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For lifestyle and freelance photographer Andre L. Perry his resume includes clients like Beats by Dre, Nordstrom, Travel Noir, NYLON magazine, and many more. However, it didn’t always start out that way. In the midst of a well-paying job in Ad Operations, Andre used his camera as a creative outlet to cope with his depression. After hitting a breaking point at work, he decided to shift gears and pursue his passion for photography instead.
“I figured that I have to do something to pursue my happiness because if I don't do it now, I’ll never do it."
With his tenacity, genuine personality, and a little luck, Andre was able to make a business out of his passion for photography. We talked to Andre about how he successfully transitioned to full-time freelancer. Read Andre’s tips on how he made it happen.
Show the work you want to get hired for
Andre’s advice on getting hired for the type of job you want is to showcase the work that you want to get hired for. “A lot of photographers shoot everything. In the beginning that’s fine because you want to test what you do and don’t like.” However, he says, “You don't necessarily have to publish it all.” He recommends honing in on the specific type of photography you want to be hired for. Since Andre wants to hired for lifestyle shoots, he’s careful about only showcasing that type of photography on his online portfolio and social accounts.
"Take photos every chance you get if you’re looking to transition out of your current position to pursue photography full time, practice makes perfect."
Andre shares that when he was unhappy at his 9 to 5, he’d take photos whenever he had free time. Every lunch break, he’d go out to the street and shoot people. He says, “I love to people watch and create stories in my own head about who they are and capturing their unique style.”
Shooting during his lunch breaks also helped him find his “a-ha moment.” He tells us about one particular time where it finally clicked, saying, “I was shooting in Times Square and I saw this ad for Fruit of the Loom. It was a couple throwing flour at each other... it was just a fun and happy moment. That’s when I said to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
Likes don’t equal money
Nowadays, there are so many platforms to get your name out there. Andre says, “Make sure you’re consistent with producing work on social media. These tools can help leverage your work to a new audience.” However, Andre doesn’t solely rely on social channels like Instagram to promote his work. “It’s more of an added bonus to validate me as a photographer.” And while he’s carefully curates his feed to showcase the photography he wants to be hired for, he says, “I also feel the liberty to post whatever I want. It might not get a lot likes, but at the end of the day, likes don’t equal money.”
Personality is your business card
Andre believes that your personality is your brand. “People only hire photographers they actually like. In fact, some people who get the gig might not necessarily be the best photographer, but their personality is the one that wins them over.”
“If you’re bubbly, intuitive, and able to connect with your clients, it’s easier to land a job and get repeat clients.”
People will vouch for you and be your cheerleaders which makes finding new clients to work with much easier. Andre is a natural introvert, but when on the job, he knows he needs to be energetic and “on” which he attributes to part of his success as a photographer.
Creating the right kind of vibe
If you’re looking to convey a particular emotion during a shoot, Andre has two fool-proof tips. The first is to play the right kind of music that sets the tone for the shoot. For example, in his personal shoot for “Heartbreaker,” Andre played Elvis, Michael Jackson, and other upbeat tunes to get his model in the right mood. Andre’s second piece of advice is to bring reference photos to every shoot. He prepares a vision board so the models have guidance on the kind of expressions Andre is going for.
Stay inspired by shooting for fun
Yes, even creatives get into creative ruts. So when Andre is feeling uninspired, he pursues passion projects — even if they aren’t paid.
“The periods in between my paid projects are very important to me.”
He also looks to other photographers to get new ideas for shoots. “For instance, I just came across Ellen von Unwerthand love her unique style of photography. Once I found her Instagram and researched her body of work, I became inspired all over again. I immediately created a vision board and started reaching out to people to create a shoot inspired by her fun and over-exposed images.”
How to stay disciplined
When you work for yourself, staying disciplined is key. You’re the one calling the shots, determining your price, and managing your time. “Having a nine to five, you don't necessarily have to worry about insurance or getting the proper paperwork filled out.” But for independent photographers, if you’re not sending out emails or client building, you won’t get paid. “Even though I've made the most money that I've ever made in my life doing photography, it's not guaranteed.” That fear has helped Andre to stay disciplined and focus on having a steady income.
“Even though I've made the most money that I've ever made in my life doing photography, it's not guaranteed."
If there’s anything we’ve learned from Andre, it’s to choose what makes you happy. After finding himself miserable at his desk job, Andre is now driven by moments that feel organic and honest. When looking at his images, they’re vibrant, playful, and light. Follow along Andre’s journey on Instagram, Tumblr, and see more of his work on his online portfolio.