MAKING IT AS A PHOTOGRAPHER
MAKING IT AS A PHOTOGRAPHER
This is something that I have struggled with over the years and have found myself undertaking more free shoots than is financially viable in the longer term.
When I first started out in photography I began working for a local, popular music magazine and found that in recompense for taking photos of the gigs I was able to obtain photo passes for a variety of music events including concerts and festivals. For me the advantage of having work published also raised my profile, within music photography, and enabled me to gain confidence and recognition as a photographer.
A difficulty this can lead to though is once you start to photograph for free it can be easy to become known as the photographer who “does shoots for free”. In the early days I didn’t mind this as I was also working full-time and I was wanting more opportunities to photograph rather than looking to make a living from it. However this can become more problematic if you decide to become a professional photographer and are still known as the one who “does shoots for free”.
Unless we are in a very good financial position no one can run a business and give away their time for free and I think that it can be easy to forget about all the money Photographer’s invest in their equipment and insurance etc. to be able to provide the shots people are wanting. I would love to be able to undertake more free shoots to help people out but sadly my goodwill doesn’t cover my bills.
Saying this though there are still a few times when I will shoot for free;
Firstly, I would do this if I have agreed a shoot with someone for free or for a reduced price - I will always honour my word as I feel, just as a person, that this is something that is important.
Secondly, if the images are something that, I feel, would be helpful for my portfolio development and long term sales - whether this is to update images, try a new genre or raise my profile I feel that this can be essential to keep images fresh and continue to learn skills. Like everything else there are trends in photography and it is important to keep up to date with these and be able to provide images people require
Thirdly, if the shoot or event is for a charity or cause I want to support. This year I was lucky enough to be involved with the Aloma fashion show which was held in aid of ‘Coppafeel’ https://coppafeel.org/ which is a breast cancer charity.
I am someone who has a number of causes I feel quite strongly about and would hope to be able to be involved in further charitable work in the coming year. In particular I’m interested in providing visual imagery, for difficult to describe experiences, which help raise public awareness around these issues. I recently read an article in Professional Photo (issue 140, pg 13) - https://bright-publishing.com/cs_publishing.html - which spoke about people who volunteer as photographers for charity - I felt very inspired reading the article and it reminded me of the importance of photography for capturing moments in time, moments which can never be repeated and which, sometimes, we never want repeating but which are essential for us to hold.
I suppose, in conclusion, I don’t feel that I am able to give you a set of rules to follow to make clear when to photograph for free. However, I would ask you to ask yourself why you feel you are photographing for free and whether this is something you want to do long term. Be true to yourself and your ability as a professional and also be aware that if we all photograph for free this could become even more challenging when we ask for a fee.
All of it! That was simple to answer - but seriously setting up a business will probably take more time than you ever imagined. Naively I thought it would be a bit like working a full-time job but really a full-time job is only part-time, compared to starting a business.
Currently it feels like every waking minute is spend thinking about my business - I’m even starting to dream about it - however, when I just wrote ‘my business’ I got a little flutter of excitement knowing that all the time and effort I am investing is directly related to my business growing and developing it’s future.
Even when I’m doing things which are not directly business related I am still working to some level. While Christmas shopping I will look at how products are being marketed, what my ‘competitors’ are selling and promoting, considering possible future studio spaces as I walk past empty premises and comparing the demographics of certain retailers. All this is at a semi-subconscious level but when I return home I further analyse these elements to decide how to drive my business forward.
Being self-employed can be quite scarey. Knowing that it’s up to you how much money you will make next month is both liberating and paralysing depending on your customers and when they are looking to buy. I have also realised that timewise you are always working months ahead of the month you are in, for example, after Christmas I imagine people will be planning weddings, considering proms and looking for wedding photographers and prom photography. This means in January I will be considering July and how to promote the business to hit my projected sales targets.
Another thing I’ve noted is that, although a photographer, most of my time is not being spent taking and processing photos instead I am spending time developing my sales and marketing techniques, learning to blog (bet you didn’t realise I was new to this!), learning about SEO and how to manage and submit my accounts. I had never really considered all the business bit, again maybe naively, but it is certainly a learning curve,but, one which I am actually quite enjoying.
So here I am, on a Saturday night, Christmas Eve Eve no less, writing a blog about how much time my business is taking up and yet I also have to say that I’m enjoying using my time to drive and develop ‘Truly Yours Photography’ and I have absolutely no regrets, just hope I get a diary for Christmas so I can begin to book in my bookings for 2018.
It's funny really, I am so good at waffling in real life but when it domes to putting things down on paper I feel a bit stuck.
A few people have suggested to me that keeping a regular online blog might be beneficial and I suppose I wanted to write something that other people could relate to, be inspired by and engage with.
Up until now I have been updating my images on Facebook and my website but as my photography becomes more diverse and as my business evolves I thought it might be useful to keep track of my activities and maybe this will help other people who are looking at starting up in photography.
I suppose my photography started when I began to do my music photography under my alter ego name of 'Denial Photography'. My Facebook page for Denial Photography is still up and running and can be found at https://www.facebook.com/denialphotography
I have always had an urge to do photography, ask my friends I have talked about it for years. But I supposed the turning point was in June 2009 in Dalby Forest, Pickering on a misty, warm, grey summer evening. I had gone to see McFly and took my compact camera with me for a few shots. I was really proud of some of the shots I took and it was then when I started to get that stomach turning over feeling, when I looked at my pics, that I knew I was hooked.
McFly at Dalby Forest June 2009
My plan is to be able to use the Instax 300 at events such as Proms and Weddings. This will mean that people can have vintage looking pictures that they can take home with them.
So yesterday was my first chance to try out my FujiFilm Instax 300. It was a bright, sunny day and I took it to one of my favourite places, Saltburn, Cleveland.
It took me a couple of shots to realise that because of the brightness of the day I needed to "darken" the pictures. This is going to be something I need to remember to do as at one point I turned the camera off and, of course, it reset itself meaning that my next picture was too bright. I'm sure this will just be a matter of time before I have this firmly embedded in my thinking.
I used the Fujifilm film for these images and was very pleased with the colours and the details within the pictures. The films are quite expensive for just 10 images but I suppose that the development is already taken care of and so there is no further cost incurred.
The photographs can be taken either as Landscape or portrait and I really like the look of the final image with the white border - I feel that this is also very useful for writing in dates, messages, names etc to keep those memories alive.
The viewfinder for the camera is on the left hand side and I found this a little awkward to use, at first, I think that it is something I will get used to but it is just very different from my viewfinder on my digital cameras.
Following on from my first post I can now share with you my favourite images from my shoot with the Diana F+ camera.
When shooting with it I wasn't sure whether any of the images would come out so imagine my surprise when, not only, did some turn out but I also liked them.
It’s strange to think that in this day of being able to take hundreds of images on a digital camera that I chose for my Diana F+ to shoot just 12 images. A number of these just aren’t worth sharing – I expected this as it was my first time of using the camera but there are a number that I would like to share.
In these first two images I tried out my double exposure technique, I shot the initial image of each exposure into the sun so that the person was silhouetted - this meant that with the second shot of each exposure the darker parts of the film were able to pick up the detail in a more defined way. This is an image idea I am wanting to use and explore more within my therapeutic and commercial photography work.
This third image I was particularly pleased with and it has received a lot of positive comments. I like the idea of being able to get different elements of the same person within the same image and again this is something that I am planning to develop more within my work.
One thing I learned using the Diana F+ is that each of my cameras seems to have it's own personality and quirks. The day that I shot this 3rd image was a bright, sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky. Because of this I set the camera to "sunny" and continued to shoot. I found that some of my images came out very dark and indistinct and now think that in some situations I should have set it to "cloudy" to see if this would have helped with the lighting. I suppose there is a journey that you take, with each new camera you purchase, to get the outcomes you are looking for - my plan now is to be more creative with the settings and see what happens next.
Having read an article in the Sunday Mirror, today, I felt driven to share with you some of my thinking around the “Look, Hear” part of my business.
Having worked in young people’s mental health, in one way or another, for around 19 years I have seen a huge change in the way people communicate with each other and the impact this has on emotional well-being.
In the Sunday Mirror,21.05.2017, they highlighted that 1 in 5 children aged between 9 and 16 had been bullied online – so 20% of children in their pre and early teen years have been bullied online!
In 2015 a global YouGov study (https://mediacentre.vodafone.co.uk/pressrelease/groundbreaking-vodafone-global-survey-reveals-43-of-teens-think-cyberbullying-a-bigger-problem-than-drug-abuse/) showed that a high proportion of young people felt that cyber-bullying was worse than face-to-face bullying.
Any kind of bullying is horrendous and can make people feel isolated and helpless but cyber-bullying “doesn’t sleep”. Young people can come away from school to the safety of their home but now the bullies can continue their tirade through social media and can involve others in this by “tagging” them into a post or adding them to a message. Please check out what makes Cyber-Bullying different at the internetmatters.org website (https://www.internetmatters.org/issues/cyberbullying/learn-about-it/#1473780018865-0c69a128-9468)
The YouGov study also showed that, in the UK, 68% of the young people had heard of cyber-bullying happening to someone else! A massive 18% of the young people in the study had experienced suicidal thoughts and for 21% it had effect their school attendance. That is a lot of young people who have been or have watched someone else be affected.
I have known young people who haven’t wanted to tell adults what is happening to them in case their phone/tablet is taken off them. They have told me that this can make them feel that they are being “punished” although we know that it is just that we are trying our hardest to protect them. We might think that closing down social media accounts is, therefore, the answer but for society today social media seem to be an essential part of life and it can also be a place where young people receive support from their peers. There is also the chance that a young person could be bullied because they aren’t on social media. It feels a bit of a no win situation.
For me part of the essence of the “Look, Hear” project is to create a small group atmosphere in which the young people feel safe to talk and share information about their experiences of social media, we will look at how images are shared and viewed online and will go on to take some lifestory pictures using film cameras. The idea, behind the use of film, is to allow people to experience not being able to share images immediately and to provide time for consideration into what, if anything, they want to share. A goal will be to increase young people’s sense of self awareness and resilience and give them some control back.
If you are interested in the project please get in touch. I would also ask you to complete one of my surveys on the “Look, Hear” page of the website
So today marked the day I have finally been able to send my first 120mm Ilford film www.ilfordphoto.com/home.asp to Lomography for processing. This is a Scrodinger's Cat moment for me as, currently, the images are both perfect and also none existent.
The reason I am unsure of the outcome is because I purchased the Diana F+ camera from eBay and this is the first film I have exposed with the camera. My test Film. Hopefully my eBay purchase is still in perfect working order and hasn't had any light leaks to expose the film unintentionally but until the film is developed I won't know.
For me it has been exciting to work on this format film and I am hoping for a number of square, black and white images to emerge. Some are single exposures and some are double exposures. I have the feeling that I am going to need to master this new equipment and especially the double exposure technique as this is one that I am aiming to use within my workshops.
It was quite alien using film and not being able to immediately see the pictures you have taken. When I initially learned to develop and process film I wondered why? what is the point when we have digital? but after spending a lot of time using digital I am finding myself drawn back to film more and more. I love the different types of film available and the processing.
Unfortunately I don't currently have access to a dark room, although I hope to have this again in the future, so for now I will wait by my letterbox and email for my images to appear.