The romantic idea of professional photography, even being a professional artist, is a strong one. Exotic locations, beautiful models, assistants bending to your every will. Sounds great right? Well let me let you into some dirty little secrets of being a professional photographer….just shhhh don’t tell anyone.
You have your camera in your hand 20% of the time
It’s not all click click click. In fact there’s weeks when I’ve got my camera in my hand maybe once in the space of 7 days. The rest of the time its networking, talking to clients, prepping kit, keeping social media and the website updated, creating content, working on images and a whole raft of other things!
I’d love to tell you that I spend every day somewhere shooting but I don’t. Unless I’m working, I rarely pick up my camera, my phone is usually good enough for day to day snaps and family things. There’s a lot of sitting around. I spend a lot of my time emailing people and speaking on the phone creating opportunities. I’ve spent more than 9 months working on some opportunities. Its less about the phone ringing off the hook and more about playing the long game.
If you’re starting out in photography and you think the ‘work’ you’ll be doing is mostly with your camera, you’re going to be wrong. It’s a lot of people skills and networking.
It’s full of normality punctuated by surreal moments
My day to day life is much like anyone else’s. It’s not particularly special or impressive, I just get to do some cool stuff once in a while. I remember the morning after the Leeds round of the World Triathlon Series back in June. I’d been living on cloud nine for 24 hours, caught up on the circus that is the WTS and the magic blue carpet. My images had been shared all over the world and I’d bagged the winning shot of Vicky Holland that blew up my social media feed for 12 hours. Sounds great right? It was but come Monday morning I was back to hanging the washing out like anyone else.
The idea of being a professional photographer sounds romantic and fun but the glamorous lifestyle often thought about by others is hardly the reality. We still hang the washing out, we still pick up the kids from school and we still put the bins out. Just occasionally we get to hang out with famous people.
The great photos rarely come from perfect locations and perfect conditions
There’s a scene in Austin Powers where he’s photographing a beautiful model and after a few clicks hands off his camera to an assistant proclaiming ‘and I’m done!’ I wish it was like that.
The reality is very different. I’ve got some of my best shots in the following situations….
- Laid on my belly in the grass on the outfield of a motor racing circuit working with some of the world’s best triathletes.
- Hanging off a barbed wire fence on a busy Welsh road during a national triathlon
- Squeezed between an American family, leaning over the railings at the London Marathon
- In a dark bar function room, with studios screens strapped down to equipment boxes so stop them from falling over.
- And high up in the gods of the Olympic Park Velodrome kneeling on a dusty floor.
I’d love to tell you its all glitz and glam but thats not the reality. The reality is hard work and takes patience and dedication. But its worth it and I wouldn’t change it for the world!