Zhang Jingna’s 14 Fantastic Tips for Photographers Who Want to Go Pro

(Photographers of all skill levels benefit greatly from the shared knowledge of our close knit community. The following informative piece by photographer Zhang Jingna originally appeared on the Profoto Blog and includes 14 amazing tips on how to become a professional photographer.)

Editor's Note: Some readers are already full-time photographers with years of experience, while some of you are just getting started. But regardless of where you are on your journey, it’s always valuable to hear what someone else learned along the way. So, with no further ado, we present fashion photographer Zhang Jingna‘s "14 Tips for Photographers Who Want to Go Pro."


Hi everyone! This is Zhang Jingna. In my last five articles, I have covered the process of producing photoshoots, my favorite Light Shaping Tools, and tips on how to break into fashion photography. In this sixth and final piece, I would like to follow up on breaking into fashion photography and talk about how one develops into a professional photographer.

People arrive at their destinations through different paths, but many also share the same struggles, dilemmas, and pitfalls. I hope my thoughts will shed some light on what the path of going pro often entails. Let me know what you think at the end of the post!

1) Learn to be Prepared

The heading may sound silly, but for the most of us, we have no idea as to what we’re doing when we first start learning.

On the day I did my first shoot with my first camera, I took it out of its packaging, pressed the shutter, and was greeted with the message: “No Card."

I’ve always been a more hands-on learner, and prefer jumping into things and learning on the go. However, I’ve learned that gaining a basic understanding of something new before diving in helps manage expectations and allows things to go much more smoothly. Google tips and how-to’s before you try something you haven’t done before, there is usually always some good advice out there, even amongst the seemingly bad ones.


2) Learn with What You Have

My first shoots were self-portraits, pictures of friends, and of my younger sister. If you can photograph normal people and create compelling images, you know you are on the right track in terms of aesthetics and skill-building. As you improve, you will find that people will want to work with you based on your ability to achieve good work with non-models.

My first purchase after my camera was a second-hand hot light, also known as a continuous light. I had endless questions about which strobes to buy or lenses to add to my collection. But at the end of the day, I learned that the 18-55mm kit lens was a decent range to work with as a new photographer, and that a hot light provided me with a good deal of room in terms of experimentation. I mastered shooting with one light, and many of my early works were shot with it alone in my family’s living room.


3) Be Genuine and Do Things Because You Want to

My first model agency test happened through someone I was assisting. The photographer was shooting portraits of elderly people, I was interested in his work and wanted to know what the shoots were like, so I volunteered. One day, he set up a shoot with an agency model and encouraged me to do something on my own. I was given time to set up after he was done. The model’s agency loved my pictures, and they have continued sending me girls ever since.

Do things that you are genuinely interested in. Don’t do things with mixed intentions, ulterior motives or expect reciprocal favors.

People will remember the person who genuinely wanted to be a part of something that they cared about. They will think of you when something perfect for you comes along. This is how opportunities happen.


See the rest of Zhang Jingna's "14 Tips for Photographers Who Want to Go Pro" on Profoto's blog.

(All photos ©Zhang Jingna)

See more of Zhang Jingna’s work on her website.

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