How do you get your big break?

Does it take years of plan­ning and per­sis­tence to make it in the pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness or is it all down to a spot of luck?

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

As with other ca­reers, mak­ing a suc­cess of pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy is largely not down to what you know, but who you know. Of course, you’ll need to know how to take the type of pic­tures that your clients want, but to get your name out there and start mak­ing con­nec­tions re­quires the abil­ity to engi­neer your­self an open­ing to show your work to the right peo­ple. That ‘big break’ can come in many forms. Some­times it’s a stroke of luck, a chance en­counter with some­one who knows some­one, and an op­por­tu­nity seized. But more of­ten than not it’s the re­sult of hard graft, of putting in the hours to build up a port­fo­lio and

“A port­fo­lio that re­flects your cho­sen field of spe­cial­i­sa­tion or area of ex­per­tise is a must. As pho­tog­ra­phers we live and die by the sword. Our prod­uct and our abil­ity is very tan­gi­ble…

Alex Bai­ley, movie stills pho­tog­ra­pher

knock­ing on doors un­til you get the open­ing you’re look­ing for.

Break or hard graft?

“There was no defin­ing mo­ment for me,” re­veals wildlife pro Richard Peters. “I didn’t wake up one morn­ing and de­cide that was the day I’d try and make some­thing out of my pho­tos. The truth is, ini­tially, I’m ashamed to say, I was a ‘fair weather pho­tog­ra­pher’ and I’d some­times go a few months be­tween even pick­ing my cam­era up while I held down an of­fice job.

“How­ever, I then started a job in the me­dia in­dus­try which af­forded me more free time and those cam­era-less gaps be­came smaller and smaller. As they did, my pho­tos im­proved. As my pho­tos im­proved, they started to gain more and more at­ten­tion from others.”

Some pho­tog­ra­phers cre­ate their own luck. Take fine art seas­cape pho­tog­ra­pher Jonathan Chritch­ley: “I had re­ally wanted to pho­to­graph clas­sic sail­ing yachts for some time, but re­alised that lo­gis­ti­cally it wasn’t an easy thing to ar­range. I con­tacted the or­gan­is­ers of a clas­sic yacht re­gatta on the Côte d’Azur and asked if I could come

along and shoot. They agreed and the re­sults led to my first ma­jor fea­ture with a mag­a­zine, which in turn led to a good deal of gallery in­ter­est and my first ma­jor print sale – over 3,000 prints for a lux­ury cruise ship. As of­ten with these things, one sim­ple de­ci­sion had a knock-on ef­fect that helped mould my ca­reer as a fine art pho­tog­ra­pher.”

Keep at it!

There’s no sub­sti­tute for per­se­ver­ance, though. “I’ve never con­sid­ered be­ing the re­cip­i­ent of a big break,” re­veals David Ti­pling. “I’ve sim­ply kept plug­ging away and have never set­tled for an im­age that doesn’t meet my ex­pec­ta­tions. There were two in­stances in the early part of my ca­reer that helped, though. First, I ran a stock agency called Win­drush Pho­tos for ten years, rep­re­sent­ing 40 pho­tog­ra­phers. This gave me a steady in­come and an in­sight into what the mar­ket wanted so I knew what was worth shoot­ing.

“The other in­stance was when a pub­lisher lost 350 transparencies used in my first book in 1995. This re­sulted in a large pay­out which gave me the op­por­tu­nity to fi­nance an ex­pe­di­tion to pho­to­graph Em­peror pen­guins. On my re­turn the pic­tures proved to be re­ally pop­u­lar, not least with com­mer­cial clients, and they still sell strongly to this day. They also sealed me a win in the GDT Euro­pean Na­ture Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year awards and brought me suc­cess in the Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year com­pe­ti­tion.”

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