As with any career where the path is a tricky one, the most important attribute you will need to have is determination to succeed. If you think it might be nice to be a professional photographer, but there are other careers you would also be happy in, don't choose photography!
So, given that this is the career path you absolutely have to follow, which path is for you?
The portrait photographer will either work out of a studio, or have the occasional location job; school photographs, or headshots for actors, singers, and dancers. They will need excellent organisational skills, as they will most likely be doing their own diary-management, as well as keeping themselves fully apprised of the latest developments both in digital photography and post-production. Although no formal qualifications are required, a reasonably high level of training and professional competence are essential.
The family photographer will be almost entirely-studio based. Frequently dealing with fractious small children, their people skills are as important as their skills as a photographer. The family photographic shoot requires diplomacy, and an ability to keep people focussed yet relaxed. Like the portrait photographer, formal qualifications are desirable rather than essential.
Breaking into this glamorous side of the industry is incredibly difficult. The fashion photographer will require an extensive physical portfolio of their work, and also an excellent personal website to serve as a gallery. Their digital manipulation skill of the images they shoot should be exceptional. Unlike most other fields of professional photography, the fashion photographer should have an agent, who will negotiate the sale of their work on their behalf.
The photo journalist is essentially a storyteller, presenting the truth, with images seldom doctored before they find their way into print. Formal training could be more important here than in other fields, as a degree will present challenges and theoretical scenarios for the student to tackle. A graduate course will also provide vital contacts.
Again, the wildlife photographer will need a stand-out portfolio, and a keen interest in the natural world. With stock agencies overflowing with images, the budding wildlife photographer will need extreme levels of persistence, patience, and the ability to see the long game. Requiring excellent business and marketing skills, they will need to charm their way into good relationships with animal parks, enabling access to restricted areas.
One for the adrenaline junkies of the photography world, wedding photographers need nerves of steel to be master of the perfect shot. Dealing with the preservation of people's treasured memories, their people, and indeed crowd-management skills should be exceptional. Their editing skills should also be top-notch, as a little subtle photoshopping can make the difference between a good photograph, and a perfect one.
Your path within the profession depends as much upon your personality as your skill - if you tailor your career progression to who you are, you will find developing your skills extremely rewarding.
Graeme is writing on behalf of Steven Brooks Wedding Photography London