As the parent of an infant son, when I had the opportunity to work with top London photographer Bec Pattinson on my pregnancy photo-book, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I want the perfect photos for my son’s first memory book, but I also wanted to become a celebrity photographer myself!
The results were spectacular; I can’t think of a better way to remember this time in my life, and I’ve subsequently worked with Bec on numerous projects, including my own personal project, which led me to write this piece, and the book, Self-Portrait: Behind the Scenes of a Photographic Self-Portrait Exhibition (published by Phaidon).
The Rise Of The Social Media Influencer
Whether you like to admit it or not, we’re all influenced by popular culture, and it’s something that marketers have known for years. The difference nowadays is that people are more open to being influenced, particularly online. Thanks to the rise of influencers and the influencer ecosystem, which has grown alongside the rise of social media.
While the influencer market is dominated by men, it’s still heavily dominated by millennial women, who have adopted the role en masse. According to a BISG survey of 2000+ influencers, 74% are now managed by brand managers, compared to 66% in 2016.
Being an influencer isn’t easy. It requires a lot of hard work, both in and out of the studio. If you’re passionate about photography and have a good eye for styling, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to become a celebrity photographer too. Here are my top tips.
Tip #1: Go Professional
Just because you have a nice hobby doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to shooting landscapes and sunsets. If you really want to focus on journalism, getting your own camera and doing photo-shoots on your own terms is the way to go. Not only will you be able to show your work in progress to an editor, but you’ll also have full creative control over how your images look.
This isn’t to say that you need to go full-time or even part-time. Work your ass off and get as much experience as you can. Get your portfolio ready and show it off to whoever will listen. When I graduated from university with a journalism degree, I didn’t even consider applying for a job at a media house. I knew I could land a job as a photographer straight away, so I did. I got my first job as a photographer, and a year later, I was promoted twice.
Tip #2: Get Inspired
In addition to going pro, make sure to get inspired. The most successful celebrity photographers I’ve met have been incredibly inspired by something, be it a book, film, or event. If possible, go and see a creative arts exhibition or a performance art piece that gets your creative juices flowing. You don’t need to limit yourself to going to galleries and exhibitions though. Visit museums and archeological sites too. Look at historic photos, old books, and old movie stills. Look at other photographers’ work too. When I was studying photography at university, my lecturers would regularly pull out old magazines and slide shows to show us.
Whatever gets you inspired is worth pursuing. It could be a project that you’re working on at the moment, or it could be a theme or a product that you’ve always wanted to photograph, but never got the chance. Whatever it is, get as much inspiration as you can, and make sure that you stay motivated. It’s easy to lose inspiration, particularly when you’re not working, so make sure that you work hard to keep it.
Tip #3: Find Your Niche
Don’t be afraid to specialize in one or two areas, rather than trying to become the best photographer in the world. If you’re passionate about fashion photography, make sure to specialize in fashion. There’s definitely a demand for fashion photographers, and if you want to make it in this industry, you’d better be good at what you do. Look for a fashion magazine that’s looking for a photographer, or for a brand that needs some promotional images for their products. The more you do, the more you’ll be able to showcase your talent, and eventually, you’ll be able to build a portfolio that can land you some major gigs.
Tip #4: Network And Be Discreet
It’s important to network within our industry. While we’re all inspired by big brands and famous people, it’s important to remember that the most successful photographers I’ve met have all been successful because of their networks, not because of their famous connections. When I was starting out, I never thought that I would be able to become a celebrity photographer. I certainly didn’t expect to become famous myself. I started my blog purely as a way of sharing my work and connecting with other photographers. I began to get featured on bigger blogs, and before I knew it, I had 200,000 monthly readers. I also began getting contacted for photo-shoots and product deals, which eventually led to my becoming a celebrity photographer. Networking is important, but make sure not to put yourself out there too much. If you want to get ahead, be discreet about it.
Tip #5: Join A Society
There are a number of societies that specialize in creative photography, including The Royal Photographic Society and Picture Art Society. If you want to get ahead in this industry, it’s important to belong to a society. Not only will this give you access to a diverse range of subject matter, events, and locations that you might not normally get the chance to see or photograph, but it will also give you the opportunity to showcase your work in a professional environment. Joining a society will also mean that you’ll be able to get access to some great networking opportunities, as well as learning from some of the best practitioners in our industry.
Tip #6: Follow The Money
It’s always best to follow the money. If you want to make it in this industry, it’s important to look for the money opportunities rather than just the creative ones. While there are plenty of opportunities for creative, engaged photographers, there aren’t that many that can support a family and progress in this industry. If you’re passionate about documentary photography and want to make a living from it, consider getting a masters in photo-documentary. Not only will this allow you to get some experience and showcase your talent, but it will also give you the opportunity to fund your work. If you can land a decent enough sized grant or funding opportunity, it’s worth looking into.
Being a photographer isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work, and it isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you’re passionate about photography and want to make a living from it, specialize in fashion or documentary photography and make sure to work hard. While it’s important to be inspired by others in our industry, it’s also important to be inspired by yourself too. If you want to succeed, make sure that you put in the hard work, network, and follow the money.