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Industry Spotlight: Becoming a Professional Photographer

For many people, photography is a passion and hobby but how do you turn it into a full-time job?

Jobulo speak to Julia Toms, a Professional Photographer, about her career and Julia shares some career advice and CV tips for those wanting to become a Photographer.

Tell Us About Your Career Background?

After completing a Geography degree at Plymouth University I realised I needed more creativity and freedom in my future work prospects. I started working for a web team for a surf clothing company where I learned some basic skills in Adobe Photoshop, a computer program that has become part of my everyday life for the last 9 years. I am very grateful to the position I held in the company over a few years, but it also fuelled my ambition to work freelance in the world of Photography. So armed with a very slow computer, one camera, and the most expensive lense I could afford at the time, I plunged into Freelance Photography. To start with I pursued the world of water sports photography and made it my goal to try and break into the competitive market. Before long I had a series of photos published in Kiteworld International Magazine. This then lead to work with Boards and Windsurf (also international magazines) to whom I flew overseas with on a number of trips to capture the adrenalin and action for their print and online magazines. Although it’s my favourite area of photography, I now don’t shoot it very much as I have found many other areas of photography I enjoy and that provide me with new and exciting challenges. I am currently looking to further my existing work in interiors photography… watch this space!

Have You Always Enjoyed Photography?

Yes definitely. I have always had a camera in my hands from a young age and am at my most relaxed when taking photographs for my own library – whether it is landscapes, macro, portraits, studio or sports.

Starting Your Own Photography Business Must Be Difficult – Where Do You Start?

Great photography is a passion that comes from the heart, and this must show throughout your work and will ultimately drive your ambition. Start with a subject you like to photograph. Then explore the options to make money and create a business model. Next test the market. And finally review your work model. For example when I first started water sports photography I used to turn up to the beach every windy day, take photos of windsurfers, give them a card for my website, and sell them photos. It was a great way to introduce myself to local people, it got my name out there and paid for better equipment. After a few months, I worked out although it was profitable, I wanted to expand, so I contacted a sports photography agency and started working with them shooting rugby, football, gymnastics, track and field events. If you don’t at first succeed, try, try and try again.

What Is a Typical Day Like at Work?

I am a night owl and am at my most creative through the evening and often work late into the night. At 8:30 I start my day with some fresh fruit, a coffee and some admin jobs: following up emails, accounts, paperwork and also preparing some social media photos/posts for later in the day. My week yo-yos from all-day photo shoots to then all-day post product editing in my office. My work cannot be contained to a typical 9-5 timetable – weddings and events take over my weekends through the summer months, and all other photo shoots are scheduled around sunlight hours and client availability. I set aside time for my family and friends who are very understanding of my ever changing schedule. I am also a keen kite surfer and long boarder, so when conditions are good, I allow myself to nip off to the beach for a much needed adrenalin charged hour or two!

What Is The Best Part of the Job?

I love the variety of my work. To single it down to one thing is quite hard, but it is probably hearing feedback from clients and seeing work published and circulating around the world in print and on the internet.

What’s the Toughest Part of the Job?

The toughest part is trying to relax. If I have a quiet week, I get a little twitchy about finding some new work, and although I should relax and enjoy the downtime I usually flip to being super proactive and then before I know it, I am busier than ever with new work and clients.

If Someone Wants to Become a Photographer, What Kind of Events Can They Expect to Work At?

There are many aspects of photography work. Weddings, sporting events, fashion shoots, studio work, corporate events… the list is endless. Either pick a particular area to pursue or (if you are like me) then try and master all of your favourite areas. If you are unsure then you can contact an established photographer and ask if you can shadow them to gain an insight into the different types of work on offer.

If a Candidate Wants to Become a Photographer, What Career Advice Would You Give Them?

Find an area of photography that you love and follow the dream and then fill your spare time with photography that pays the bills. I have sadly seen many photographers give up as they were not earning enough from their favourite aspect of photography and were too proud to take on part time work. I think one of the main reasons my business has succeeded is my passion and ability to take on a variety of photography jobs and to work very long hours when needed.

On a CV – What Is The Most Important Thing to List If Applying for a Job as a Photographer?

Experience and a great portfolio. If are you a budding photographer, create yourself a great portfolio of images that you yourself love. Don’t fill your portfolio with images that you ‘think’ are commercial or popular. I have interviewed many Photography Assistants and I will always give the job to the most passionate person who really wants the job and has a good eye for photography, not someone with a portfolio of standard looking images.

Name Three Personality Traits You Think an Individual Has to Have to be a Successful Photographer

Be passionate, motivated and keen.

For more information about Julia’s photography visit her website: Julia Toms Photography