WELCOME FEBRUARY GUEST PHOTOGRAPHER, KID CIRCUS
My background before I picked up my first camera was as club DJ. Looking back, I believe my first interest in photography was piqued by watching photographers at club nights I was DJing at, seeing what equipment they were using and how they moved around the crowd to get their shots.
That said, I've always enjoyed taking pictures ever since I got a phone that could do so. Buying my first iphone in 2011 changed the way I thought about capturing images. I now had a phone equipped with a really good camera and apps that I could use to edit shots in weird and wonderful ways (and believe me, I’ve tried them all - anyone remember Hipstamatic?).
There came a point where I realised that in order to progress, I needed to buy a camera and consider learning how to properly edit photos. Having spoken to a friend who was a professional event photographer, I took his advice in buying a mirrorless camera (these are smaller cameras than typical DSLRs that still enable you to use different lenses). To fund the purchase, I sold a long-treasured 80s synthesizer (a Roland SH-09, for anyone who's interested) that up until that point was one of my main music production instruments - something I had sworn I would never sell. Never, never, never. NEVER. Up it went onto ebay. I knew then that I was getting kinda serious about this whole photography thing.
I can not overstate the role Instagram played in my fueling my passion for taking pictures. It was where I first saw the amazing things people were doing with nothing but a phone and a couple of editing apps. I felt inspired to want to seek out interesting things to shoot and share on my own Instagram feed. The year I got my camera was also the first year I attended an Instameet. These are meet-ups organised to bring photographers together via Instagram, and it was where I forged relationships with people with whom I am still great friends. Aside from the obvious benefit of networking with like minded people, seeing how others approached their work no matter what kind of photography they specialised in taught me more than they will ever know.
It became increasingly apparent to me how great a platform Instagram could be if I got enough of a following for my work. However, growing an audience is not the easiest of tasks. One of the first ways I was able to get exposure was via the use of hashtags and locations. It really is good practice if you want other people to find your photos, and the available data seems to support this:
Posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement
Posts with a location gain 79% more engagement
Many use fairly generic hashtags to try and get their work seen by people beyond their existing following, such as #follow4follow and #photooftheday. I began using hashtags specific to feature accounts just by looking at those being used by other photographers. Feature accounts are accounts with a large following who will repost your work, and credit and tag you if you use their hashtag. For instance, the account @London will repost pictures they like from people using the hashtag #thisisLondon. Being featured by these accounts helped me immensely when it came to growing my audience, and to date my work has been featured on accounts whose followers range from a few thousand to 2.1 million (ahem, thank you @London).
Being born and bred in London has undoubtedly influenced my perspective when it comes to photography. There's something about the size of the city, the diverse range of people and the architecture that gives London its own distinctive look. In fact, architecture is the area of photography I specialised in first, before progressing onto landscapes and street photography.
Shooting portraits was something I thought I’d try a few times before no doubt returning back to street photography and landscapes. I didn’t for one minute anticipate that I’d enjoy the process of photographing people rather than places. The more shoots I came away from with a bunch of images I was really happy with, the more shoots I wanted to do. I still find it incredible that an area of photography I was never sure I was even good at has become something that others pay me to do.
When it comes to working on a shoot, here are a few quick tips I would recommend:
Get to the shoot early
Ensure you have all the equipment you will need ready (you do not want to be that person who forgot to pack enough batteries or memory cards for their camera)
Check your settings - seems a simple point to make, but coming away from a shoot and realising you shot all your images in jpeg is enough to break the strongest of people
Don’t be a dick - believe me, be nice, as this industry is smaller than you think. Word gets around pretty quickly.
Turn over the images as soon as you can. You really want to make things easy for the client so that they’re more likely to want to hire you again.