I’m often asked how and why I came to set up my own business, especially one centred around styled product photography.
So today on the GdL blog, I thought I’d answer some of the common questions I get asked about being a professional photographer. I hope some of the below gives you a bit more of an insight into my background, why I enjoy photography so much and how I managed to pursue a career that I love. If you have anymore questions, then please feel free to leave a comment below or say hi over on my Instagram.
When was the first time you picked up a camera?
I can’t say I always desired to be a photographer from a young age; it wasn’t something I knew I was going to do as I grew up. What I do know is that my school introduced a photography GCSE at the time I was about to choose my options. They asked us if anyone would be in interested in taking the subject and I opted for it, so that was the first time I was exposed to a proper camera. I’d played around with cameras before, but it wasn’t until then that I started to learn to use them properly.
What drew you towards photography in the first place?
Like I said, I was curious about the photography GCSE, especially because it was a brand-new course, so it was all about giving it a go in the beginning. It’s difficult to know what you want to do, especially as a teenager. Once I’d taken that initial step, and realised I loved it, I thought about pursuing it further. Until you try something out, you never know for sure whether that's what you want to do.
What was the first camera you had?
I didn’t start with a great camera because I was using the schools (not the best!), but we’ve all got to start somewhere. After a few months though, I wanted to try something better, and I received a Nikon for my birthday in December. I suppose that was the first camera I had that I could call my own.
When I went on to do my photography degree at the University of Plymouth, we had a really good place called ‘the hub’, where you could hire out anything and try it all. That was a great way to learn about all the different cameras out there. After university, I made the controversial decision to swap to a Canon when it came to upgrade my camera. I’ve been using them ever since and they have a really satisfying shutter sound.
When did you realise you could turn a hobby into a career?
I’ve never been one to just have a full-time job. Even as a little kid, I’d never just sit in front of the TV; I’d have to have crafts or a project to do because I wasn’t very good at keeping still. So when I was working full time, I would always go home and have something on the go.
After going freelance, the photography side of things developed organically. I took the time to find my niche, understand the gaps in the market and how I could best help people. Having worked in a start-up business, I understand everything that goes into running a small retail brand, so my styled product photography evolved naturally alongside my social media services.
Having graduated with a photography degree, it was always in the back of my mind that I could pursue it professionally.
Why styled product photography in particular?
I’ve always had a really strong interest in interiors. I’ve always bought magazines and used to ask for subscriptions at every Christmas – Elle Décor, Wallpaper, Living Etc – it was ridiculous. I couldn’t read them fast enough!
Most of my childhood was spent with my Mum, and every evening, we’d get books about artists out from the library and sit and look at them. We developed a shared love of the arts, so I was exposed to creativity from a young age. My Dad also collected really random and unconventional art, like Banksy before he was big, so that was probably another influence.
What motivates you?
My husband, Ash. To be able to suit a career to our lifestyle is one of the main things that gets me out of bed in the morning. He’s a triathlete, so his schedule from month to month is a bit all over the place because of races and travel. Flexibility is really important for the way I work, and I love having a job where I can travel too and support him. Despite representing team GB, he receives very limited funding, so we have to fund everything ourselves; we both work hard to make this happen.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring photographers?
In any business, niche is so important. I know it can be scary, but you need to focus all of your marketing towards your chosen niche. This doesn’t mean other kinds of clients won’t come to you, but it does help you develop a really strong brand image and a really concentrated following. If, for financial reasons, you take on work that doesn’t necessarily fit into that niche, then don’t worry. You can still do it, but be mindful of sharing it on your social platforms; you don’t need to talk about everything you do.
And finally, I know that starting out with your own business can be hard but perseverance is key; all the hard work is so worth it in the long run!
If there's anything else you'd like to know, then please feel free to leave a question in the comments below!