I love to receive emails and questions from aspiring photographers and often the questions that I get asked are very similar so I thought I would write a post that might be helpful to folk looking to find their path.
There is no right way to “start out” in photography, some start by undertaking A-Levels and a Photography degree. This is an amazing opportunity that gives you time to think about your subject area critically and develop a broad set of skills as a graduate. I am looking forward to working with a group of second year photographers in January in their Professional Practice module and I can’t wait to meet them and hear about their values and motivations and look to see how this all fits to create their portfolio and build their creative brand.
If I reflect on my own path, I started out way back when (15 years ago), developing 35mm film in a newsagents whilst I was at school. This grounded my understanding of photography and I got amazing staff rates on my film development and a free film every time, so I just kept clicking!! The sea has always been a big inspiration for me and I was always out with my camera when I was growing up in Ramsgate. There is something about the openness and the dynamic nature of the swash and backwash that calms the soul!
I trotted off to the University of Sheffield and immersed myself in a Geography degree. I was fascinated by the connections of people and place and our interactions on this beautiful planet. I photographed my way through uni, documenting the world around me realising that my photography obsession allowed me to capture and interpret the world around us, that very world that I was studying during my degree.
When I graduated I treated myself to a high spec (well it was then!) compact camera and carried it with me everywhere and loved the 16 shots in a frame feature.
I quickly realised that I wanted a dSLR and bought a Nikon D60 which really allowed me to explore settings and get to grips with reading light and exposing images.
I quickly outgrew this and whilst I was doing my teaching qualification in 2009, I took the plunge and bought my first Nikon D700. I was in awe of it. We had our beach hut at West Bay and one of the first pictures I took was of my brother after sunset.
Since then, I knew I wanted to photograph people, capturing those special moments in life. So, my best advice to people would be to keep shooting, reviewing, reading, learning, reflecting and growing. I have invested a lot of time in training so that the money invested in lovely kit was put to good use. I can’t recommend courses with the lovely Lisa Devlin, Adam Bronkhorst and Kat Williams highly enough. I read so many books and blogs relating to photography and running your own business, which constantly helps me to evolve and rise to the challenge.
Second shooting for other photographers is a great way to gain experience, but I would recommend that you have a website or online portfolio available for them to review before you approach them. The first thing anyone is going to want to see is example of your work, so it is so important to have these readily available. Don’t get knocked back by rejection, as every no will bring your closer to a yes. Joining photography clubs are a good way to get to know other photographers, work on monthly photography themes and go out on group shoots. Jason Dodd runs the super Kentish Photography Club which I have been a member of and there are a great group of passionate photographers who get together once a month.
In essence, your journey with photography is what you make of it and there is not fixed path to follow. For me, doing something I enjoy is a blessing and I love capturing love. There is something magical about seeing two people make such a sacred commitment to each other and it is a total privilege to be invited to capture that.