Are you ready?

Mak­ing the tran­si­tion from am­a­teur snap­per to pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher is a life-chang­ing step – are you ready for it?

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

As much as you may en­joy pho­tog­ra­phy as a hobby, suc­ceed­ing as a busi­ness is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent mat­ter. You must place a value on your work, which is dif­fi­cult in an in­dus­try that is ever-chang­ing and de­valu­ing pho­tog­ra­phy

Tom Mackie , land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher

Get­ting a foot in the door of the pho­tog­ra­phy in­dus­try, at­tract­ing clients and pro­duc­ing enough saleable pic­tures to put food on your ta­ble: it’s a daunt­ing prospect. That be­ing said, the change in life­style and the chance to fill your day do­ing some­thing you gen­uinely love is hard to re­sist.

New be­gin­nings

“I left school with lit­tle in the way of for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions. After a brief stint work­ing in a su­per­mar­ket I got a job in a bank,” says in-de­mand bird pho­tog­ra­pher David Ti­pling. “Dur­ing my time work­ing as a cashier I spent all my hol­i­days trav­el­ling tak­ing pic­tures. On a trip to Kenya in 1984 I took an im­age of a leop­ard sit­ting in a tree. There was noth­ing out­stand­ing about this im­age but it was a nice por­trait in a good set­ting and was se­lected for in­clu­sion in a Tele­graph Colour Li­brary Stock cat­a­logue.

“Dur­ing the first six months the im­age was on sale it made me more money ev­ery month than I was earn­ing in the bank. I re­alised then that my dream ca­reer was per­haps not too far away. How­ever, I con­tin­ued

work­ing lat­terly as an au­di­tor for a build­ing so­ci­ety for six years un­til be­ing of­fered vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy, which gave me the push I needed.”

Start­ing slowly

It’s a fa­mil­iar theme: pas­sion­ate am­a­teur pho­tog­ra­pher holds down a reg­u­lar nine-to-five job in order to fund cam­era gear and pho­tog­ra­phy trips, all the time won­der­ing if they could do this for a liv­ing. It’s a slow burn, and it can take years to build up the con­fi­dence and fi­nan­cial re­serves to make the big step. How­ever, there are those pho­tog­ra­phers who com­mit to it from an early age.

“As my dream has al­ways been to be a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher it was quite a straight line,” says na­ture pho­tog­ra­pher San­dra Bar­tocha. “I stud­ied me­dia stud­ies at univer­sity and dur­ing this time I al­ways took pho­tos, worked on smaller projects and ar­ti­cles, and net­worked. This paid off when I got my first two paid jobs al­most at once. I took a chance, re­signed from my stud­ies and plunged into pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy. My think­ing was that there wouldn’t be a bet­ter chance, as my over­heads were quite small at that time and so I didn’t need much in order to pur­sue a liv­ing.”

If you’re con­sid­er­ing turn­ing pro­fes­sional, a stint spent as­sist­ing a pro is a great way to get first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence and help you de­cide if the full-time life is re­ally for you. “I worked as a shoot as­sis­tant, a printer in a dark room and a pho­tog­ra­pher’s per­sonal as­sis­tant for several years be­fore I started to get my own work,” re­veals fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher Kirstin Sin­clair. “I think it is im­per­a­tive to gain first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence within the in­dus­try. It has been in­valu­able to me to work in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent roles, from a pho­tog­ra­pher’s stu­dio as­sis­tant to an in­tern at a mag­a­zine. This has all played a huge part in my learn­ing and un­der­stand­ing of how the pho­tog­ra­phy, fash­ion and pub­lish­ing in­dus­tries work and I would rec­om­mend this route to any­one.”

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