As many of our MOOsters already know, turning an enjoyable hobby into a successful business is not as easy as it sounds. Here, music video director and professional photographer Jonnie Malachi talks us through the journey that took him from amateur snapper, to sought after pro.
Have you always been interested in being a professional photographer?
Photography was just a hobby that I got into when I was 25. I would be on the set of a music video, totally fascinated by how all the lighting could turn the mundane into this glossy, hyper-real environment, transforming everyday locations into magical spaces just with light and composition. So I bought my first camera, a Canon Digital Rebel, started to read some photography blogs, and did a part-time course in fashion photography.
What job were you doing when you decided to make the switch?
I was directing music videos - the most well known is probably Fragma Toca's Miracle 2008 - and had previously worked as an advertising creative, both of which taught me that the idea is where it all starts. Then I won a few advertising industry competitions such as Square Art, which led to shooting stills for TV ads for brands like Branflakes and Hula Hoops. Recently, I started getting approached by comedians to shoot their Edinburgh festival posters and that's also snowballed.
Do you have any advice for any amateur photographers wanting to take the plunge?
My top tips for amateur photographers trying to turn pro all revolve around being able to answer these questions:
1. What type of work do you want to do?
2. What is your style/what do you particularly love shooting?
3. Do you have a strong portfolio that represents the kind of work you do?
4. Which brands/companies employ photographers doing the kind of work you do?
5. Why should the client hire you?
6. Do you have a short/mid/long term career plan?
Something else that's really important is being organised. Before shoots, make sure you have checklists and anticipate all eventualities, as inevitably, there will be problems! The key to repeat work is getting clients to trust that you'll take care of things like this. It's not easy to get clients, so treat the ones you have well.
Do you think it's important to specialise?
Yes! There are lots of subgroups in society, like the comedy world, the music world, the ultimate fighting world (with whom I am about start a photographic project). If you can approach these subgroups and become known as a photographer within them, this can be a very good way 'in' to the world of professional photography.
How to you approach self promotion and marketing?
It's probably one of my weaker points so I tend to rely on word of mouth and the strength of my previous work. I also think a really simple website is very helpful - none of the flashy stuff, just a really easy way for clients to see your work. And a really strong and memorable Business Card goes a long way! I like the pocket portfolio element of MOO, it allows you to give the most appropriate image to individual clients.
What are the financial practicalities of setting yourself up in business?
The most important advice I can give is to get fully comprehensive insurance for your camera! And public liability insurance in case a passerby trips on your cables and decides to sue!
You need to set up a separate business account for all your incomings and expenses - but your bank should be able to advise you really well on this.
I think being creative and freelance puts a lot of financial pressure on you, so another piece of advice is to diversify. I don't just rely on one thing to pay my rent because it because it gets in the way of creativity. At one point, I felt so pressured to win a pitch, I just got desperate. So have a look at what you're good at, and find ways to make money that support your creative outlets, and soon you'll only need to take work that you really love, which is a great feeling.
Jonnie Malachi is a music video director and professional photographer for Jumba Photography. Have a look here to explore more of his work.