The First Year: No Ferrari Or Mansion, But Getting There

December 2015 was the time that I decided I would fully commit to photography and let it be my sole source of income.  I wasn't too sure where to start but the ball began rolling for me when I was on my initial travels around New Zealand.  

While in Rotorua riding I got chatting to Kashi Leuchs, a bike shop owner from Dunedin who had some demo Yetis.  He mentioned that he was running the 3 Peaks Enduro mountain bike race in Dunedin and said it was worth coming down to.  He gave me his details, and I later emailed him about coming down and he offered to pay for an album of photos from his race.  I jumped at the chance.  

Shot for 3 Peaks Enduro 2015

Shot for 3 Peaks Enduro 2015

After arriving in Dunedin it was suggested that I reach out to the local tourism to do an article on the bike race. As I was new to the area and didn't have any contacts, this meant just walking into the tourist visitor centre and asking to speak to someone from marketing.  This worked out well, as, not only did they want me to do an article on the bike race, but they also asked me to do additional articles for them.  After working with the local tourism, I was put in touch with the New Zealand Masters Games and ended up shooting their event. This introduced me to working with a local media company, and then also working with the city council events department.  

All of that work came because I chatted to Kashi in Rotorua, there was no big meeting or fancy way of doing it, all I did was introduce myself.

Phil Atwill for Propain Bikes

Phil Atwill for Propain Bikes

Now I never thought this would be a walk in the park but this is what I want to do for a living, create great imagery for people.  I was determined that this would happen and when I first arrived in Dunedin, I worked on the enduro race and articles while living in my truck in a beach car park (not as pretty as you might think with people unaware of how to use a bin or toilet).  The truck became the transport, office, bedroom and kitchen but I was getting somewhere.

Our 41 square foot house on wheels

Our 41 square foot house on wheels

Otago Rally shot for a driver

Otago Rally shot for a driver

One of my concerns jumping into this was how to work out my pricing.  I have listened to podcasts, read blogs and discussed this topic numerous times with peers and you still never really find a price.  For me, I don't have a particular day rate and want to work within potential clients budgets where possible.  Of course, it is always ok to say no to a job if its not feasible.   

One potential client said they didn't have a photo budget but could pay x amount.  It was under what I would normally charge for the work but instead of saying no, I gave them the offer of shooting a lesser amount of imagery, and we agreed companies at this event could purchase images also.  On top of the clients charge, I also had images purchased from another company, giving me more than double.  There are sometimes ways to work with people without feeling you are underselling yourself or undercutting others in the industry, and this in turn can work in your favour.  But again, its ok to walk away.

Jib Jam shot for Red Bull New Zealand 

Jib Jam shot for Red Bull New Zealand 

Rainbow Mountain for TNZ

Rainbow Mountain for TNZ

For me, this is still a slow process and has a huge learning curve. A year later, I find that my approach to getting work has improved.  The business side has been trial and error and I have quickly picked up what works, and what doesn't.  Someone told me "It is more important to farm than to hunt".  I like this because I can find myself constantly trying to get a specific job when it is beneficial to just get your name out, introduce yourself to people or brands you want to work with. This in turn hopefully means you are thought of should they need a photographer.

For Mons Royale printed at Skyline, Queenstown

For Mons Royale printed at Skyline, Queenstown

It has now just been over a year since I started and I have shot the 3 Peaks Enduro for the second year.  This next year will be challenging as I only have 6 months left in New Zealand before heading back to Scotland with the business, which makes me pretty nervous but also excited.  

Footnote:

One thing that I would recommend everyone does is check their email before sending it.  I recently noticed while checking for a sent email that the wording was slightly off, thankfully someone i have worked with in the past and have a good working relationship with.  Not sure why the computer decided to autocorrect but it did and I should have checked, you can spot it.

Always check

Always check

Johny CookComment