Interview With Steve Gosling on Becoming a Professional Photographer
Steve Gosling on Becoming a Professional Photographer
I would like to introduce you to Steve Gosling, a professional photographer based in the North of England. Steve recently agreed to an interview with me to share some of his thoughts about what it takes to become a successful professional. But before we get into the interview, I want to quickly share why I approached Steve for this.
Why Steve Gosling
When I first became interested in photography, Steve was one of the first photographers I noticed. It was his images, mainly in Black & White Photography magazine, that captured my attention. As I saw more of his work, there were two images that I found particularly memorable; one of Saltburn Pier and the other of Brimham Rocks (from his Lensless Landscapes series).
The picture of Brimham Rocks was particularly memorable because whilst walking the Nidderdale Way in 2020, I spotted the exact tree and immediately recognised it. My poor wife couldn’t understand my excitement.
I eventually met Steve in person in 2008 when I attended a course that he was running on becoming a professional photographer. It was a great course and his stories again stuck in my memory which is why I asked if he would agree to this interview.
Please read his answers carefully, they hold a great deal of value and wisdom.
Would you introduce yourself and say a little about your photography and background?
I’m a UK based professional photographer who specialises in producing black & white photographs. I’ve been obsessed with the joy of photography from a very young age and love to try & communicate my ideas, thoughts & emotions through my images. Occasionally I succeed!
I’ve always been a keen outdoor person – playing sports and walking in the countryside whenever I could. And I’ve had a camera from the age of 6 or 7 so in my early twenties I combined my interest in photography with my love of the outdoors and began to concentrate on landscape & travel photography.
I’ve been constantly inspired by the sights and sounds of the natural world, and it made sense to try & record and communicate this to others. I’m definitely more interested in the landscape & the world about me than shooting portraits of people for example.
When did you turn professional and what motivated you?
When I was in my mid-teens, I considered going to photography college but at the time the courses on offer were very science based and required a good school level (GCE) qualification in maths, chemistry and/or physics. All subjects that I hated with a vengeance! So, being a fickle teenager, I gave up on that idea fairly quickly and turned my energies to playing sport and dating girls. But in my twenties, I bought my first SLR camera and started to get more interested in photography again, taking photographs when travelling or hiking in the UK and overseas.
I sold my first image back in 1987 (a front cover for a county/country magazine) shot on a Lubitel TLR that cost the princely sum of £11. I got paid £25 for the shot so I made a profit – always good when that happens!
That encouraged me to do more, so I regularly supplied the magazine market with images and text whilst earning a salary in a full-time job. With two young children, giving up the day job and risking the vagaries of freelancing didn’t seem like a sensible thing to do so I continued to do what I could to earn money from photography around the demands of a full-time job and being a husband & father.
As the children got older and my wife was able to return to work, I gradually phased myself out of employment and built up the photography business. I knew I didn’t want to work in an organisation for the rest of my life and photography was my real passion. I asked myself did I want to be on my death bed regretting having never given it a go or having tried and failed. The latter felt like the only choice. Fortunately, it worked!
What do you see as the most important aspects of your photography business?
Having some core principles is fundamental and being true to them all the time absolutely essential. Dealing with people with honesty and integrity is important if clients are going to respect what you do and give you repeat business. Remember, life is like a boomerang – you get back what you throw! (Not my original phrase but it sums up my approach quite well).
For example, I never knowingly offer things I can’t deliver, I always stick to a brief, and I always meet deadlines once they’ve been agreed. When I am running a workshop, my total focus is on my participants – they are paying me to give them help, support, guidance, and advice NOT to take my own photographs at their expense.
What was the most difficult thing about turning pro?
Building up a sustainable business requires dedication, persistence, patience and being prepared to work long hours with very little financial reward. Accept that it can take several years to become recognised & established and acknowledge that it is possible to succeed but it is certainly not a get rich quick scheme. I wouldn’t recommend doing this for the money – it’s a way of life, a lifestyle decision. I’m certainly much happier now than when I was working in an organisation, and I have had so many amazing experiences & met wonderful people across the world because of my photography. I have no regrets at all.
I think that it’s harder now than it was when I built up my business. Many try and fail. But if photography is a true passion, then you can make it work – if you want it badly enough.
Knowing what you know today, would you still become a professional photographer, and if so, is there anything you would do differently?
Without a doubt I would do this all over again. There are always lessons to be learnt (more often from failures or mistakes than successes) and changes to be made. I think what is most important is to be open to that learning – to accept that you won’t get it right all the time, to analyse how things can be improved and to be prepared to listen to feedback & advice from others. When we think we know it all that is not only incredibly arrogant & delusional but the path to almost certain failure.
Do you have any advice to share with photographers considering turning professional?
The best advice comes from American photographer, Jay Maisel who said, ‘if you want to be a freelance photographer then choose your parents very carefully’.
Which do you think is most important and why: equipment specification, skill with the camera, or skill with photo editing?
None of those things. You can be the best photographer in the world but if you don’t have good business & administration skills, the ability to relate to other people and a determination to succeed you won’t be a successful freelance photographer.
How can readers find out more about you and your photography?
Looking at my website (www.stevegoslingphotography.co.uk) and signing up for my newsletter where they will find out about future workshops, talks, publications, exhibitions etc.
They could also sign up for one of my Masterclasses or One2Ones!
I would like to end the interview by saying thank you to Steve for agreeing to this interview and for sharing his experience of becoming a professional photographer. I can also personally recommend his workshops having attended two.
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