoke to Chisholm photography teacher Kelly Russ to find out what steps you need to take to become a professional photographer.

1. Recognise your passion for photography

The first step is to identify your passion for photography. If it has always been a hobby, you’ll probably already know whether you’d like to pursue a career in photography or not.

If you’re new to photography, start dabbling and see how you like it. Use the tools you have at hand, which for most people nowadays will be your phone.

As a first port of call, you could try capturing some beautiful images and sharing them on social media.

2. Study a photography course

Gaining a professional qualification in photography is not only excellent for your knowledge base, but also a great way to connect with peers and collaborate with other people in the industry.

There are a few different options when it comes to learning photography. Chisholm offers a range of photography courses with access to new studio spaces, darkroom and print room facilities.

Chisholm’s Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging is a fantastic entry point for aspiring photographers, Kelly says. It covers everything from learning how to use a large range of equipment and creating projects in both commercial and fine art areas of photography, to post-production software and stepping back in time using black and white film in the darkroom. 

“This is a really amazing course if you’re entering the industry because you learn all the fundamentals,” Kelly says. “You’ll come to understand the medium and the history of photography, and get to play with a lot of tools like lighting, studios, cameras, different lenses, scanners, printers and old photographic processes in the darkroom.”

For those who already have basic skills in photography, Chisholm’s Diploma of Photography and Photo Imaging is another great option. The diploma allows you to develop your portfolio in your area of interest, whether it’s commercial photography or as a photographic artist.

3. Gain experience as a photography assistant

If you’re able to move into the assisting world, the experience will likely prove invaluable.

“There are all sorts of amazing benefits to being an assistant that you may not have picked up in the educational setting,” Kelly says. “For example, seeing how photographers talk to clients. Assisting is great because you learn so much on the job.”

Kelly says in some instances, photography assistants may even get to do a shoot themselves. “Photographers may pass jobs on to you that they don’t have time to do, so it’s really excellent for building industry knowledge and your portfolio,” she says. “You may also have the ability to use the photographer’s studios for your own work, so it’s really beneficial for your growth.”

4. Start shooting and find your focus area

The next step is just to get in there and have a go. Photograph friends and family and do smaller jobs to get your confidence up and build your photography portfolio.

Your portfolio will showcase your abilities to the world and help you find work, so it’s important to get it right.

Kelly’s advice is to show that you’re highly skilled in one specific area. “As an example, you might have a couple of categories on your website like wedding photography, engagement parties and family portraiture, but they should all be related,” she says. “You wouldn’t have wedding photography and car photography, for example. It doesn’t mean you can’t shoot the other jobs, but you might have a separate folio for that.”

5. Start your photography business

The final step is to create your brand and launch your business.

Set your pricing by understanding your market and your place within it, create your portfolio website for potential clients to browse and start marketing yourself.

The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme can provide training and support to those who want to start a business.

“We all make mistakes along the way, but it’s about getting out there, getting the work and doing the best job, on every job, that you can,” says Kelly. “Photography can be an incredibly fantastic, exciting and varied career. If you’re passionate about it, jump in!”