Before I became a photographer, I had ideas as to what the career might be like, boy was I wrong. Here is what a week as a professional photographer looks like.
I want to add a bit about me first, as I know that every ones career varies wildly with there being so many genres in our profession. I work as a commercial food photographer in the UK specializing in ad campaigns for large brands. I work from my studio in Leicester and alongside my agent who is based in London. I hire in freelance assistants, editors, and stylists rather than having a staff due to the nature of my work.
My working year goes from sitting on my arse doing nothing and recovering to working at such an intense level that I feel that I might break. So for this week, I have decided to pluck out a real gem of shooting. But, the week after I spent it in bed recovering and nipping out for gentle bike rides. Just incase you think that I am fortunate or unfortunate enough to have every week looking like this.
My weeks start on a Sunday. Often after lunch time, but always on a Sunday. I like to go out for a 4 - 5 hour bike ride in the morning all clad in lycra with shaved legs. This is my weekly treat to myself. Long before photography, I had aspirations of being an athlete. After my ride I set about organizing my week. It starts off with a to do list which works on a + axis with close deadlines and high importance issues ending up in the top right hand corner and the least important stuff ending up in the bottom left. I find this the best way to cope with excessive amounts of tasks.
I then set about making sure that I have enough instagram content for my account. I tend to sort my next 7 posts out on a Sunday and then use Instagram stories throughout the rest of the week to show BTS stuff or insider tips on photography. There is no way that I would have time to set up the post below on a week like this, so being prepared in advance is vital. After this I headed over to my studio for my shoot prep. I had a day on location on Monday which was going to be about 14 hours all in, followed by a UK ad campaign on the Tuesday. Both required very different equipment and were in opposite directions to one another. So I booked myself, my stylist, and assistant into a hotel that evening. Once I had worked out the kit I needed (there was a lot) I lined it up in order of priority to see how much of it we could fit into two massive cars. I then headed home for an early night.
Monday was a 5am start. I like to get there at least an hour before anyone else so I can relax, have a coffee and get myself together for the day. Shooting can be very stressful some days, I would always prioritize prep time in the morning over sleep time. I hate feeling rushed. I got a taxi to the studio before being met there by my assistant. We loaded everything into the car and set off. We arrived at the location, shot the job, backed up at the location from cards to a drive and then headed off to the hotel nearer the following days location. Once we had all met up there and had dinner, I headed back to my room, backed up the back up drive to a second drive that then ends up in a separate hotel room with someone else, just incase something horrific happens. I also set up my online back up, pop everything on charge (tape over the lights on the chargers when doing this, it will help you sleep better), my sleep mask and ear plugs go in and I am usually out cold within a few minutes.
Tuesdays shoot was for a new client, I was aware that they had gone through two photographers prior to me and it was for a very big world wide food brand, so I was a little anxious as to what lay ahead after hearing these red flags. However this shoot was for a UK only campaign, so I was hoping for the best. Although I have a purpose built food photography studio, they insisted that we shot this in a very small meeting room without space for studio salon stands. So we gripped together a flat lay set up, worked out the metering and shadow density from the shots the previous photographer had taken that we had to match and we began shooting. The brief on the day was wildly different to that which had been provided, so at lunch I made a quick exit and called my agent to discuss, my agent then called my client and had the tricky conversations and we had a new agreement in place.
Whilst this was going on, I was shooting with the help of my stylist and assistant whilst uploading the files to Dropbox so my editor at the studio could begin work on them. The shoot over ran massively and by the time I left it was nearly 11pm. I got back to the studio, emptied all the gear back in and thanked my assistant for going to extra mile. He headed off whilst my editor and I sat up all night working on the files that had to be delivered by 12 noon the following day for sign off before going to print UK wide the following morning. Whilst my editor was working on the images, I started to clean the equipment, replace anything we had broken on the day, charge all items and begin to pack for my next job which was a two day world wide ad campaign. This campaign would again be shot on location, which isn’t ideal, but I have a few clients who insist.
By the time we had finished the editing it was about 11am. I delivered the clients, checked in with my agent to let him know that we were done and I headed home to bed.
I slept. Pretty much all day. I checked in a on a few emails and got my Fstoppers article ready knowing that this was the only free day that I had this week.
Thursday and Friday
This was a biggie. A two day ad campaign for world wide usage for a major food brand. I still had all of the equipment in the studio packed up and ready from Tuesday night, so I headed in at about 5am, had my coffee, checked the brief over to make sure that it was fresh in my mind and then my assistant arrived and we loaded everything in. We planned to stay in a hotel nearby over night and to be met at the location by my stylist. When booking a hotel with about 200kg of gear that you want to store in rooms, check that it has lift access before booking. We had to carry so much kit so far, it was a nightmare.
The shoot day begins by meeting the suit from the agency and their creative director. They then brief me on their client with anything I need to know about any difficulties before the shoot or anything they particularly do and don't want to see before they arrive, polite greetings are made and then we head off to begin setting up. I shoot tethered to three screens. This allows my stylist to have a live view of my camera, my assistant to have eyes on what I am shooting and the client. All without us all getting under each others feet. The shoot goes really well and we take some great flatly for the client on day one, I have the images edited whilst I am shooting and then backed up at the location to two drives. One drive heads to my assistants room, the other to mine, and my laptop with the third copy gets taken out to dinner with us. A few diet cokes, and an uninspiring chain restaurant meal later we head off to bed before returning for more the next day. When I return on Friday to my studio my editor has had Thursdays work completed. I set about sorting all of the kit out and un packing everything as I am running a workshop on the Saturday. Meanwhile he continues to edit Fridays work. We leave the studio around 1am with the files uploading to Dropbox for the client to get on Monday morning.
I had planned this workshop when I had no work on for the week leading up to it. However, by the time it came too short notice to cancel, the workshop was fully booked so I went ahead as planned. The workshop went well and I felt really good, until everyone left at which point I completely crashed, felt ill with a cold, and got an Uber home before heading straight to bed for a weeks recovery.
This example is what I class as a very busy week. I could have shot on the Wednesday if needed, I don’t think it would have ran me down any further as I was already over the limit. When I started out in photography I expected some sort of day to day schedule, but this never materialized. The week following this I spent resting and generally recovering before another busy week began. Learning to take the time out when I don’t have shoots on has been one of the more difficult things for me to come to terms with.
What does your working week look like?