How to forge a career in the modern world of photography

Camera phone

Thanks to social media, a career in photography no longer needs to be a pipe dream reserved for the few.

In fact, it’s perfectly possible to make a splash with just your smarts – and your smartphone. More and more photographers are eschewing expensive equipment for the technology they have in their back pockets.

It’s not necessarily easy – but making a name for yourself doesn’t need to be an impossibility.

Don’t focus on your limitations

Consistency, passion and a natural curiosity are far more integral than an expensive camera. Here are some basic pointers to get you started:

  • Shoot regularly – you’ll start to work out what works and what doesn’t.
  • Scout interesting locations on Google Maps and bring these locations to life through your lens.
  • Try to avoid crowds. Sometimes getting up early is better than having a congested shot.

Find the right subjects

Looking to get into portraiture? According to Jake Millers, a photographer who has worked with grime stars like Aitch and Stormzy, portraits are elevated by good subjects – and capturing the personality of that person is key.

  • Concentrate on making the person feel at ease.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell the subject what to wear ahead of time.
  • Position the subject against an interesting background, then have them walk closer to the camera to create a sense of depth at their rear.

Use the light to your advantage

Light matters a great deal. The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset are good opportunities to take a striking shot. At these times, the sun is often soft and tinged red.

Consider getting fancy with a lens hood

Lens hoods are typically reserved for professional cameras, but they can be bought for smartphones too and they allow you to block out all reflections while shooting. In theory, you can place your lens against the pane of a window and capture the scene at your feet – in perfect clarity. Lens hoods also guard you against ghosting when shooting in direct sunlight, which can produce truly spectacular results.

And remember: Immerse yourself in the place you’re shooting.  Almost all photographers espouse the maxim that getting a feel for a place is the first step in creating something memorable. From there, you let your shutter do the talking.

Leverage social media

Social media is a massive driver of success and Instagram alone is a gateway to thousands of potential fans.

  • When posting your work, choose hashtags that are trending to attract more viewers.
  • Post behind the scenes shots of your work. This helps to create a page that feels intimate.
  • Engage with your followers one-to-one.
  • Consider trialling a viral activation or giveaway to bring people to your page.

Look to partner with brands

Once you’ve created a social media presence, you can start eyeing the big brands you want to work with – though don’t shoot too high at first. It’s usually a good idea to have a website, and at the very least, a professional portfolio outside of your Instagram page. Consider creating a media kit that outlines your credentials and lists your speciality areas.

Approach enough people and you’ll eventually break through. At this point, you might want to invest in professional camera and lighting equipment.

The beauty of the smartphone is you can build your base until you reach such a point.