I didn’t intend to exchange my photography services for money. It just started happening. From modest beginnings, where I was slipped a £20 note at a gig I thought I had shot just for fun, to a steady stream of bookings from clients big and small, all of which I have landed without marketing myself as a professional photographer. This is how it happened.
I consistently shared my work
I got a blog. I updated it regularly. I didn’t wait until I felt good enough or skilled enough, I just shared my photos. My blog gained momentum, visitors returned, enquiries trickled in. It’s not rocket science—to get noticed, you need to put yourself out there. Share your work. And consistently.
I found a platform that works
I’ve tried many photo-sharing services—Flickr, Tumblr, 500px etc. Whilst some of my photos on Flickr have received 20,000+ views, not one has directly converted to a booking. What Flickr is great for, though, is selling individual photos to magazines and organisations. Facebook, on the other hand, regularly brings in enquiries and bookings for larger jobs—weddings! And I must not forget Twitter, which has been fundamental in helping me build rapport with people, leading to a number of direct bookings or recommendations to others. Find a platform that’s effective for the type of work you want to do, and own it.
I carried my camera everywhere
I know a lot of photographers—both hobbyist and professional—who purposely leave their camera at home because “it’s too heavy”, or they “can’t be bothered”. The biggest client I’ve worked with hired me because of my portfolio of street photography, which I had shot just for fun. I had never thought that simply exploring an interest in street photography would develop into anything other than a set of photos for my personal portfolio, yet it evolved into a very lucrative series of jobs. Stop waiting for an incentive to take pictures.
I love what I do
There are hundreds of photographers local to me of a similar skill level. Even now, I’m victim to thinking, “Why me?” when lucky enough to receive a booking enquiry. But, as a friend recently reminded me, people hire you because they’re booking you. Your skill, price and location may be similar to other photographers, but you’re the unique factor. I often receive enquiries which open with, “We love how passionate you are about photography. It comes through in the photos you take”. People naturally want to work with those who love what they do.
There’s no magic formula to building a business, accidental or not. To surmise; don’t get lazy, carry your camera everywhere, be passionate about your work, share your experiments and photos—and yes, it will take years, not weeks, to build a reputation and improve your skill, but if you enjoy what it is you’re doing, it will never feel like years.