I’ve compiled a list of the 35 most helpful resources for freelance photographers that I use constantly. This list is in no particular order, but you can browse by the 5 different categories of resources here: Connect, Learn, Organize, Product, and Share. The best part? Everything is linked, so if something here interests you it’s only a click away!
Browse images from thousands of photographers who use artificial light, and then learn exactly how each shot was created by viewing everything from the lighting description, products used, camera settings, lighting diagram, and behind the scenes images.
Look up pretty much any topic you’re interested in learning more about on Facebook and chances are there’s a group for it. Whether you’re looking for a super niche topic or a local group it’s worth a try! Typically colleges use Facebook for groups frequently. I am a part of a group of alumni from the School of Visual Communication at OU where people will post updates and job opportunities. I’m also a part of two Ohio University housing groups in LA and NY. I’m in another group hosted by my favorite author. Then another that specifically talks about how to light dancers. There’s so many groups to join where you can learn from people around the world whether you have your own question or just want to read through past conversations.
Here’s some ideas! Join my own freelance/photo/creative group here. If you’re local to Ohio: Cleveland Photo Nerds, Northeast Ohio Photographers or Ohio Professional Photographers are helpful. For bigger groups, some of my favorites are The Lawtog, Rachel Neville, Profoto Share The Light, Photography and Multimedia Jobs or Olivia Bossert. Facebook groups are so underrated, and I swear I’ve learned so much from reading conversations about others’ situations and struggles. Please find a couple that seem like a good fit for you!
I’m always shocked by how many people aren’t aware of LinkedIn because I pretty much live here. If you ever want to pitch your resume or moodboard to a company but can’t seem to find the right person, LinkedIn is key. It’s usually quite simple to find the company’s page which includes many of its employees and their roles. From there, look for a creative director, art director, director of photography, marketing coordinator or someone along those lines. LinkedIn is also great for receiving recommendations from coworkers, posting professional updates, and searching for a job.
I can’t speak for all cities, but I would say a decent amount of camera stores local to each city (or even state depending on where you live) will keep an assistant list posted to their website. This is mostly used by local photographers looking for assistants or photographers who are traveling in for a production and unaware of local assistants to work with. I’ve managed to book a few jobs through having my name on the Dodd Assist and Digital Tech List (they also have a stylist list!). In addition to the Cleveland list, they also have a list for Chicago and Cincinnati.
ASMP is a photography networking group. Although it’s open to everyone, this group seems to be geared to more commercial photographers. The organization offers online articles, legal assistance, industry connections, copyright protection tools, documents, and forms. Once you are a member you can be added to their ‘find a photographer’ and ‘find an assistant’ list. ASMP is a national organization, but also has local chapters for each states’ regions or cities. Local chapters often have events and meetups for you to connect to people in your area.
NPPA is another photography organization that is geared toward photojournalists. NPPA offers a cost of doing business calculator, job bank, advocacy, find a journalist browser, contests, scholarships, grants, a magazine, and events.
PPA is the largest nonprofit trade association for professional photographers. The organization offers insurance, education, copyright resources, certifications, discounts, community, a magazine, and more resources.
Browse through a series of video courses, all taught by industry professionals, to learn how to control light in the most precise way. Profoto Academy enforces using any gear, not just Profoto, and offers opportunities to interact with other photographers, get personal feedback, or access support.
In my opinion, the NPPA business pricing calculator is one of the most valuable tools any photographer could ask for, and it isn’t very well known. So lucky for you, you’re in on the secret now! Enter in all of your business expenses and your desired salary to figure out your overhead cost for each assignment or each week. This is a huge step in figuring out what you need to charge to break even!
If you use Capture one personally or are a digital tech for other photographers, it wouldn’t hurt to browse through their website full of resources that walk you through every tool in the entire program. You can also learn about the Capture One ambassadors’ styles and workflows.
This one is for the brave and the eager. This monster of a book was assigned to me in college, and with everything I had going on in my life at the time I didn’t ever do more than flip through each chapter before class. Well, now that I’m an actual business owner, I’ve been forcing myself to go through and actually read this book. I know the size is intimidating and a bit draining to even look at, but there is some really, really good stuff in here. This book is so detailed and has an answer for pretty much any question you could ever think of related to business. It’s just the matter of getting through 832 pages to find the answer. I’m only halfway through as of right now, but I would highly recommend this to anyone who is serious about learning more about the business side of things.
12. Lindsay Adler
Lindsay Adler’s fashion photography tutorials offer techniques in lighting and style to achieve really unique photographic effects. If you’re looking to really hone in on understanding light, this is the place to be. Lindsay offers free video tutorials, blogs, and critiques. In addition, there are paid education options as well that include courses and memberships to her education website.
13. The Artist’s Way
I really wish I could speak on this one, but if I’m being honest I have not had the chance to pick up the book and complete it yet. I was planning to start it right after graduation, but I got so rocketed into work that I didn’t even have time to think about it. Since then, I have felt like it isn’t the right time in my life to begin the book. Maybe when I eventually move I’ll start this journey in a new city.
Anyways, The Artist’s Way was recommended to me by a former boss who raved about it constantly. I heard such amazing things about it from them that I just had to include it here. It’s a 12 week workshop for creative individuals to unblock their fully creative selves by “uncovering problemed areas and pressure points that may be restricting their creative flow and offering techniques to free up any areas where they might be stuck, opening up opportunities for self-growth and self-discovery.”
14. The Lawtog
The Lawtog is my go to for any kind of legal advice within photography. Here you can find photography contract downloads, legal photo business education, and free community membership. Rachel also offers coaching and 1:1 legal services.
15. Learn With Canon
On the Canon website you can find blog entries on what’s new, quick tips, photo, video, printing, and how-to. Also, learn from the Canon Explorers of Light.
Trello can help keep you organized and is basically a huge checklist where projects can move through different stages of completion. Many studios use Trello to keep track of their retouching and client revisions for specific photos and projects. This can be used for more than just managing individual projects, though. Trello can also be used for overall client and project management to help you keep track of which clients you have been in contact with, are working with currently, have invoiced, or have completed a project with. It’s really easy to get creative in the ways you use Trello to organize many aspects of your business.
Chances are I probably don’t need to explain Pinterest to you very in-depth. It’s great for inspiration, and I love the option to share your moodboard with other collaborators on the shoot.
Airtable is similar to Trello as it is another workflow organization tool. Airtable is formatted as a spreadsheet and can be used to track various business sectors. I used Airtable when I worked with Thread Magazine at OU. We used it to keep track of each photoshoot and things like who the collaborators were on the shoot, the location, the date, the moodboards, and then the status of each photoshoot.
19. Easy Release
This app is a lifesaver. Considering how modeling releases are always the last thing in my mind when I’m shooting, this app makes them quick and easy to get out of the way. Everything is filled out and signed on your phone. Once you are done filling out the form, it automatically forwards each release to your email where you can quickly file them away in a folder to keep them all in the same place.
Mint helps you to consolidate all of your assets into one big summary. This is especially helpful if you already have your business and personal finances separated into two different bank accounts, or have credit cards, money invested, or student loans. Mint can help you to quickly view all of these things in one place and generate your net worth.
If there’s one piece of equipment I seriously couldn’t live without, it would be my Wacom tablet. This little guy cuts my editing time in half. Wacom has a few different models and sizes of interactive pen displays, tablets, and smartpads. Basically, instead of using a mouse and clicking and dragging over and over, your drawing tablet works as a piece of pen and paper would, but digitally. This is great for anyone who works in Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator, Procreate, or any other 3D softwares, design programs, or editing platforms. It may feel odd to use at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be flying through edits and designs.
Any type of color calibration tool is a must if you are working as a professional in the photo industry. You need to make sure your photos are going to look accurate across all types of devices and when printing, and a Spyder device can help you do that.
Loupedeck is great for any type of creative, not only photographers, because of its consoles which have a customizable interface and dials. Loupedeck is compatible with most Adobe applications, Final Cut Pro, Capture One. and other softwares. These consoles can be used to speed up your workflow by creating hotkeys and shortcuts that can be accessed like any other key.
24. House of Flynn
House of Flynn creates beautiful camera bags for all types of shooters whether you only carry around a couple lenses and keep it simple or need a rolling backpack that can hold all of your gear and 8 lenses. The bags come in different colors and patterns, helping you to show your personality all the time. If you always found the all black, plain camera bags boring then this is the brand for you.
If you are looking for extremely durable, dependable, hard cases for your camera gear, Pelican is the way to go and the brand I see being used the most. With an array of different styles and sizes, you’ll find what you need here. You can also customize your own foam pieces to be placed into the cases, shaping them for each unique piece of gear that you own. Whenever I’m packing up gear, I feel most confident that everything is protected when I use this brand.
If you want absolutely brilliant, stand-out business cards, Moo is the way to go. I use Moo for all of my promotional cards, and I cannot rave about this company enough. Moo makes stationary, accessories, stickers, labels, business cards, and marketing and promotional materials. Their business cards are my favorite because there are so many ways to make them your own between gold foil, silver foil, spot gloss, raised gloss, letterpress, square cards, Luxe thick cards, mini cards, gloss finish, matte finish, or rounded edges. I get complimented on my square business cards constantly, and I have Moo to thank for that.
I recently bought a Brevite bag for my trip to Europe, and I love it! The bag comes in ten different colors (including pink!) and has a ton of great features like a laptop sleeve big enough for the new 16 inch MacBook Pro, quick access door, luggage passthrough, and tripod holder. Brevite also constantly has some kind of coupon running; When I bought mine I got a free rain cover which would have been $32.00 extra.
If there’s any item on this list that I could rank higher than everything else, it would be this desk. Since schooling and working from home, this desk has saved all of my back and body pain from sitting all day. I love my L-shaped desk because I feel like I finally have enough space for everything I need. I also bought a monitor stand that attaches right to the desk that is adjustable in pretty much any way that you can think of. Flexispot sells a ton of different desks for activities like gaming, studio art, entertainment, and general office use. Flexispot also has standing desk converters, desk bikes, chairs, lighting, and storage solutions.
If you’re into crafting, you’ll love the Cricut series. Cricut makes machines that can draw, cut, write, and score for all of your creative, crafting or small business needs. This is great for small business owners who love to personalize their packaging and products.
If you prefer paper over screens, I can’t recommend Moleskin enough! I’ve gone through a ton of these notebooks for sketching, mood-boarding, taking notes, planning, and drawing. They come in different colors, hardback or softback, and have different paper lining options like ruled, squared, dotted, or plain.
Although DJI is most known for its drone, cinema, and stabilization products, I want to focus on one of its lesser known products that I own, the DJI OM 4 SE. This little machine is an incredible phone stabilizer. Do you ever go through an entire shoot only to realize you forgot to record any behind the scenes footage? That was me all the time until I found this product. Once you magnetically attach your phone to this stabilizer and flip out the stand, you can have the device track you as you shoot. This is perfect for if you don’t have a friend there with you to follow and record your every movement. This device is magnetic, foldable and portable, has gesture control, active tracking, and is great as a handheld device or on a stand. People are always amazed when I set this up at a shoot!
Ever since I joined Wix to host Leanna’s Lens, I have absolutely raved about it. I feel so strongly that this is the only place you should be if you’re making a website no matter what you’re selling, showing, or advertising. There are endless ways to customize your Wix site, and the amount of features and elements they have added in the past few years is insane. Wix has had every single feature I have ever wanted to add to my website, and if they don’t have an element yet, you can add your own code into your site. Wix is so user friendly but also has some really intricate elements you can use once you’re familiar with the interface and want to try something more advanced.
Google Drive is my favorite storage website, mostly because it allows for document creation, too, like slideshows, word docs, sheets, and forms. This consolidates all of my documents and eliminates the need to pay for Microsoft office. Plus, it’s relatively cheap to buy a good amount of storage.
Whenever I have a portraiture client, I share their gallery through Zenfolio. I’ve used this since 2017 and have stuck with it. It’s easy to share links in an automated, professional-looking email template with minimal work involved. Plus, Zenfolio allows you to customize the look of your galleries to fit your brand.
WeTransfer is great for when you want to send a large file to someone but don’t want the files to take up space in your shared storage folder. I use this constantly whenever I retouch for people so their images aren’t taking up space on my online personal drives. With the free version you can send up to 2gb worth of transfers at once, transfers expire after one week, and you are notified when the recipient downloads your files.
I hope that you found a new website or product here that you love! I was originally aiming for 50 resources, but I figured why push myself just to add things when this list of 35 are my all-time favorites. I've purposefully left out photography equipment, studio equipment, lights, photo accessories, and creative softwares; That will be a whole article in itself later on!