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John Porter is a freelance photographer at the start of his career. He combines assisting experienced photographers with his own work for magazines and the web, and is already making a name for himself.

How did you get into your photography career?

I got a distinction on my National Diploma course last summer and then took my portfolio (file of work examples) round to photographers. Some of them were interested to see my ideas and what I could do, and gave me work assisting them.

I also send photos to magazines and have been commissioned to do advertising shoots.

What does assisting a photographer involve?

The photographer might specialise in still life, cars or fashion, for example. My job is to carry their equipment, load the cameras, set up lights and talk to clients over the phone.

What projects have you been working on recently?

I have been introducing myself to model agencies and have gained some work shooting the models. Also, a curator setting up an exhibition of African art commissioned me to photograph artworks.

What stages does a new project go through?

The client will give me a full brief. They may even have some sketches of their ideas for the photos. I then work out how long the job will take, what equipment is needed and what travel is involved so that I can give them an estimate for the work.

If they accept, I might have to organise a studio, location or the models myself – sometimes, the client has already made the arrangements.

What equipment do you use?

I have my own selection of cameras and lights, but I also hire studio equipment when I need it. I tend to work using print film rather than digital and I do my own printing. I supply images to the client either as a contact sheet and then prints, on disk, or by e-mail.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I just love the whole experience. It's a real buzz – especially working with lots of different people.

What skills do you need to be a photographer?

Apart from photography skills, you need to be good at building relationships with the people you work with. You also have to appear positive and confident when you're promoting your work. Even so, your pictures should speak for themselves.

What might you do in the future?

I'd like to be doing more of the same – working full-time in photography and perhaps with my own studio.

John's route to his photography career

  • National Diploma in Applied Photography.
  • Combines freelance work with assisting other photographers.

John's photography tips

  • You must be able to get on with people to put them at ease in front of the camera.
  • Camera equipment can be costly so don't buy expensive gear until you are sure the job is for you.

Photographer related jobs

Salary of a Photographer

  • Starting as an assistant, you'll probably earn between £10,000 and £13,000.
  • With experience, you could earn £17,000 to £20,000.
  • Well-established photographers with a good reputation can earn more than £35,000.
  • Freelance photographers charge anything from £120 to £600 a day.

How to become a photographer

  • You do need a good portfolio of work. You might start out as a photographer's assistant.
  • You might also be able to start on an Apprenticeship, which combines work and study for NVQs/SVQs.
  • Many photographers do have a qualification – there are City & Guilds courses, NVQs/SVQs, BTEC National Diplomas, HNCs/HNDs/Foundation degrees and degrees in different areas of photography such as digital imaging and medical illustration.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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