Its been a while since my last blog but in my defence Ive been busy and its been a bit of a career landmark.
In my previous life I was a software engineer and I studied at Queens University Belfast for four years, first doing a BEng (batchelor of engineering) degree and then an MSc (Master of Science) degree.
My first job was in a local software company and I then went on to work in 2 more software companies before a change in circumstances brought about a change in Career after 9 years as an Engineer. In 2001 I took my first photography job working for a local photographer before going it alone a year or so later.
So in late September 2010 I am now a photographer longer than I ever was a Software Engineer yet I have just completed part of a commission for companies involved in Software Engineering. Not quite poacher turned gamekeeper and yet not quite a busmans holiday either. It was good to catch up with old colleagues and catch up quickly, far too quickly, with the old profession and its current issues.
Deep down Im still an engineer, I’ve always been an engineer which is a strange thing to say in this profession, but Ive always had an artistic side as well. That was never able to manifest itself fully in my previous career yet the era of digital photography, website generation, online marketing, email, ftp, image editing and distribution and all those good things keep the engineer in me happy.
Ive always been a problem solver and one of my first jobs in software was in a team tasked with ‘firefighting’ the ‘hot issues’ of the day. Now I dont miss the management speak, particularly as since then I’ve taken photos of real firefighters and whilst Im not wishing to denigrate my previous profession, the words used are incongruous with the job.
Through my later jobs I got involved in recruitment, customer bids and processes, corporate training, writing specifications, interpreting client briefs, investigating client issues and dealing with clients across the globe. I cant really say my job as a photographer is any different to that with all those skills being very portable indeed and just applied to different areas.
Perhaps thats why I have grown and progressed the business, because I brought those skills with me and adapted them. Maybe its just coincidence but either way it didnt do me any harm.
The access all areas press, red carpet and general swanning around with the gorgeous people isnt really the image you think of sitting outside a hotel in dublin in the snow at 1am as you try to wire your photos into an office on the west coast of the states.
Bit like my last couple of software jobs were we had US offices and you were on call until 2am in case any problems arose. Of course in one job we also had offices in the Phillipines and Australia. What do you mean you arent available 24/7? No different to now when people from all across the globe who are on deadlines and who want photos asap dont really care what timezone you are in. ‘Im just ringing to see if you are in?’ ‘yes its 4am, where else would I be’. ‘Can you email me this photo?’, ‘Yes, as soon as I get my eyes open I’ll be on to it – oh and you will need to pay in advance by paypal’. Sounds very glamourous indeed
When I tell people what I do, particularly those in IT professions they say they long for a job where they arent sitting in front of a computer all day and dont have to pull all nighters. Wishing away the long winter nights sitting at 2am trying to find a pizza place open in Belfast…
Well sorry folks I have news for you, I was up at 8am and its 12am now and Im still at the computer, writing a blog no less During that time I had to run to the doctors as I did ankle ligaments in at the weekend. Sorry, no sick leave or sick pay here its put up or shut up.
One of the biggest wrenches for me was the leaving a very well paid, stable job with holidays, and sick pay and healthcare and overtime and… …and then I remember being paid to take photos of naked women on a beach in Tenerife mid January…. …money isnt everything.
I love my job and I hope that shows. I loved being an engineer, I just didnt particularly enjoy the environment but looking back on it I had had my time and it was time for something different. Im now at the same stage in my photography career but I dont have the same urges. Maybe its got to do with reinvention and changing business approach every few years.
Some photographers try to blame the GWC idea – guy with camera. It appears that anyone with a camera can call themselves a professional photographer, couple of hundred quid on a camera, 6 quid for printable business cards and 30 quid for a cheap website and away you go, you are doing weddings but I remember people who had a home computer calling themselves computer programmers and asking if I could sort them out with a job. No different and that doesnt give any credit to clients who should be able to look at a photographers website, look at the images, the craft in the photos and the message behind the photography to differentiate between the chancers and the people who will build a relationship.
I learned that in my IT days when dealing with clients, it was about building relationships, getting a bond of mutual trust instead of trying to sell them something. Yes you are still selling but you are selling them something that will benefit them, which in turn will benefit you, everyones happy. I try to do that with the photography and that has been borne out by the number of long term clients I have and equally the long term relationship they have with me. They know they can ring me at 11pm and that I will take their calls because its probably important, important to them, their business and ultimately their families and lifestyle. You do go the extra mile for people you have a relationship with and its that closer bond I like with being self employed rather than working for a large corporation. Of course I could have got that within the IT industry by setting up myself there, but then again Ive seen people in tears holding their daughters wedding photos or getting their baby to smile on camera or a public relations person ringing me to thank me for getting their company in the paper with a good photo. No-one ever congratulated me on a line of C code, or a good subroutine in COBOL or sorting out a java error.
I started radharcimages because it interested me, right at the start of a recession when the market for the type of photos I was producing for it had started drying up, so its on hold, not cancelled. It will be resurrected occasionally although if climate change has its way all the pictures will have to be retaken to reflect our monsoon seasons.
Ive no idea what the next 9 weeks will bring never mind the next 9 years. In 9 years time if Im still here I’ll be approaching 50 and who knows I might have bought myself a pair of braces, grown a big belly and taken up wedding photography full time. Maybe I’ll actually buy a euro millions rollover ticket next week, win it and then head off round the world in a very big boat.
It really is up to me, its about trying to predict the future, I will live or die by my own decisions and I have no-one to blame but myself. Perhaps thats the key, thats the reason why Im still up writing a blog at 12am, or maybe Im just nuts.
Either way its going to be interesting…
…and isnt that what its all about.
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