Our next guest blog comes from Dan Barker, of Dan Barker Photography.

He speaks honestly about how he came to be a photographer, and the transition from working full time for an employer to becoming a self employed photographer.

When I hear people say “it’s risky starting your own business or being self employed” I can’t help but think “not as risky as being in a job you hate your whole life”. And when they say “I’m just doing this job for the sake of my kids” my take on that is “the best thing I can do for my kids is set a good example and that means following my dreams”.

It’s hard of course, but they say nothing that’s easy in life is worthwhile. Weekends spent working when I could be playing with my children make me question what I’m doing, but you have to keep the faith and remember that ultimately you’re trying to change things for the better.

Chair and lights, Dan Barker Photography

Photography found me a few years ago in my first year of marriage. My wife had a ladies clothes boutique and we decided to take it online. I took the opportunity to buy a decent camera and volunteered to do all the product photography for the website.

Looking back now I think I’d had this internal desire to try photography for a while. So this was the perfect excuse. We bought some cheap and cheerful lighting, employed the services of a photographer friend, and I read ‘Photography for Dummies’ cover to cover! The shots came out well and orders soon started coming in.

The tough economic climate combined with starting a family meant that something had to give. So we decided to close the business and I returned to the work I’d been doing for 7 years previously, in the Aerospace industry. I knew this would be the quickest way to provide for the family, but I also knew it would not fulfil me and my desire to work for myself and be creative.

At the same time, I began helping a local wine shop with their product photography and this immediately grew into paid work.

Bag and arm Dan barker
When you find something that lights a fire inside of you, it’s all you can think about. Any free time I had, including tea breaks, lunchtimes, whenever, would be spent researching and learning as much as possible. There are a ton of free resources out there these days, you can learn ANYTHING online! And with smartphones, you can learn ANYWHERE. Its amazing! Blogs, eBooks, audiobooks, podcasts – it’s all there. For someone with a daily commute to work, podcasts and audiobooks have been a huge resource – an hour a day of consuming information, learning and developing on the go. If you’re on a budget get on iTunes and search for podcasts in ANY subject you like, you’re bound to find something.
bride doing makeup by Dan Barker Photography

Fast forward a couple of years and things are building in momentum. I’m very much in the transition stage at the moment, so working a full week, then devoting evenings and weekends to building a business. I’ve been lucky enough to have brilliantly varied work come my way. From clean and crisp product shots, to lifestyle and interiors, sports events, wine tastings, birthdays, portraits and weddings.

I’m thankful for my day job at the moment, even though it’s not my passion or providing the lifestyle I’m working towards, it’s enabled me to build things slowly and surely, without putting financial pressure on the photography work. In this way, it’s possible to be a bit more selective with the work I take on and at the same time, work out which areas I’m attracted to.

For me, working with people is a big draw. I pushed myself last year to build a wedding photography portfolio, which I’m very proud of. I sought out some of the best wedding photographers in the world to learn from; having mentoring and attending workshops. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some great people doing other types of photography work.
bride doing hair Dan Barker

The variety of work is key, as you never know when the skills learnt doing one type of shoot will come in handy for another. For example, at weddings I love capturing details that the bride (and possibly the groom!) have spent months preparing. This is part of their story, so aspects of product and lifestyle photography come into play.

Personally, I find it a real buzz being able to turn what I see in front of me into a two-dimensional image. The challenge of balancing all the aspects of light, composition and emotion into a single frame and trying to improve every time is what I relish.

Wedding couple in a field Dan Barker
One thing I’ve learnt lately is that your tea goes cold more regularly when you’re doing a job you love, because you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing; loving every minute of it so much that you don’t even want to sit down and take a break. And that’s the way I believe work should (and can) be for everyone!
bride and groom on stairs Dan Barker
Happy bride, Dan Barker
Bulbs from below Dan Barker
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’d love to hear from you if you have any comments or just want to say ‘hi!’ I’m at dan@danbarkerphotography.co.uk
So many aspects of Dan’s blog ring true with me and my journey to Tides Events, and I believe every business owner has its own unique story behind how they got to where they are now and what drives them to get up and run their business every day. I thank Dan very much for the insights into his business journey. If there’s anything I urge people to take from this is to remember that the people they “employ” to share their wedding day with them, whether they’re supplying the catering, the bridal gown, the venue, the photography, or the entertainment, they almost certainly have the same passion for their work and their trade that Dan has. I know that I take immense pleasure in seeing a venue dressed to perfection, or supporting the bride through her wedding day……. but that’s another blog post!


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