Ok, so you want to earn money from your photography. Great! It’s time to think about your starting point…
What is it that you want to photograph? Will you spend your time wandering the hills in search of the perfect landscape picture, or are you more likely to be at home in amongst the hustle and bustle of a city centre studio?
After taking the plunge, one of the biggest steps in the career of any would-be photographer is often the decision to pick an area of specialism. Now, I’ll state from the outset that it is most definitely not a rule that you have to specialise – although it can arguably make life easier in the early days, especially as you progress and push to get your name known.
The important thing is to find a subject that you enjoy, that you’re passionate about and that you’re going to be happy to pursue day in, day out.
For me, I’ve always loved the outdoors. But that doesn’t mean I always wanted to be an outdoors photographer. When I first started out professionally in my early twenties, I really didn’t know what I wanted to photograph; all I knew was that I liked documenting things, telling stories with my pictures – and that I just wanted people to pay me for taking pictures!
A long story cut short, I accidentally fell into the world of business photography. You know the sort of thing – corporate portraits, product shots etc. Probably not surprising, as I started networking at business groups at around this same time.
I was also undertaking commissions for various magazines. Nothing consistent to begin with, but I felt I was making progress, building my portfolio and finding my feet.
For example, there were a couple of years where I covered an extreme sports festival for a surfing magazine. It was great fun. I was single and on location for about a week at a time… it felt right, but I still found myself going back to the ‘bread and butter’ business work.
Jump forward to the present day and a lot has happened in the evolution of my life as a photographer. The difference now, though, is that having pursued various avenues along the way, I absolutely know for sure that I have made a number of right (and very important) decisions.
Some of these have been in the past year or two and, once again, I find myself happier and more content. I am discovering different kinds of challenges in my work but, because I am well established and have the benefit of experience, I am enjoying the ride more, so to speak.
To anyone heading into any line of the creative arts – be it photography, music, design, whatever – there are a number of key nuggets of advice I would offer.
1. Be true to yourself. There are bound to be haters, people who try to dissuade you and dismiss your ideas as unrealistic or indulgent. But if you really believe in what you’re aiming to achieve, then stick to your guns and go for it.
2. Do all you can to learn your craft, but don’t think you have to spend a fortune in the process. You’ve heard the old adage “It’s not the camera but the photographer,” right?
3. Be prepared to make mistakes and, more importantly, to learn from them. It’s ok to fail, so long as you take away something positive from the experience.
4. Be honest with others. Start from humble beginnings and don’t try too hard to impress people – even though this is what your instinct screams at you to do. In business, as in life, honesty pays.
5. Finally… Have fun! One of the things people always say abut me is that I clearly love what I do. It’s obvious as I go about my work and that enthusiasm can only be a good thing. Good vibes = happy worker = the best possible results!