The Vancouver photographer life
If you’ve ever wondered what life is like working as a Vancouver based photographer, and what it takes to grow a successful business that keeps you busy full time, I can share some insights. After over a decade in the industry and hundreds of happy clients I have a pretty deep understanding of how you can follow your passion and make a great living. Some people might say, “the Vancouver photographer market is too saturated”, or “too competitive” or some other lame excuse of why you can’t do it. These excuses are false. Take it from us – you can definitely do it, and there’s an abundance of work to go around. If you’re willing to put in the work, good things always happen.
A few tips to make it as a Vancouver photographer
1.) Avoid being a “Jack of all”
In other words, find your niche. Building a brand or business that actually makes money requires providing valuable solutions to problems that need solving. If you want to command top dollar you’ll have to position yourself as an expert in your field.
2.) Invest in yourself
Take the time to read as many books and watch as many videos as you can about the industry you’re in. Don’t worry too much about buying the most expensive camera or drone. Instead, become a master in Photoshop and Lightroom. Sure, you’ll need a full frame camera and an understanding of composition and lighting, but you should really focus on becoming a pro at editing as that’s where you’ll spend most of your time. A great place to start learning would be on would be Peter McKinnon’s Youtube channel.
3.) Learn about sales
Being a successful Vancouver photographer means you’ll have to learn how to sell. Not in a sleazy way, but you want clients to trust that you will deliver results when they hire you. The key is understanding exactly what they need before providing a solution. Don’t be too fast to talk, instead focus on listening. You want your clients to know that you hear them, and can execute on their vision. There is a ton of psychology that goes into sales, which will be its own blog post down the road.
4.) Build your portfolio
Your portfolio is the first thing prospective clients will look at before hiring you. This may sound rather obvious, but It’s a collection of your best work that showcases your style, skill, and creativity. Your portfolio should reflect the type of photography you want to pursue and highlight the niche you’re in. Build your portfolio as a Vancouver photographer by taking on passion projects and shooting what you find inspiring.
5.) Always be learning
There is so much that goes into mastering the art of photography that you can never truly know it all. Commit yourself to always be striving to improve your skills. Wether it be the technical or creative side, there will always be something you can improve on. As technology changes, be ready to adapt to new systems – take new courses and get new certifications. This will keep you at the top of your game.
So there you have it, making it as a Vancouver photographer takes talent, hard work, and persistence. Developing your skills, building your portfolio, networking, defining your niche, sales & marketing, and never stopping learning are all essential components of a successful photography career. With dedication and a passion for the craft, anyone can make it.
How I got started as a photographer
It all started as a passion. I got my first “professional” camera as a gift and I became obsessed with capturing images of landscapes. It inspired a 3 month trip through Europe where I tried to capture as many landscapes as I could. I learned a lot through trial and error, and it’s certainly true what they say – your first 1000 images are your worst. Looking back it’s pretty cool to see how far things have come.
My first failed business venture as a Vancouver photographer was starting a company called Aerial Studios. Essentially, the idea was to create an experience for newly engaged couples where I partnered with a float or helicopter pilot and whisked the couple away to capture their engagement photos in a beautiful location. While the idea itself was not so bad, it lacked the follow through and execution. Back then, I didn’t realize how much work it took to get a business started, and thought that having a nice website was going to be enough to attract clients. I had no idea about sales, SEO or had any sort of marketing plan. It was a flop.
The second failed venture was starting one of the first drone companies in Vancouver, on which I partnered with a friend. This was not wise, and ended with the drone in several pieces in a ditch and a ruined friendship. If you’re looking to get started as a Vancouver photographer, do it by yourself. You don’t need a partner. It gets messy and will likely end badly. Not to sound bitter, but it’s the advice I and many others would give. Save some time, and learn from my mistakes.
So from there, I decided it would be smart to just get a job in the drone industry as a camera operator so I could learn from a professional Vancouver photographer. And that’s what I did. I sent out emails to every company I could find and managed to set up a meeting with one. This turned into an incredible learning experience and was the best thing I could have done to start my Vancouver photographer career. The shoots didn’t pay very well, but the skills I learned along the way made it all worthwhile.
Eventually, I decided that I needed to go back out on my own. I stayed working part time at the drone company while growing my own real estate photography business on the side. Once the income I was making from my own marketing efforts matched that of the drone company, it was time to go completely on my own. And that’s where the fun began. I realized that I wasn’t really a photographer after all. I was a business owner. I loved it and there was no turning back. I got my advanced drone pilot certificate and bought a drone. I got up every morning at 5 am and started writing emails to companies I wanted to work with followed up by a phone call several days later. For every 100 people I emailed and called, it seemed like 1 person would say yes. I learned not to take things personally, and that rejection was just part of the game. After years (no really, YEARS) of doing this I finally had started to make some decent income. I remember how grateful I felt cashing my first cheque for $10K and thinking how crazy it was that I could make that amount of money for literally living out my dreams. It was more money from a single gig than I had made most months a few years earlier.
So, that’s how it all began. From a passion in creating landscape images to working as a professional photographer specializing in drone operations. Now the photo work takes me all over Canada, and I have become the go to Vancouver photographer for architectural drone shoots.