Ever since I got my first camera, aged thirteen, I’ve been a student of photography. And while I may now be a professional photographer with many commissions under my belt, I still consider myself a student. I’m still learning new things, and if I ever stop, I know it’ll be time to hang up my camera.
The most satisfying thing I’ve learned over the years is that making a career out of your true passion is the best way to never work a day in your life. I still turn up to every project with a genuine buzz in my stomach, even now.
So if you’re interested in a making a living with your lens, or just curious about what it is we photographers do, here are some of the more practical things I’ve learned over my career.
Improvisation and creativity go a long way. And I don’t just mean in front of the camera. On one job, I travelled several hours for the shoot, only to realise I’d forgotten to pack my reflector. With the clock ticking, I had to look to MacGyver for inspiration. I won’t give away my trade secrets, except to say that a sheet of tinfoil and a breadboard saved the day.
Have backups for your backups. One time, my camera battery packed up, so I reached for my spare. Sods law struck, and that one didn’t work either, so I was left high and dry. Now, I test every battery before I leave the house. And then I put two more in my bag, just to be sure. And then I stick another one in my glove box.
Being a professional photographer involves a lot of time not taking photos. There’s editing, for a start. Which can take as long as the actual shoot itself. I’m also a marketer, accountant, traveller, oh, and researcher.
Never underestimate the power of research. On commissions, for instance, I’ll devote time to listening to my clients, so I can understand what they need from their photography. We’ll talk about everything, from their commercial goals, to things like the moods, emotions and narrative they’re looking to evoke from the photography. It’s these insights that often guide – and ultimately improve – the quality and impact of the finished images.
People skills are the secret sauce for getting great shots. I’ve done headshots and portraits for many well-known and established figures over the years, and one phrase I hear a lot is: ‘I hate having my picture taken.’ In fact, I’d say this is a universal truth. People just don’t like having their picture taken. They see a camera, and stop being themselves. And when your job is to take a natural and relaxed looking headshot, it’s that ability to engage and put people at ease that makes all the difference to the quality of pictures you can get on the session.
Most of all, I’ve learned that this is the best job in the world. I get to be creative, visit strange and unusual places, and meet amazing people. I’ve amassed a body of work that has won awards, helped businesses achieve their commercial goals, and is displayed in living rooms all across the country. And yet I still get to feel the same excitement and passion I did when I first picked up that camera back when I was thirteen. I’ve learned that I’m very lucky indeed.
That’s a thousand words about me, but if you’d prefer a picture to tell your story, give me a call on 07775 851827 and let’s talk.