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How I Started Out In Photography

For this blog post I thought I'd go in to detail about how I started my journey in to photography. Perhaps you're thinking about starting out as a photographer and something I share here might be of interest to you.


I currently have 10 years worth of photographic experience which includes portraiture, events, landscape and animal photography. Most of these different genres come from me not knowing exactly which path I wanted to take when I first started out, so I wanted to try out as much as possible!



Do you need any qualifications to be a photographer?


Technically, no. You don't need any official qualifications to be a photographer, but a keen eye for detail, creativity and technical ability are essential. Also whilst you technically don't have to have them, it may help you if you did have a formal qualification. Of course there are many online courses that can teach you composition, depth of field, ISO, aperture, the rule of thirds and all of the other camera essentials, so if you don't want to or can't go to college or university then there are many other options available to you.



Personally I started my journey by studying photography at college, which is where I first learnt how to use an SLR camera. I actually started with using a film camera, which is a fantastic way to learn composition, needing to ensure what you've captured in the frame is as good as possible before deciding to take the photograph really helped me focus in on what I wanted to capture. An easy trait to adapt when using digital is taking 100s upon 100s of images that you may not even be that fussed about afterwards.


I absolutely loved learning how to develop my own film and using enlargers to make my prints in the dark room, being involved in every part of the process really interested me. After learning these processes for 35mm I then went on to experiment with medium and large format film.


Of course most people don't stick with film forever, but for me I loved starting out learning that way. Going on to learning digital opened up many more possibilities for me. One piece of advice, whilst you're learning photography don't ignore the editing side of things. It took me a while before I started learning Photoshop and Lightroom, which I feel really put me behind with what I wanted to do.


These programmes can take a while to learn and excel at, however just like photography courses there are many editing courses that you can take online. Which ended up being necessary for me as neither my college or university course included much teaching in these areas, even though I really thought they would've!



As I've just mentioned after completing my college course I then went on to university to study BA (Hons) Photography, which was just a general mixed photography course as I still wasn't sure exactly which path I wanted to take. This enabled me to try out a few different genres of photography. In college I mostly tried out still life and nature, and university allowed me more time in an actual photography studio so I started leaning more towards photographing people.


Before deciding on whether university is right for you, maybe look in to see if anyone in your areas is offering apprenticeships, I found in the area I live this wasn't widely available and I knew personally I needed more time to hone my skills, but it could be an option for you if you already have some experience.



Experience!!!


This is quite possibility one of the most important things I can mention in this post. Even after I finished college and university I found it extremely hard to find a photography job (unfortunately a degree doesn't guarantee you the job you want these days, sorry). So the best way to increase your chances, is to search for as many opportunities as possible.


I only did one work experience whilst I was at university which was a huge mistake on my part. Search for any opportunities to get your name out there whilst you're still learning. Nowadays there are companies that hire student photographers to help at graduations and there may be some photographers that are self employed that may need an occasional assistant, which would really help build up your name and experience in the industry.


As I waited too late to do this whilst I was still studying, this did put me behind with trying to get in to photography once I left education. However if you've found yourself making this mistake too, don't panic! As there were still things I did that really helped me get back on track.



Soon after leaving university I searched for any charity events that I could photograph, this enabled me to gain experience and allowed the charity to get coverage for the event. They did already hire photographers so I offered my services for free, which actually resulted in some of the participants purchasing their images from me after the event.


The event I photographed was called Bubble Rush, which was an incredibly fun event. I spent the whole day there capturing as much as I could of the day. This also resulted on me spending many hours needing to sort through all of the images I photographed that day, so bare that in mind if you feel yourself getting a bit trigger happy. This experience enabled me to build up my portfolio and my CV.



After this event I started looking in to other photography opportunities and it wasn't long until I found my next adventure. I applied to work as a photographer at a children's summer camp in America. There are a few different companies that offer this such as USA Summer Camp and Camp America, so if you're interested in this then they are easy enough to research to find which is best for you. I spent 10 weeks in America photographing all of the different activities the kids took part in and the camp used them for promotions and for the parents to see on their website, and to purchase if they wished.


This experience within photography and working with children helped me land my next photography job, working as a school photographer. Which certainly came with its own challenges, working with children everyday is never going to be easy, you also don't get much time to actually focus on the photography side of things as schools are rather demanding on time frames. But it was my first full time photography job and it was my next stepping stone.


At this point I had already started branching out on my own with my nature and landscape photography, I've always loved being around nature and I love going out exploring so the 2 just went hand in hand for me, and I always take up any excuse to be out with my camera!


I have also gained some experience in photographing engagement parties and even a one off wedding, but I knew at this point that wasn't really where I wanted to go with my photography. If you are planning on going fully self employed with your photography, generally the earlier you start out the better, before things like mortgages and other elements in life make it a lot harder to support yourself in the beginning.



Selling At Craft Fairs And Markets


What really inspired me to start out on my own was actually something that might sound a little odd. I was actually looking around a Christmas market and I felt really inspired to see what else I could do with my photography in regards to selling it. After a fair amount of research in to different products it wasn't long until I too started building up my portfolio and selling at pop up fairs. A fair amount of fairs and markets do run throughout the year, and there are many pages on Facebook that you can join to see where they are being held.


They charge a stall fee at the time of booking and once you're set up there it is pot luck really if your items sell well or not, but research in to the area might help. For example a lot of my landscape photographs are local to Somerset, so when I'm selling at fairs within Somerset these places are recognisable and popular.


The best research to do is where the building is located, i.e. is it likely to get good foot traffic (if it's in the middle of no where than probably not the best location) and also always go for somewhere with decent parking as this can really affect turn out. Quite often the bigger and better organised markets will have a higher stall cost, so you would need analyse if the cost is possible for you.


However saying that, I've managed to get a decent amount of sales from a fair that only cost me £19, so it really is all about learning which companies are the good organisers, and also don't go for ones that are too far away from you, as you could travel all that distance and not make back the money it cost you to get there (speaking from experience). I'll go in to more detail about selling at fairs and how to price your products in a different blog post, I only wanted to touch on it briefly here.


Since selling at fairs I have really expanded my online store, as that's one question you get asked a lot at markets - are you online? I started off selling on Ebay originally, thinking this would enable me to reach a large target audience. However I found this didn't really fit with what I sell. I soon moved over to Etsy as they are known more for art and handmade items. After building up my name more online I then moved across to my own website, this has allows me to offer more to my customers in the sense of a wider product range and perks such as gaining points from purchases to get money off future orders. I also think my own website feels more professional.


If you've gotten this far I really appreciate the time you've taken to read my blog, this post is a fair bit longer than most that I've written so far, and I hope that learning about my journey in photography up until now may help you with some tips for your own photography.


Thanks for reading my blog,

Sonia.




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