Richard Whitfield is a Success Coach for Design students at Billy Blue College of Design.
Richard has been a high profile photographer throughout in his career, his portraits have included the likes of Richard Branson, Geoffrey Rush and of course the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. Learn about his expert tips for students in the Diploma of Photo Imaging their first year in the program
1. It’s hard work, not talent, that builds a career
Your talent shines through in the energy, excitement, and engagement you get from making pictures. But your talent doesn’t shine every day. On those days, you still need to do the work and put the hours in: you need to shoot when you’re tired or uninspired, fight through creative slumps and produce magic from the most unpromising situations. To paraphrase Aristotle: excellence is not an act, but a habit.
2. Practice, practice, practice
Taking pictures has never been easier. But making a great picture is challenging as challenging as ever.
Practice, practice, and practice until selecting the right lens, choosing the perfect Fstop, or tweaking your fill light becomes second nature (I call it piano practice!): you need to be as comfortable shooting a natural light portrait at midday, as crafting a multi-light studio set-up. The more you’ve nailed your technique, the more creative options you’ll have in your toolkit (which is what your clients will be paying you for).
3. Network, network, network
It’s never too soon to start building your network: collaborate with other design students (they may well be your future clients!), become a student member of the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photographers), go to industry events, find a mentor, volunteer to assist other photographers. Throughout my career, ‘word of mouth’ has had the biggest impact on my success.
4. Set goals
Dream big and set small goals. What can you work on today, that will build towards your success for this trimester, next year and five year’s time? Setting small daily goals that flow into your long-term vision is brilliant for creating momentum and overcoming the inevitable speed bumps that will crop up throughout your studies and your career. Your ambitions will almost certainly change over time as your knowledge & skills develop. When that happens, make sure you update your goals to match.
5. Turn your talents into strengths
To finish, let’s get back to talent: are you a people person or a strategic thinker? Are you great at creating order out of chaos (think wedding photographer!) or do you love to polish and shine an image to perfection (think still life or advertising photographer)? What other passions can you leverage? Love food? Love fashion? Exploiting your talents (your natural patterns of thought, feeling & behavior) is where you will find your greatest opportunity for study & career success.