If you’re thinking of turning pro or stepping up from part-time to full-time, you don’t need to go it alone and there are plenty of professional bodies out there willing to offer their help.
IF YOU’VE BEEN harbouring a dream of turning professional, or you are currently shooting a handful of paid jobs here and there and are thinking that now could be the right time to get more serious and to step things up, you may well be having sleepless nights wondering about what you’re letting yourself in for.
But the good news is that you don’t have to manage all on your own, and there are plenty of friendly faces out there who have themselves once made that same momentous step and who are more than happy to share their experience and to extend a helping hand. How can you find them? Well, the best place to start looking is through one of the many trade associations that have been set up to deliver support to professionals at all levels and in all genres.
Even better, pretty much all of them have taken on board the fact that these are very tough times indeed for those who make their living behind a camera, and consequently there’s a lot of support being offered and, in particular, those new to the profession are being given a warm welcome and plenty of expert help to get them started on their journey.
ABOVE: The Societies Convention is a great place to network and to undertake training, and hopefully will be returning next year.
Three Months Free
For example, The Societies is currently running a scheme whereby it’s possible to sign up for a three-month free trial at Professional Level, which brings with it benefits such as mentoring, webinars, competitions, a listing on the SWPP’s database of photographers, bespoke money-saving offers and more. Even without the trial the cost of membership is not huge, working out at £10 a month and, remember, that if you’re a professional you can set association fees against your tax bill.
One of the key benefits of membership is the chance to network and to acquire qualifications. For those who have never previously worked in the field of photography, the opportunity to ask an established operator not just technical questions but also business-related queries – such as how to upsell and even what rates to charge clients – is invaluable.
There’s also the thought that, once things finally do start getting back to normal, there will be live events, such as the annual Convention, to attend, with numerous workshops, many of them free, to attend and the chance to mingle with other like-minded businesses to pick up some first-hand tips and to realise that you’re not on your own.
The British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) is another body that’s hugely welcoming. There’s no rigid requirement to prove your credentials at the outset, as long as you can confirm that you’re currently earning at least some money from your images. You also need to be professionally insured, which all professionals should be in any case as a matter of course.
Benefits are much the same as they are with The Societies, with the accent on training and the chance to earn some highly valued professional qualifications over time, and there are events and seminars around the country to attend in normal times, plus such things as mentorship to prepare you for these, legal advice and portfolio reviews. Cost works out at £18.75 a month (including VAT) so, again, is not prohibitive.
So, if you’re looking to join the profession, be assured that you’ll receive a warm welcome. Remember though that you’ll only get back what you put in, and those that fully participate and have an ongoing urge to build up their businesses will invariably get the most out of the arrangement.
I’VE BEEN SPECIALISING in shooting cars since 1990, and it’s a really interesting and varied job that’s required me to master a wide range of approaches to cope with the demands of clients. I used to do a lot of magazine work and sometimes still serve as house photographer for the launch of a new model, when I’ll be required to supply journalists at the event with stills or video footage. However, in recent years my bread-and-butter work has been for high-end dealers and big UK and US auction houses, such as Christie’s, RM Sotheby’s and, currently my main client, the motoring department at Bonhams.
The work I take on is so varied that it’s almost impossible to describe a typical day, but here’s how my schedule across a working week might pan out.
Monday and Tuesday
I’m headed to a museum to shoot 18 classic motorcycles for a glossy coffee table book. However, the client wanted the images to look like they’d been produced in a studio rather than a museum setting, and so I took along a background and matching Formica floor panels, with a view to creating a mini setup. My idea was to shoot everything with the longest lens possible to make the images easier to retouch, but in the end I had to put the bikes on a turntable and shoot from around eight feet away, which was something I hadn’t anticipated.
In a situation such as this you need to come up with a solution and, in the end, I shot another studio-style background, and added a real concrete floor to make it look realistic. Then I employed the very talented post-production specialists at Pinnacle Media in India to cut out all the images and marry them to the new background to keep the client happy.
Wednesday and Thursday
My task on the Wednesday is to shoot 16 vehicles for Bonhams MPH, which runs specialist car auctions. For this, the approach has to be structured, so I use a simple background and shoot front-and-three-quarter, rear-and-three-quarter, the engine, interior and some exterior details, and then I also produce a quick walk-around film, balancing my camera on a gimbal for speed. Overall this is a huge amount of work, and an even larger amount of editing, but since the Covid crisis I’ve had to film pretty much all of the cars I shoot. It’s a sign of the times and it’s a mixed blessing; on the one hand I end up spending most nights editing, while on the plus side I’ve acquired a fresh skill that’s kept me in work. As a photographer I feel these days there’s a need to be able to shoot and edit video to a reasonable standard.
The following day I have another shoot for Bonhams MPH, and this time I’ve been asked to take shots for a catalogue cover and another six cars. The location is a disused military airfield, and my job is to shoot looking down from the top of a very high set of steps, similar to those used to board an aeroplane.
My car developed a mechanical issue on the way back from yesterday’s shoot, and so I need to organise a lift this morning, from friend and videographer Reggie (Regijus Simkevicius) from RS Productions media. We’re heading to classic car dealer Cottingham Blue Chip London to shoot two Fantastic Porsche 911 RS models. I often work with Reggie on commissions, and it’s all about teamwork in this business. The job requires both stills and video, and Reggie is more focused on film and editing than me, so I’m always happy to work with him.
We finally finish at 8pm and I’m then dropped back down to West Sussex and the entire weekend is spent editing, since there are 23 small films to put together, plus we need to edit and retouch stills. I also need to dig out some images from my library of Bentleys and Rolls-Royces from the 1950s and ’60s for a book that needs them. I also need to retouch 50 number plates from a shoot I worked on a couple of weeks back. It’s all part of the job: it’s definitely not regular hours, but I love the variety!
In terms of kit, I work with a very worn, but still very good, Canon EOS 1DX. I also have an EOS R and R6, along with an RF 15-35mm f/2.8L, 24-70mm f/2.8L and an ancient 70-200mm f/2.8 L-Series zoom that’s so old that last year Fixation declared it unserviceable and suggested I glue it together! It still works fine, however, and gives pin-sharp results. I also use a Hensel 1200 Porty kit with a couple of heads for lighting and have a Godox mono light that’s a great size for travelling and incredible value.
On the motion side I’m working with an old Ronford Baker tripod, which weighs a ton but is amazingly smooth, plus DJI Ronin-S and SC2 gimbals, which are very good. I also have a selection of Sennheiser and RODE mics and a couple of GoPro Hero 7s. I’m filming with my Canon hybrid cameras and, overall, this is an outfit that works very well for me.
Car photography calls for a wide variety of gear and MPB used kit expert Marc Reid has put together three different outfits at three separate price points to give a steer on what to choose.
Perhaps something of a left-field pick, this premium compact would make a fantastic addition to any car photographer’s kitbag, or even as a standalone piece. The Sony Cyber-shot RX1 is the world’s first fixed-lens digital camera with a fullframe sensor. In addition to 24MP JPEG or RAW still images, the RX1 will also shoot Full HD 1080p video at 24 or 60fps. The 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens features a wide maximum aperture with nine iris blades, ensuring reliable low-light performance and shallow depth of field with attractive bokeh.
Nikon D4 (£1,509, Excellent) + Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR (£739, Excellent) + Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G IF-ED (£579, Excellent).
The Nikon D4 is a fantastic alternative to the Canon 1DX and is a reliable tool to ensure your professional needs are met. The 11fps shooting speed guarantees any quick moments are captured in clarity and remarkable detail. Pairing with two versatile lenses, the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR and Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G IF-ED ensures that you’ll be working with high quality optics that are ideal professional all-rounders.
Canon EOS 1DX Mark II (£2,429, Excellent) + Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM (£1,039, Excellent) + Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM (£1,199, Excellent).
Our final pick upgrades Simon’s 1DX to the Mark II model. With a versatile set of imaging traits, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II takes its place as a high-performance tool for pro photographers and videographers alike. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens is fast, sharp and reliable. Meanwhile the allpurpose Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM lens delivers fantastic quality at all focal lengths. It’s ideal for general professional jobs.
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