From Amateur to Professional Photographer - Using Fuji and Nikon.

November 29, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

 Aboriginal smoking ceremony - closing of the 2022 World Fringe Festival, Perth, Western Australia.

Those who subscribe to the wonderful ‘fuji Love’ magazine, would have read my article published there in the September 2022, issue.  Just briefly – for those who did not read the story – I related the atypical, meandering and somewhat unconventional journey I undertook to become a paid ‘events’ photographer. After doing my own thing photographically for a few decades, it was wonderful to finally have an outlet for my photographic creativity and get paid well for it.  More remarkably, this only kind of fell into place in the last year to 18 months (in other words – never give up)!  They published in that issue some of my images, that reflected my photographic style that caught the eye of the company that I now shoot for.

'Unicorn' ponies, Father's Day celebrations, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

In this missive, I wish to give some more examples of how I get access to various shoots and elaborate more on the style that I use to get permission to photograph at so many public and private venues. There’s nothing magic to what I do, so I hope through this missive to encourage other photographers, not to ever give up until they realise their dream.  My journey and suggestions may not be for the faint-hearted, however the results far out way any momentary fear or embarrassment.  Though I’m always careful not to be rude or offend people, to always be polite and respectful - obtaining the image is always my primary focus.  I could care less to what lengths of privation or inconvenience I may have to endure, in order to get the shot.  I often wait for hours at a time, sometimes freezing cold, often busting to use the bathroom (there are often no ‘conveniences’) – but it matters not – if I can get the image in the bag at the end of things, it’s been a great day.  Any momentary inconvenience is well and truly off-set by having a once in a lifetime image plastered all over my portfolio.

Meeting a 'Mermaid', 'Grandies Big Day Out', Fremantle Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

People never talk about this kind of stuff, and I think it is so important.  I have friends who are photographers and other folk I know or read about online.  They are all so timid and shy and scared to go out of their comfort zone, or ask somebody to take their picture, or wait around for access to a shoot, or be inconvenienced or uncomfortable, or think outside the box to get something different and unique - I’m afraid their mundane portfolios reflect this fact.  They have a few boring photos of dogs and cats, some faded flowers and tired sunsets.

 Mad Max character, The Great Moscow Circus, Perth Western Australia, 2022.

A good example here are the images you see from my recent circus shoot.  Because of my paid work, through the events company that I shoot for in Perth, WA, I am becoming quite well known around the traps.  I can usually just turn up to other events now and get full access to take my images.  However, the Great Moscow Circus, recently rolled into town.  I found out later that it takes them over 3 years to do a full lap of Australia, so obviously they were new to town and had no idea who I was.  I have always loved photographs from the circus, the action and colour and the looks of glee on children’s faces.  I longed to have some great circus images to bolster my portfolio.  How on earth was I to get in there with my cameras and obtain full access to photograph – particularly where I would be jumping around in front of people during the show?

 The Ball of Death, The Great Moscow Circus, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

I found out the time for their next show, so I drove out to their site and walked around.  The compound was closed off and there was no sign of any life – it looked very unwelcoming. I ended up having to wait a long time until I finally found some people from the circus.  They then said I needed to talk to ‘Jeff’ – but he was not around.  Not to be put off, I waited another lengthy period until I eventually got to talk to the main person in charge.  I introduced myself and told him what I do, showed him some of my images and after a bit more chit chat, I was given full access to the circus.  I got a complimentary ticket to the very next show, with full permission to move around, and even use my flash!!

'Clown' putting on his makeup, The Great Moscow Circus, Perth, 2022.

The first shoot was successful, but I knew I could do better.  I made a booking with them to come to a show after work, mid-week, and get access to the clown putting on his makeup.  This I did and the photos were very pleasing.  It takes just a little bit of courage to do these things and I find people – if you approach them appropriately – are usually very kind and accommodating.  I of course gave them complimentary images from that shoot, and they will use those in their next advertising brochure.  Though I did not get paid for this shoot, I got beautiful images to use in my portfolio, and when they use my images, my copyright will be cited, so it is free advertising for me.

 'Clown', entertaining the audience, The Great Moscow Circus, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

Another example are the images on here from a recent Halloween shoot.  I really wanted some Halloween images in my portfolio.  Steve McCurry has some beauties and they inspired to me do likewise.  How on earth was I to get access to a Halloween party?  I don’t know anybody who celebrates Halloween in Perth, where I live.  I jumped on google and did a search for any Halloween parties in the city.  There was a big one not far from where I live.  I got all my gear ready and when I arrived, I thought “man, I will need a hide thinker than a ‘rhino’s to pull this one off”!  

 Halloween celebrations, "The Sandbar", Scarborough Beach, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

When I exited my car, I put both cameras around my neck, attached my flash and then put on my lanyard with my professional pass dangling.  When I arrived, I flashed it at the doorman of the event – he let me straight in.  I went up to the bar and told the waiter that I’d be photographing the event for the evening.  Nobody blinked an eyelid or asked me any questions they didn’t even want to know where I came from – I looked the part and that was that.  I had full access to all the artists that evening, and when I shared the images with them later, they were delighted.  The venue operators have now booked me into a major event that they are running in January 2023.

 Halloween celebrations, "The Sandbar", Scarborough Beach, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

For those who did not read the article in ‘Fuji Love’, that I referred to – in short – I related how if it were not for my indefatigable energy, my ability to poke myself in where I was not invited and to never give up, I would still be an unknown, unpublished and unrecognized photographer – nobody did anything to help me get to where I am today.  Even my wife used to constantly growl at me for getting kicked out of venues, having security called on me for being where I wasn’t supposed to be.  Though I never broke the law and I’m certainly not advising that, however it was solely because of my own ability to never give up, never be offended or timid, and to keep trying a hundred times, that finally got me accepted as the only photographer for the main events company here in Perth.  I now shoot all of the big events here in my city, get paid very well to do so and I have full copyrights to the images and am able to use them, sell them on, and of course put them in my portfolio.

 Halloween celebrations, "The Sandbar", Scarborough Beach, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

In the ‘Fuji Love’ article I referred to at the outset, I mentioned a little in there about equipment.  I shot with Fuji cameras for the last 10 years, and they served me very well.  Then for the last year I shot two systems – my Fuji X-T3 and 16mm 1.4 for all my closeup stuff and a Full-Frame mirrorless for longer focal lengths.  It just happened that the events company I work for, preferred the look of the full-frame images, and because the images are predominantly for them, I agreed to furnish them with photos from that system. I still use the same focal lengths.  One of my cameras now has a 50mm standard lens and the other body has a 24mm wide angle lens attached.  I have always ‘seen’ the world around me in 24mm.   Years ago, when I shot ‘Stock’ (back in the film days), nearly all of the images that sold well and were published, were all taken on my 24mm lens.  I love that in-close look, with the subject sharp, but enough separation from the background to make the subject stand out.  If you have a fast aperture lens, then this is very doable.  I also own a 5X ‘super zoom’, but rarely ever use it.  Ninety five percent of all my work images are shot on my two primes.

 Halloween celebrations, "The Sandbar", Scarborough Beach, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

The problem with zooms is that there is always a compromise.  I love the versatility of zooms, but they are often slower, compared to primes.  My zoom is only an F4, so if I had used it inside the dark circus tent, I would have been on such a high ISO, the images would have been compromised.  My primes are both 2 stops faster, so that makes a bigger difference in low light.  Unlike my earlier photographic MO, I now shoot all of my photos (inside and out), with flash.  All of the pictures on here have been taken with fill-flash and I think they mostly look very natural and one would not even realise that flash was used.  I do this because I often shoot in all kinds of crazy light – bright sunlight, hazy days, horrible artificial lights, and strong backlighting – flash just kind of evens everything out.   I have a Godox V1 attached to my camera with a ‘Jerry rigged’ bounce reflector that I made myself.  I could not buy what I wanted, so it was easy enough just to make my own.  This is a marvelous flash with a wonderful battery.  I can shoot all day and literally take thousands of flashes – all on one charge.  I just set the camera and flash to TTL, HSS, and set the flash on a negative compensation of one stop.  Without this the flash is a little bit overpowering sometimes, but with the negative compensation, it looks very natural.

 Surprise, 'Grandies Big Day Out', Fremantle Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

I think I have a great balance with how I run things now.   I really hope this article energises folks to think out of the box, stifle all their fears, and get out and make their photography into something that suits and inspires them.  I don’t want to be a full-time photographer.  My personality would be freaking out if I didn’t always have paid jobs booked up, and it may take the shine off my photography, which is my all-consuming passion.  I am a full-time high school teacher and just love my job so much.  I love teaching the kids, during my work time, but then weekends frees me up to shoot my events.  I now wear two hats – teacher and professional photographer.  It is a wonderful balance, because I’m not freaking out about money or bills – I get paid well as a teacher – then all of the earnings from my events go back into my travels and equipment.  Next year is even more exciting and I can barely wait.  I'll be photographing the 2023 International Fringe Festival in Perth, the Italian Car Rally,  the International World Dragon Boat races (I'll be out on a boat following the action on the water) , Australia Day celebrations and the Anniversary for the death of  Australian rock band INXS front man Bon Scott.  These are just my bookings for January and February and there is more to come.

 Promotional shoot "The Pirates", Fremantle Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.

I encourage everybody to grab their Fuji cameras, and make your own personal photographic journey happen.  Please share in the comments what steps you have taken and how you forged your own niche in this competitive photographic world.

 A Fairy, Medieval re-enactment Day, Swan Valley, Perth, Western Australia, 2022.













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