Case Study: Fashion Photographer - Kirsty

What do you do?

I am a general digital photographer, concentrating on fashion, glamour, gigs and celebrity work.

What is your background?

I started taking photos at weddings at the age of 15 and then went to art college to study photography. I spent three years doing a National Diploma, A level and GCSE all in one.

I then decided that it would be a really good idea to write to 300 celebrities and ask if I could go and take their portraits for my portfolio. I was lucky enough to have 150 replies, so I went out and did photographs for them and then that kind of took off.

I started working for a national portrait company, and then I went on to work for another photographer for a year. While I was doing all that, I was still doing my celebrity and fashion photography behind the scenes. I then decided that it was about time I opened up on my own.

I started entering quite a lot of competitions and in the last year and a half, I've won about 30 awards. I won the UK fashion and glamour photographer of the year award in 2002.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

You need to be very outlandish. You need to have very, very good people skills. You need to be able to relax people in just a split second and be able to put them at their ease, so they're not all stiff in front of the camera.

You also need very good composition, so if you can see something that no one else can see, that's a very good quality to have.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

From my skills as a photographer, I could do anything to do with people, or something 'arty' and creative.

With photography becoming increasingly digital, I could also do a lot of work relating to computers, such as website design or anything along those lines.

What changes will there be in the future?

It will just get more and more digital, I think. It's going to get to the stage where films will just completely disappear and everything is going to be done digitally.

So, everything will be done via email, such as sending the photos to brochures and catalogues.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

Working with new people every day is a big challenge. Putting people at their ease is also somewhat challenging, especially if someone is incredibly nervous.

Making sure that you please your art director is a challenge, because some of them can be very, very demanding. When you're doing a fashion shoot for somebody else, and they have got an art director that wants a specific set up, you have to be sure you get it exactly how they want it.

Basically, just keeping on your toes the whole time and trying to keep up to date with new ways of doing things is challenging. Also, trying to keep ahead of everybody else so that you are employed more than anybody else is.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

It's very hard; I've been lucky really. I've worked very hard to get to where I am now.

When I think back to everybody at art college doing photography, out of my year there were 30 of us that actually qualified, and there are four of us working in the photography trade now. Everybody else didn't manage to get in.

Also, I'm the only one that does celebrity and fashion photography out of my year. It can be that some of them were doing different aspects of photography, such as children or commercial photography, but to actually get into the fashion industry is very hard to do.

I was lucky. I've entered into several award categories and got sponsorship from there on, so that's made my profile a bit higher, which has helped me get the work.

What do you like about your job?

I'm a very 'outdoors' kind of person and if someone shoved me in an office with just four walls and I had to be pinned down all day, I really couldn't do it.

Every single day is completely different. I could be going out photographing an Iron Maiden gig one day, a celebrity another day or on a catalogue shoot the day after that. Everything is completely different, so you can't get bored!

What do you dislike about your job?

The fact that I work for myself, I do work a lot of hours. Work doesn't stop just because it turns to 5 o'clock. In a way I still like that, because I'm in demand and it means that I'm needed, which is quite nice!

But on the other hand, working long hours can be tiring. Sometimes, you really just don't want to go to work and would like a day off instead, but you can't. But I suppose you get that in every job!

What are your ambitions?

I would love to have a Porsche by the time I'm 25!

No, seriously, I want to open another photography studio down in London. I'm 22 now, by the time I'm 30, I want to try and have at least three studios throughout the UK, that's my main ambition, I think.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

Work hard. Don't let anyone put you off. I had lecturers that told me that I wasn't going to get into the industry, always putting me down, always saying that my work wasn't good enough.

I've had a lot of people try and stop me getting to where I am now, whether it be people I used to work with, or people who are competition who are just trying to put a spanner in the works.

Basically, just keep going. If you're good, you will get through it. Just get as much work done as you can, whether it is paid or unpaid, get yourself out there and get your name known.

A day in the life

8:00 am

Arrive at the studio, turn the computer on and check any emails. Look in the diary to see what is planned for the day.

9:30 am - 10:30 am

Make-up artist and hairdresser arrives at the studio. Have a quick staff meeting to make sure we know what needs to be done for the day's photo shoots.

10:30 am - 12:30 pm

Photo shoots.

12:30 pm - 1:00 pm


1:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Carry on with photo shoots. Make-up artist and hairdresser normally finish at 5:30 pm.

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Download photographs onto the computer, sort them out into order and save them onto disk. Preview the package of images.

7:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Close studio and go home.

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