What It Takes To Be A Freelance Photographer: YT Professions

Dorotea Santo is a freelance photographer based in Novi Sad, Serbia, but her photographs are taken in all parts of the world. She studied applied photography in Serbia at the same time the she volunteered in 8 projects. Up to the present time she has had around 20 exhibitions, she has gotten 2 awards, and she has participated in the Noah project. In this interview she explains what it actually means to be a freelancer, how your regular day or weekend looks, and why it is so important to be online in this job. She also answers questions about how she manages to stand out from the crowd, how to survive without a salary before you get recognized, and she offers tips for newbie freelancers. 

Photography has been Dorotea’s occupation since she was 18 years old, but her passion for photography started much earlier. The ideas for photographs are all around Dorotea – nature and daily life are her biggest inspirations.

Freelance jobs


Photo by Dorotea Santo

Dorotea states that there are many prejudices about freelancers. Some comments she has heard about the working hours for freelancers are counter-productive but, on the other hand, some of them are constructive. The real truth is that the working hours of each freelancer depend on the individual situation. Her day starts with a cup of coffee, breakfast, and a computer. She goes online and visits the platforms to check who has responded to the recent work she has posted. Then she updates some of that work, which takes a lot of time because there are descriptions to write, tags to add, names, model releases to fill in, and other things. Her weekends are usually filled with working with clients, which can be stressful because there are lots of deadlines.

I have never paid attention to what others say about my job, but I would say that it takes more effort to be a freelancer nowadays than before. There are so many artists and so many things online, and you have to be a little bit aggressive to be noticed. Also, technology develops way too fast, and you have to keep track of it all, and it costs money and time – says Dorotea.


Photo by Dorotea Santo

Dorotea notes that you have to do a lot of research online, you have to see what is popular, what people like, and then you have to go places to take shots. Then, it takes time to edit your shots, and it takes time to share your work on tons of pages and platforms and take care of marketing. Since the income which comes from freelancing is not reliable, she says that freelancers are “either brave or somewhat crazy”. On the other hand, she states that freelancing takes more discipline but it makes your life more fulfilling.

Sometimes you have to put your clients first in your life and also balance their time with yours, so your family will maybe suffer for it. If you have developed your business, you don’t have to worry about a thing. I am fighting to break through because I love it, I enjoy it, and it really makes me happy. There is something magical about knowing that you froze time for a part of second, captured it, and made it last forever. It makes me feel like I have superpowers. I never knew how to draw with pencils, but I have gotten to know light, and now I can draw with my photographs – says Dorotea.

Art of photography

Dorotea started to learn about her business online, and later she went to University to study applied photography. She was having a hard time managing working and studying, but she had a big desire to learn.

When I was starting my studies, it was important to have a degree, but now is not necessary. It is possible to become a great and well known photographer without it. Sometimes people want to see your degree, sometimes is enough for them to see what you can actually do. There are tons of online courses, tips and tutorials; and if you have enough time, you can spend years googling, learning, and developing your skills. Also, you can be a good artist, taking amazing photographs, but not be recognized at first. Look at many of the famous artists of the past – they were not well accepted in their time – explains Dorotea.

Dorotea thinks that being online is crucial in freelance jobs, and you have to share your work everywhere and all the time. She states that connections and working with other artists are important, and you have to be seen, people need to talk about you, and you have to be annoying in sharing your work. She added that there are so many people who have a huge circle of friends, and marketing comes easily for them.

They develop their business more quickly, and being popular gives you more work and more money; money gives you better equipment, and you can pay people to do some work for you, and your business grows. She states that today everything is online, and it has become more important to have your work on various platforms than having exhibitions and awards. Technology has changed the real values. I don’t think that having exhibitions will become popular again. If you want to make a living, you have to please others, and everyone is online. It’s not about art anymore, it’s more about clients – says Dorotea.


Photo by Dorotea Santo

She loves to keep her shots raw, and she loves to keep feelings in her photographs. Dorotea likes to keep it real and makes few color changes. Her question is: If a photograph is all about freezing reality, why change it? Related to this, she thinks that the hardest thing is to be noticed and picked out of the crowd and get clients. That is why you need to have your own style, as she has. She needed a few years of pro bono work before getting paid for her work. The first people who paid for her work were her family and friends, and in her later college years she first got paid by a person who contacted her online. She adds that freelance is not for everyone, but following your dream can give you a huge boost.

We live in time when people are greedy. They want better work for less money. It is still hard to charge what your work is worth. Different photographers have different ways of charging for their work, so you have to be smart and set the price according to your clients’ needs. What can I suggest to young people who want to become freelancers? Search, observe, try, and don’t be afraid of failing. If you know what you live for you can be happy with less money, just follow your dreams and passions. And I’m sure you already know the phrase – do what you love and you will never need to work a day in your life – says Dorotea.

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