A little bit about my journey to becoming a photographer...
Freelancing my way from there to here…
I love that no two creative business stories are the same and the paths taken are usually pretty varied, but there are a few threads that align them; they’re filled with a lot of passion, determination and a willingness to step into the unknown. Recently, I’ve read quite a few books/blog posts and listened to podcasts that outline other creatives career journeys, and I’ve enjoyed learning about how they got to where they are, so I thought it might be a nice idea for me to write a little bit about the path I took to where I am now. I’m still very much in the midst of my journey and am looking forward to continuing to grow within my business and career, so I suppose this is a post about making the initial leap and the first year of my business.
a circular journey
My journey to becoming a Photographer feels pretty circular… I’ve always been hugely passionate about storytelling, both visual and written and this combination (amongst other things) led me to pursue a career in film. Photography has been a hobby of mine since my parents bought me my first camera when I was 6, it was a little green 35mm point and shoot, adorned with sheep and I adored the process of being able to flick through moments you’ve previously captured. My A-Levels consisted of Art & Design (my final piece was a photography book), Communications & Culture, Philosophy & Film and I did a Photography evening class for a month or so too. I went on to University for the Creative Arts to do a BA (Hons) in Film Production, where I specialised in Directing and spent my days surrounded by mood boards, storyboards, scripts and books, delving into the topics of truth claims in documentaries, mise-en-scene, and aesthetics. I learned a lot about the crafting of visuals and how to find and tell a compelling story/build a narrative and these skills are incredibly useful and form the foundation for the way I work on photography projects today. Two of the films I Directed whilst at University went on to screen at Festivals and Events here in the U.K, including; The London Short Film Festival, We the People’s BFI Youth Day and I teamed up with the NGO War Child to screen my documentary at the Global Summit for Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict. I was also lucky enough to win a We The People’s ‘Jury Award’ for my short documentary, a film that followed a 21-year old woman back to her native land of Bosnia & Herzegovina to find out more about her past. The documentary received quite a bit of press at the time, including a feature in French ELLE and the Evening Standard, and clips of the film were shown on BBC Newsbeat, Sky News, NBC Universal, and Lejla and I were interviewed on BBC Surrey.
After film school
By the time I’d graduated, I’d already spent around 8 months in total freelancing in Production before and during University, so I began freelancing in the production department of Commercials, Online Content, and Music Videos, as a way to save up for travelling. When my partner and I returned from our travels around Indonesia & Thailand, I fell back into freelance Production Assisting and shortly worked my way up to Production Managing. Production Managers work closely with the Producer to oversee the film's budget, organising everything from travel, crew, catering, equipment, and liaising on casting/locations and generating pre-production documents. Through this, I freelanced at numerous Advertising Agencies and Production Companies, working with clients such as; Beats, Virgin Media, Sony, Lâncome, Max Factor and Rolls Royce. It was good fun and I qualified from the Advertising Producer’s Association ‘Producer’s Masterclass’ with the grade ‘Outstanding’… as it turns out, I know my way around a spreadsheet. However, around 3 years in and lack of anything creative meant it became an unfulfilling job and I knew Producing wasn’t what I wanted to do in the long run. I was aware I couldn’t move sideways into a more creative role within commercials and although I was freelance, I was with a diary service which meant I was often being booked onto back to back jobs unless I took a holiday. With 12-hour days, 04:30am call times and regular weekend work, combined with the fact I’m introverted (organising 65+ crew and being introverted are not a match made in heaven) and not whole-heartedly enjoying the job sucked quite a lot of energy, leaving me with little time/energy for dreaming and making plans. So around 6 months, after approximately 3.5 years of working in Production, I decided to leave my diary service and cut back on the number of jobs I took within commercials so I could spend the rest of the time figuring out what my next step was going to be. I assumed it might be Directing that I wanted to get back into but after making one film and helping with another, it wasn’t filling me up in the same way it did before and it turned out I needed a bit of a break from the filmmaking world in general. I’m pretty sure creating short films is still something I’d love to get back into in the future, and I very recently Directed a short film for a corporate client but for now, my main focus is photography.
Picking up my camera again, saying “yes” and jumping
Photography was a hobby that took a back seat from the second year of University onwards and whilst I was working in production, and I decided to get back into photographing more regularly by posting to Instagram in-between production jobs. I had to remind myself of the technical side of photography and I fell head over heels back in love with it. Shortly after I began posting on Instagram regularly, serendipity played a hand and I was sent a jacket by a vintage denim brand, and after posting a photo of it to Instagram, they enquired if they could commission a shoot, I said yes and had a few more requests come through shortly after. Around the same time, I took a meeting with a Documentary Director and was offered the role of Social Media Producer on a feature documentary. With the contract being on-going for at least 6 months, it was the perfect opportunity for me to jump ship from working in Production, so that’s exactly what I did, I jumped.
Shortly after Jumping…
If there’s one word to describe how I spent 2018 in my business, it would be flow. I started working and collaborating on projects before I’d formally finalised a plan for my business or even set up my website, so I decided to spend the first 12-months keeping my plans loose and seeking out and agreeing to lots of new opportunities, I think this was a good decision as the change was pretty abrupt and it meant I could learn and grow in as many facets of my business as I could and try all the things that piqued my interest. Staying open minded about what I might want to do was good for me, partly because the first year of running your business is relatively scary, but mainly because I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself too soon and I wanted to be able to support different photography endeavours by opening myself up to several income streams. Over the next few months, I steadily took on more and more responsibilities with the feature documentary, like website building and maintenance, event planning assistance, assisting with the crowdfunding campaign writing blogs and awareness articles. This meant that, as well as photography, I started working with new clients on their social media, digital communications and copywriting. When requests came in for building Squarespace websites, writing product copy/blog posts, I said yes(!) and I took on commercial photography jobs for global brands that needed content for their social media. My business almost exclusively ran itself through in-person meetings and word of mouth, something I’m extremely grateful for and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to take on such an array of work. At the beginning of 2019 (and just over a year into my business) I decided to take a look at my big picture and plan towards that. The overarching thing that came up was that I wanted more space to focus on my photography, as that was always the end goal, so I’m now solely focussing on photography projects and commissions, and I’m so excited to have made that second leap in my business… I have a few projects in the pipeline at the moment and I’m really looking forward to sharing them with you soon.