Balancing Act

The following article was published recently in FPME magazine’s October issue:

If like me you yearn to be a full-time photographer but just don’t want to take the plunge just yet, there is a viable alternative and it means not having to give up the security of the “day job” just yet!

The truth is although many people think my business is a full-time enterprise, it is not, I only run it on a part-time basis. I also work a 9 to 5 in the heart of Slough which isn’t exactly the best place for “pretty” photography.

558|420I originally launched my business in 2003 and if you are a regular reader of FPME, you may already have seen my feature on concert photography. I also shoot other things, subjects that I can fit into my normal day. Its not easy to balance the two but it can be achieved with a certain degree of dedication and planning. If you want to make your business work, commitment is essential as without it, you are less likely to succeed.

544|420I originally worked as an IT contractor, then a full-time freelance photographer but then had to return to permanent work for personal reasons. My business suffered as a result and had to be put on the back burner for a little while. I have kept it ticking over in the background for the past 2 years or so by continuing to shoot concerts after working hours and building up a reputation in this field. However I have come to learn that this simply isn’t enough, as ultimately I want to turn my business into a full-time venture. Earlier this year I decided that now things had settled down once again, I could start to rev the old business up again but to do so without taking any risk. I decided that I could run it as a part-time business and treat it (for now) as a good second income. Question is how could I do this? Work is often busy enough and time is always at a premium. I came up with a plan that I could realistically follow throughout the year of 2007 and to see whether this would work….

535|420I have learnt to manage my time very carefully in the past year. I work a 9 to 5:30 with an hours break in the middle of the day. A lot of my photography is shot during this hour and only within a few miles radius of where I work. The downside of this, is that it limits you to what you can shoot and where but its an interesting challenge. I have during this time discovered some fantastic places right on the doorstep of our offices. Places such as Burnham Beeches just on the Bucks border, Dorney Lake where the 2012 Olympic rowing championships will take place, a man made river called the Jubilee River that diverts flood waters from the Thames (very topical after the Summer we have just had) and various other places to name but a few. These locations have formed the foundation of the bulk of my stock photography since the early part of this year and there is still ample scope for exploration in the area.

554|420In recent weeks Foot and Mouth has hit our headlines once again across the South of England. The latest outbreak in Egham, Surrey has resulted in the semi-closure of Windsor Great Park. I noted on my way to work one morning that a number of footpaths had been cordoned off with signs and very distinctive red and white tape. I made a mental note to return during my lunch hour and I did just that. The images are now on their way to Alamy and I sent them out to a few local newspapers. I don’t think I was quick enough as none had been taken up but you’ve got to be “in it to win it”, as they say!

548|420During the Summer months I made the most of many of the lighter, longer evenings by venturing a bit further away from the Office at the end of the day. On one occasion I found myself in Stokenchurch to pursue a wildlife interest of mine (told you I have a myriad of interests!), the fantastic Red Kite. I found hundreds of them there and then after a brief recce, located a great spot to set myself and camera up to capture the Kites in flight. I came back with a card full of images and several very usable shots. This then led onto some lunch-break ventures within a few miles of the office where I discovered a wildlife mecca on the doorstep of Slough. I even discovered that the Red Kites inhabited this area too and was excited to watch them at close quarters.

624|420Since time is very tight for me its quite hard for me to do commissioned jobs, unless they can be “squeezed” in so I rely entirely on the sales abilities of stock libraries such as Alamy (my main outlet). Earlier this year Alamy rolled out their Upload service which has proved to be rather invaluable for me. I am literally able to upload my lunch-time shots when I get home and get the material into the system as soon as I can. It takes about 28 days for the images to be approved but its better than the old CD submission system that was much slower. The whole work-flow is far more spontaneous as a result, as by the end of the day the images can be dispatched and I can then move onto my next bunch of ideas.

You may be wondering whether this is paying off. I am glad to say that it is. My sales at Alamy have climbed this year, not a single dry month in terms of sales since January with the exception of April for some odd reason!

Tips

  • Make use of a stock library such as Alamy. They have a huge market on a global scale. Whilst you are sweating it out for your boss, you can be earning a second source of income!
  • Never over-do it. You have an hour for lunch, that’s it! don’t upset your employer!!
  • Get up a bit earlier in the mornings and make use of the extra time to do some photography but only if this is feasible. It depends on how far your commute is.
  • Research the area in which you work. You may be surprised at what you may discover. I work in Slough!! So you can do it too!!
  • Most importantly of all – Always carry a camera. If you spot something of interest, you can then photograph it and possibly sell it!

Nick is a regular writer for FPME magazine that is published every two months. The next issue will be available in December and another one of Nick’s articles will be appearing. This time the subject will be about the web, the first part of a 3 article series.

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