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  • Robyn Davie

Let's Chat About Becoming a Professional Photographer


I'm at this place in my career as a photographer where I often get asked a heap of questions - everything from camera purchasing advice, how I got to where I am today, what a day in my life is like, do I offer training/workshops, do I take on interns etc etc. It is incredibly flattering, and such an honour to be in a position after more than eight years of hard work to be able to help others.

I feel like I'm still working things out on a daily basis; still making mistakes, and still growing!

So, I wanted to draw up a blog post outlining answers to some of the questions I get asked most frequently, and as a resource for newbies looking to launch into this crazy, fun, exciting world!

1. First up, I am completely self-taught when it comes to photography. I've developed my style, learnt the tricks of the trade, and worked incredibly hard to get where I am today. I can highly recommend spending a LOT of time online - watching tutorials, learning from the experts and reading up about photography. That's how I did it!

There are endless resources online (and most of them are free!).

Some of my favourites are: Creative Live, School of Photography, and Photography Concentrate, but there's heaps more out there - just google it! Sign up and show up for online seminars, talks and workshops - these things are a goldmine of information!

Read up more about my path to becoming a photographer here.

2. The second best step is to just get out there and take photos! Recruit your family and friends as guinea pigs, and snap away! If you'd like to get into the world of weddings, reach out to industry insiders (florists, dress designers, venues etc) with a gorgeous reference board and ask them how they would feel about collaborating on a shoot with you for the images. Join Instameets, or make your own photographic crew and head out to a gorgeous spot on a weekly basis to snap pics of each other. The more you shoot, the better you get! Experience is everything!

Join the KIKI Gauteng group on Facebook for more resources, and to chat with other like-minded photographers.

If you want to be a natural light photographer, learn everything you can about magic hour, download light-tracking apps, and learn to love this fantastic time of day. More info here.

Wondering what camera will help you get there? Tech info is changing SO quickly, so it would be best to head to your nearest camera store - I'm a fan of Kameraz in Rosebank - and chat to them. You don't need the biggest, fanciest gear when you're starting out - there's so much you can learn on and do with a basic camera.

3. The third thing I would recommend is spending a lot of time focusing on the business side of things - marketing, advertising, financing, accounts and client service/management. This stuff is crazy important!!

Remember that as a photographer you need to do more than just buy a fancy camera and start snapping away. You need to wear many hats, and truly embrace the nitty-gritty of running your own business.

Some of my favourite brandologists are: Jasmine Star, Jenna Kutcher and Marie Forleo - make it part of your weekly to-do to tune into their podcasts, youtube videos and blog posts!

Do some research into the stuff that will make running your business easier, like apps/software to streamline and simplify the daily admin needs such as invoicing, client management and file sharing.

Always keep in mind that as a photographer your reputation is a crucial part of how you run your business, and a fantastic client experience must therefore be at the forefront of everything you do. Treat your clients like gold, because they are!

4. Fourthly, get inspired! Fill up Pinterest boards with images, paintings, and references. Find artwork that inspires you, and really spend a lot of time working out why it inspires you! Visit art galleries, pop-up events, musical performances - anything to get those creative juices flowing!

I really loved this quote I stumbled across on Instagram this morning -

"Success is not a one trick pony and you can't reach it with a get rich quick scheme. Success is a slow journey that starts with putting one foot in front of the other and doing the dang work. Success is following through on your promises. It's being a kind person. It's going above and beyond what people expect of you. It's failing soooo many times before getting it right. And yes, its being strategic, crafty, and smart and those are not bad things. When your heart is aligned right, and you are doing hard work with intentionality, you will be successful. But that success NEVER happens overnight."

- words of wisdom by another amazing photographer, Lindsey Roman.

So what is a day in my life like? Busy!

On admin days (Monday through Friday), I usually aim to be at my laptop by about 8am (preferably after an exercise class of some sort most mornings), and generally don't step away from it until about 10pm. In that time I'll be sending endless emails, checking in with office manager, who handles all of our client comms, invoicing and scheduling; creating online content with my marketing manager, ensuring that our social media accounts are up to date, creating marketing campaigns for the next few months; delegating and managing the editing of all our photos with my four editors; and training, mentoring and catching up with my amazing team of associate photographers!

Meeting days are filled with coffees with clients, meet ups with other suppliers/fellow photographers, sitting down with my team to chat about upcoming shoots/projects and running errands.

In 2015 I decided it was time to start building my team, and I took on my first associate photographer. Since then the team has grown and grown, and now includes an office manager, marketing manager, six associate photographers and a few editors!

Currently my team averages about 20 photo shoots in a week!

Read up more about my fantastic associate photographer team here.