Photographer

I'm a self employed professional portrait and wedding photographer.

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?

I've always loved photography from when I was 12. I think you need to start with a fascination for the actual process of taking pictures. I did not get any career advice with regard photography during my years at high school. I had several brief and unproductive meetings with my school careers officer about becoming a vet. And also an accountant. Their misplaced focus (back then) was not on what you really wanted to be. But on how best to get you into a course, any course in further education.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today? 

20 years ago, I left Uni with a degree in Accountancy (not a bad background for any entrepreneur actually) I decided not to be an accountant. And do something I really enjoyed. So I worked for other established photographers for very little money and often for nothing at the weekends. Just to be around people who have are 'doing it' successfully and are able to make a living from wedding and portrait photography. Life was hard for the first few years earning very little. But all the time, you're learning, observing and most importantly getting hands-on work experience. Gradually you'd pick up your own clients and word of mouth spreads.

Talk me through a day in your life... what sorts of things would it involve? 

see diagram. pretty accurate reflection.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?

No. I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do until I actually left uni. University or any form of further education is a wonderful life experience. From that point of view, I would encourage any child to live it. But in terms of the value of the qualifications themselves (particularly photography qualifications) and how further education prepares you for the next stage of your own life (i.e. making a living in the outside world), it's absolutely hopeless.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?

Be an accountant or something just as safe. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

There are so many people in love with the IDEA of being a photographer. Don't be one of those!!! It's not glam. It's not cool. But it is rewarding for those who actually want to learn and want to get better at their craft. Go into it with your eyes open. Try get unpaid work experience with working photographers to see first hand the hard work that is required every single day just to get work in. And simply to survive. Time is split between admin tasks/marketing yourself /improving your photography (see diagram). It's not a joy ride, it's not an easy option and certainly not a glamorous option.

 

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?

With talent and experience as a photographer you could turn your photography skills to most things. The idea is to try and specialise early on so you become known for being excellent at one thing e.g. commercial work, product shots, babies, pets, press & PR, interiors, weddings, stock photography, landscapes, fine art.

If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here.

In terms of a list of attributes crucial to (as far as possible) ensuring success and longevity as a portrait and wedding photographer.

In order of importance -

1. A willingness and the ability to work long hours and extremely hard on a daily basis. Be it on improving your photography skills or on all the often mundane tasks related to running your own business. It's daily and it's never ending.

2. You must must must be a people person. Be patient, likeable and fun to be around. The ability to mix freely and communicate confidently in any situation is something that can only be gained with experience, I'm afraid.

3. Actual talent for photography or photography qualifications (is deliberately 3rd - and most certainly nowhere near as important as the top 2).

And in all honesty, when I interview students etc looking for an assisting role, I only look to the first 2 attributes.

I don't even care about number 3. I know given time, I can teach number 3.