It was 2011. I had just bought my first professional grade camera because I was about to photograph my first wedding! Up until this point photography had just been a hobby. It was something I did for free and just for fun. I wanted it to be more than that, but at this point I had just worked as an assistant.
Two of my friends were getting married and had decided that I was to be their wedding photographer. This was the opportunity I had been waiting for and the perfect excuse to order my first professional camera.
I ordered it from Canon. It was coming from Japan.
What could possibly go wrong??!
Unfortunately, fate had other plans and a few weeks before the camera was due to arrive there was a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan.
Aside from the massive loss of life, the events that followed had a devastating effect on the infrastructure of the country which included exports of electronics. I received an email from Canon a fortnight before the wedding to tell me that there was a world shortage of cameras and consequently, mine would not arrive on time!
So I did what any budding professional would do in this situation. I panicked!
I needed a solution and fast! The only thing I could think of was to hire the equipment I needed and thankfully I found a company called hire a camera who, as the name suggests, hired out camera equipment.
The punchline is that the cost to hire all the equipment I needed was more than I got paid to shoot the wedding! I did the job and even though I made no money, I was now a paid wedding photographer!
It was the start of my career. From the first wedding I got another, and from the second one I got two more!
That’s how it went from 2011 to 2015 I worked full time at whatever job I had and would photograph weddings on the side. With the exception of my job as a chauffeur (a whole other story) my full time jobs didn’t matter at all. I just wanted to photograph weddings.
Every day I would often dream about becoming a full time wedding photographer, but truth be told I was afraid to take the leap. What I needed was for fate to give me a big push.
That push came in January of 2016!
That was the year I battled with mental illness.
It was an incredibly hard year, and I was in a very dark place. Most days I couldn’t get out of bed. On the days that I did I only made it as far as the sofa. For any of you who have experienced mental illness you will know how unpredictable and overwhelming it can be.
As I said, there were some very dark days and there were times when I wasn’t sure I would survive.
One thing that did keep me going was my wedding clients. None of them knew that I was unwell, but the fact that they wanted me with them on their wedding day, gave me reason to keep going.
Throughout the summer there were good days and bad. I really didn’t know if I would be alive at the end of the year, so I decided that no matter what I was going to give everything I had to my work.
I wanted my 2016 weddings to be the best photographs I ever took. I figured that if the worst happened, people could look back and say “wow this guy was amazing!”
So that’s what I did. I threw myself into my work, and I photographed all manner of wildly creative photos. Any idea or inspiration I had would somehow be used for my clients and I wanted to give them something that no one had ever seen before.
All I wanted to do was take photos.
Life is what happens when you’re busy taking photos!
Something amazing happened at the end of that summer. I realised that I was getting better. I realised that I had created a portfolio of work that people loved and raved about. I still had a way to go in my recovery, but I knew I wanted to live. I also knew that I needed to make some changes in my life. It sounds completely bizarre, but I remember having a conversation with myself out loud one day and I said:
“If you could do anything for the rest of your life, what would it be?”
The answer was so obvious, so I said out loud
“I would be a full-time wedding photographer”
What I learned was this:
It is amazing what you can achieve when you commit yourself to something 100% I still can’t believe it now. By the end of 2016 my work had been published in a magazine
I remember going to Tesco and buying every copy of wedding ideas! When I told my sister what I had done she said:
“That’s great, but if you buy every copy, how will anyone else see your work?”
She had a very good point.
Deciding to go full time and take that leap of faith was a catalyst that completely changed my life.
The success continued and in 2018 I was named “Best UK Wedding Photographer” at the UK wedding awards.
In 2020 I was named “Best UK wedding Photographer” at the British Wedding Awards
When I say that out loud I still don’t believe it and even as I write this I am looking at my awards on my desk and it still blows my mind.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it isn’t supposed to be easy. If you have seen the film
“A League of their own” Tom Hanks has a great line which is so relevant to anyone chasing their dream.
“Of course it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would do it. The hard is what make it great”
I once had a dream and after everything that happened, despite all of it, that dream came true.
What a wonderful thing that is.