Black Book 10 ESSENTIAL tips for going pro

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1 My Little Black Book 10 ESSENTIAL tips for going pro CARLA COULSON

2 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR At 35 I left a successful business in Sydney to follow my heart and become a photographer. I studied at a photography school in Florence and just months after finishing my final year had my first photographic story on Naples published in Marie Claire Australia. During the past 12 years I have had the great fortune to work with many magazines including Vogue E & T, Gourmet Traveller, Harper s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Inside Out, Collezioni and along the way my photography has been published in six photographic books by Penguin Australia. When I started I loved photography with my heart and soul (and still do) but I knew after all the years of having a business loving something wasn t enough. These are some of the tips that helped me get started in photography and that I attribute to my success. I hope they help you achieve success too as a professional photographer. Ps. These tips are by no means the whole story. I would love to hear from you so drop me a note on my blog if you have something to add that worked getting your career started.

3 1 VISION Photography is a personal vision. It is an individual way of looking at the world and capturing a photo that tells a story. Your particular taste and vision will set you apart from other photographers and this is your precious gift. Your style will have a great value in the future. A photographer s vision can be seen repeated in their photos over and over again, like a brand. Ellen Von Unwerth produces images of sexy girls having lots of fun in wild colours and grainy black and whites. Fashion photographer Paolo Roversi creates soft focused dreams with his large format Polaroid camera and Richard Avedon was renowned for his simplicity, elegance and his famous white background. These photographers all have their own vision, their own style of lighting, emotions they wish to portray, and their own way of communicating with their sitter and this shows in the photos. You can easily recognise their work without seeing their name because it is branded by their personal vision. Have faith in your vision of the world.

4 2 LEARN THE BASICS Before launching into a professional photography career you need to know the essentials of photography. There are many different options to learning your craft including courses at University, Tafe, private photography schools, photography workshops, on the job experience and of course studying the masters. Once you have finished your course I would highly recommend doing some on the job work experience with a working photographer before you take on the responsibility of a paying job. Assisting a professional photographer gives you an insight into how a shoot works and also the business of photography. This work experience is essential and I cannot over emphasise how important it is to have had experience before putting a potential client s work at risk. And you will be a whole lot more relaxed when you finally do your first job knowing how to deal with things if they go wrong!

5 3 WHICH PATH TO TAKE One of the toughest things to do early on in a photography career is to decide which path to take. I find many different types of photography interesting but I can t do them all. If you choose a niche in photography such as food photography or portraiture then the getting started process will be simpler and far more focused. Making clear choices in the beginning can save you years in the long run. You can start out as a generalist photographer but there is no point trying to do every type of photography in the long term, you will only confuse yourself and your clients. This doesn t mean that you can t experiment and change paths but I have found over the years one of the first questions I am asked when I tell people I am a photographer is what kind of photography you do? Every different field of photography requires different type of equipment and materials. If you can define what you want to do early on you can save a lot of money, time and energy in the long run.

6 4 CREATING A BODY OF WORK Creating a body of work is one of the first steps you will need to take before you can consider starting to work. There are many ways to put together a body of work it can be a photographic story on something that interests you or a series for a portfolio. It is really up to you to choose how you would like to proceed and what type of work you would like to create. This is a wonderful opportunity to take the images you love and present it as your style. I chose to put together a body of work that I eventually would on-sell to a magazine and it became my first published work, a photographic story on Naples. The body of work you create doesn t necessarily have to have an absolute end as mine did but if it can serve you a purpose all the better. It is essential to have a body of work so that when you start looking for clients you have great work to show them.

7 5 LOOKING GOOD The way we present ourselves creates an image of how others perceive us and our photography. The presentation of your work via websites, business cards, composite cards, social media says a lot about whether we are professional, responsible and creative. I am convinced creating the right image is a fundamental part of your future success. Don t underestimate this. Your image and the professional attitude you project as a photographer is as important as your work and it will assist you getting started. Even before you have seen your first prospective client, prepare yourself to make you look as though you have been in business for years. Make sure you have a portfolio, website (if possible) otherwise a simple blog to present your images, business cards and if possible composite cards that you can leave with your clients. If you look professional and act like a professional no-one will question otherwise.

8 6 BUSINESS PLAN A business plan is a formal way of putting down your ideas about where you want to be in the future. Business plan sounds so formal and the name is the antithesis of what you imagine when you start working as a photographer. I think a much more apt name would be how I am gonna get where I wanna go plan! Because fundamentally that is exactly what a business plan is. A business plan includes defining your type of photography, making lists of prospective clients, communicating your work through marketing strategies (if any), equipment to purchase, SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats), budgets and it gives your daily life focus. A business plan can be made for one year, five years or ten years or whatever period of time you choose. Before embarking on a photographic career a business plan can help you identify what you want to do, where you want to go and how are you are going to get there. It is the rudder that will steer your ship.

9 7 COMMUNICATE YOUR WORK If you have beautiful work and no-one knows you exist it is hard to keep going month after month. Communicating your work is just as important as being able to take a breathtaking photo and marketing is fundamentally this. Marketing plans don t necessarily have to have huge budgets they can be simple approaches that will communicate your work to your potential clients effectively. A lot of about getting on in photography is about you and your personality so you are your photography s greatest asset! There are many forms of marketing that you can include in your plan: Your own great personality lists of your Contacts Direct contact Advertising Website/Blog Social Media/twitter/facebook Word of Mouth Cross Marketing Getting Published

10 8 FINISH IT One of the greatest difficulties creative people have is finishing things. This may seem obvious advice but so many wonderful photographers don t succeed because they don t finish what they set out to do. Life as a photographer generally means that we can be working on numerous projects at the same time and there is no-one to help us. We are our own bosses and it is hard to stay focused when you feel there are hundreds of things to do and you are sinking in knee deep mud. I make lists and these lists are my savours and keep me focused on the detail without losing sight of the big picture. I write everything down and then I try to work towards finishing at least one of these tasks as quickly as I can. Likewise when I have done a photography job I try and finish my work as quickly as possible. If a magazine calls tomorrow and wants me to leave at the end of the week for a new job I want to be able to go and I don t want to leave my clients work in a mess.

11 9 TEAM UP If I had been given the advice to team up with other professionals in the same business at the outset things may have moved a little faster. Fortunately I found this gem of information early on. If you team up with professionals in your own business you are no longer afloat on your own there is a spider s web of contacts out there to protect you. You can help each other when a job comes up and pass the love around. I now have a little black book with numbers of my fellow journalists, make-up artists, stylists, assistants and photographers specialising in different types of photography that I don t do. When a job comes up via a member of the group we all try and help each other work on that project if possible otherwise we pass it onto someone who specialises in that field.

12 10 WAYS I LIVE AND WORK BY This is a quick list of some of the ways I hold important to my success over the past ten years. These tips have kept my clients happy and coming back for more. I don t promise what you I can t deliver and I deliver what I promised! I ask for a written brief and I follow it I research my jobs, location, styling, lighting and equipment I have learnt to make decisions quickly I get help when I can t do the job on my own I know how to problem solve and my priority is to make sure my client is happy If I give someone my word I won t let them down. I put everything in writing I have learnt to say no. Not all jobs are right for me. I have a strong work ethic I put my creativity back with down time and looking at other people s art. I treat each job as if it s my first job. I always try to take the best possible images on every job. I always take the images I love. I never forget why I got into photography for the pure love of making images full of emotion and soul.

13 NOTE FROM CARLA I hope My Little Black Book shed some light on starting your photography career. Please feel free to pass it onto friends who are also thinking of starting a photography career. If you would like to stay in touch and receive more information about photography you can subscribe to my blog here. web carlacoulson.com facebook facebook.com/carlalovesphotography

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