Tuesday, June 24, 2014

At First Dreams Seem Impossible

This is the story of how I became a professional photographer... 

I have always been creative. When I was younger I thought i'd grow up to become an actress. I was convinced that Martin Scorsese was going to bump into me at my local shopping centre, Bankstown Square, and proclaim that I had been "discovered". Turns out Martin Scorsese doesn't shop in Sydney's Western Suburbs so not surprisingly, things didn't quite turn out according to that plan. After my dreams of becoming an actress disappeared into the black hole where all other kids dreams go to die, I was left with no way of expressing myself artistically. Maybe i'd become a screenwriter? Some kind of burlesque performer? Dance on cruise ships? A director? An editor? Nothing stuck but all I knew was I HAD TO live a creative life. 

Years of flipping through the pages of Russh Magazine (which was far more grungy and retro inspired then it's high fashion self these days) and hours spent trawling through fashion blogs had left me with a growing appreciation of imagery. While travelling South America I found myself yearning to take artistic travel images with my shitty $200 point and shoot camera. I decided once I got home that I would save my pennies and buy my first DSLR camera. So after a while my Canon 600D with 18-55mm kit lens arrived. I immediately organised one of my friends to model for me. So we popped a bottle of champagne, I turned the camera to manual and unconvincingly tried to pretend that I knew what I was doing. I was terrible but I was hooked. I organised more and more photo shoots with my friends and not long after starting I booked my first job! I never put my camera on auto, I only ever shot in manual and through trial and error I taught myself the camera settings and how to use light. 

About 9 months after buying my DLSR I decided to book myself in for a fashion photography short course which lasted 6-8 weeks from memory. I was so excited. We had models come in to pose for us, hair/make-up artists and stylists to collaborate with. I felt I had come as far as I could teaching myself and the course really helped me to fine tune a lot of things, we also touched on studio lighting and photoshop tricks. It was also great networking meeting up and comers who would later to go down their own path in the fashion industry, many of them I have remained friends with.  

After I finished my course things kind of started to happen. I booked a couple of jobs and it started to look like maybe I could actually make a career out of this. Eventually a quote came to mind that my course teacher had told us... "At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then INEVITABLE". With this in mind I started working my ass off in the hopes of becoming a professional photographer. I did TFP shoots to build my portfolio, I networked, I joined all sorts of social networking sites to get my name out there. 

At the end of 2012 I quit my full time job to follow my dreams of becoming a photographer. I had only been shooting for a year and a half. I had no jobs booked. It was the boldest move I had made in my life so far. I came up with a business name - Studio Flamingo, I built my own website, got business cards, set-up the business side of things and away I went.  

Somehow, I have managed to make it work for the last 18 months as a professional photographer in an extremely competitive industry. I have been very lucky in the relationships I have made along the way but make no mistake - I have worked so so hard. Anyone who knows me knows very well how important my business is to me. There have been ups and downs. There are times when I have got so much work that I don't actually think it's possible to get through it all within my deadlines and there are other times when I have no money at all, no jobs booked and bills piling up on my desk. I have felt the excitement of having my work published, and felt totally dejected after having work rejected. I have been so stressed from the pressure of certain jobs that I have felt physically sick. But there is absolutely nothing I would change, not even my mistakes because they have made me stronger and taught me so much. I absolutely love my life, my job and the people that have come into my life since making this career move. 

The best way I can put it is - when you are a creative person, and you are not expressing yourself creatively, you feel as though you only see the world in mono-tonal colours. But as soon as you find 'your thing' the world becomes technicolour. Just like when Dorothy lands in Oz. Well as soon as I started shooting I become Dorothy... and I LOVE stumbling through Oz. For all the good and the bad that I experience along the way, I feel like I am lucky to be living this adventure. 

Images taken with a cheap Fuji camera while travelling South America and the beginning of my experimentation with photography. 

My first photo shoot with my friend Whitney in 2011. I used a lamp as my light source and tried my best with my camera on manual - I had absolutely no idea about DLSR's. Going through these photo's again recently I found that probably 90% were heavily out of focus and the ones that are 'sharper' are seriously grainy due to a high ISO. Obviously at the time I knew nothing of ISO or an appropriate hand held shutter speed. 

My second shoot with my friend Jessica and this time using natural light for the first time. 

In an issue of Russh Magazine I was in awe of an image of a girl that had been overlaid with another image of a landscape. I tried my own version below with my friend Shannon. I'm not gonna lie...I thought this was the coolest fucking photograph ever taken haha

Getting better with framing and focus with my shoot with Bethany. 

My first paid job shooting images for a performers portfolio. Probably around 6 months from starting out.

Not long after I bought my first camera a new girl started at my workplace - Sinead. Turns out she was a budding designer and after at first thinking we didn't have too much in common we hit it off over a love of fashion. We then organised a shoot for Sinead's debut collection. Let me tell you, these images are horrendous. My 'eye' as photographers like to call it was apparently blind! My creative vision was terrible. But hey, I scored a bff who has gone on to become my professional and creative partner in crime so I can only look back on these with the fondest of memories. Shooting Sinead's collection are something I really look forward to each year.

Sinead's most recent collection 'Panthera' shot by me.

A shot taken of Georgia at my last class from my short course and one of the first shoots with my new Canon 5d mark ii with 85mm 1.8 lens. The jump in quality is undeniably obvious. 2 years on and they are still my trusty tools of the trade. 

The first of many portraits I have taken of Sinead. This image became really popular for me at the time I took it. Random people would often comment on how much they loved it and models started contacting me wanting to collaborate. I don't think Sinead ever liked it haha. 

Thank you (and sorry) to all my friends who modelled for me in the early days. Even though there was no denying just how amateur I once was, you have helped me to get where I am today and I literally couldn't have done it without you.

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