How I got started

Local photographer Nicole Hastings has a post on her blog asking other photographers how they got started in the business.

Here’s my submission:

It was luck and hard work, but mostly luck.

Like you I was given (or acquired, I honestly can’t remember which) a camera in the good old days. Took a ton of photos with it and then grew out of it, put it in the drawer and promptly forgot about the whole exercise after a couple of years.

Then, after uni I got offered a role at a national conservation society where I lived in Melbourne, and part of that role was helping out with the marketing in the shop that helped fund the group. The shop sold photographic gear and optical equipment like binoculars and spotting scopes. At the job interview, the guy who ran the shop – Charles – handed me a Leica R8 and told me to ‘sell’ it to him. Now I didn’t know a Leica from the arse end of a bus but I had years of experience in service sectors such as retail and hospitality and the damn thing just oozed quality so I managed to get him to ‘buy’ the beast, and believe me, the R8 was a beast of a camera.

I turned up on day one to my new job and Charles took me aside, handed me a Leica M6 – honest to goodness, this is the camera god himself shoots with – and told me to learn how to use it. A rangefinder camera? You want me to use a fully-manual-everything rangefinder? You’re giving me a camera to use that costs how much? Long story short, I didn’t put the thing down and learnt so much about imaging, composition, exposure and the like over my time with Charles and Sarah – who worked in the shop too and had more talent in her little finger than Charles and I could muster with a whole bottle of Scotch.

Eventually, I got sent off to the Leica Academy in Germany for a training course and shot a bit on an extended holiday in Europe. All of this happened around the time that digital kicked off, and although this was a strange new animal I was able to transition across, whereas Charles and for the most part Sarah stuck with film. I started shooting products for our catalogue in digital, as well as continuing to shoot personal stuff.

A few years passed, I moved jobs and industries and wound up in Tasmania at The Examiner as a reporter/sub-editor. I got put in the features department where you have to multi-task and because I knew a bit about photography and the newspaper’s photographers hated working on features I wound up taking the photos for the stories I wrote and laid out in the paper. Eventually, one of the real estate agents wanted to know if I could write ad copy and take photos for them on a freelance basis – proving that in Tasmania at least it’s not what you know but who you know – and voila here I am with a full-time professional photography and communications business.

And if you want to hear my take on “The Business of Professional Photography” I’m guest speaker at this month’s Launceston Photographic Society meeting, Tuesday September 27, 2011 @ 7.30pm, Scotch Oakburn College’s Briggs House Dining Room.

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