Category Archives: Going Pro

Starting Out As A Photographer – Overview

starting out as a photographer, going pro, starting a photography business, photography business, photography tips, career as a photographer, carla coulson

Morning Lovelies,

I know so many of you would love to work as a photographer and I often receive questions about starting out. So I thought a brief overview of what’s involved in working as a photographer.

Who wouldn’t want to be a photographer?? We get to go to great places, meet incredible people, participate in amazing shoots and work our own hours.. Sounds like the best job in the world.. And most days it is. But what is the reality of working as a photographer?

For any of you thinking of taking the plunge here is a little overview of some of the things that may help you start out as a photographer. Don’t be freaked out!

So many people not involved in this industry don’t see what the big deal is about being a photographer. Isn’t it just a couple of clicks here and a couple of clicks there??

I often have people say “I would like to do a shoot for just an hour”. Well the truth is 99,9 percent of things in photography take a whole lot more than an hour including (just packing your gear and getting to the job) all the post processing and unless you work in photographer it’s difficult to get a grasp on all the time and effort photographers put in to be able to get that shot over and over again.

Being a full-time working photographer requires hardwork, planning and most of all a burning passion..

Here’s my list of some of the things you need to know if you are starting a career as a professional photographer.

A Clear Picture of what field of photography you want to do (ie, travel, food, fashion, wedding, portraiture etc) If you start with a clear idea you can focus your energy on working in that field, marketing and contacting the right people and not losing your energy trying to cross over many different fields.

Your own style of photography. Having a unique look in photography and your own eye is what will differentiate you from others. Don’t be frightened to be different or take the photos that are burning deep down inside this is the key to the kingdom.

A Business Plan (yes folks this is a business). This is probably the most important point that new photographers overlook. They love taking pictures and being creative but to keep doing that you need clients. And knowing who they are, how you will find them and communicate with them is vital.

Money Though on the outside it seems as though you can get into photography without spending a fortune you still need to consider all the equipment other than cameras you will need to buy, such as computers, back up systems, money to live on in the first years when you are getting established, setting up a website, paying an accountant and all the other important things that need to be taken care of.

Camera gear to suit your field of photography. Each type of photography requires different equipment. You can save yourself a fortune by choosing the right camera gear for the style of photograph you want to do, that’s where the focus and being clear from the start will help you.  Being a professional photographer and offering your services to clients means that you need to be able to produce over and over again the images in your portfolio. Everybody can take a great photo once but being able to do this over and over again is what will differentiate you from an amateur. Don’t be afraid to do courses, workshops and specialisations and hone your craft before putting yourself under the pressure as a working photographer.

Portfolio and Presentation – You need a red hot portfolio and your work needs to be visible to the public in an online presence of your best work. I am often contacted by young photographers looking for assisting work and often they don’t have an online portfolio where I can see their work. This is our language and it is the language of photography so without this you haven’t got to first base.

Team Up – Find your tribe! Form a community of people in your field that you can work with and help each other. (ie I regularly work with journalists, make-up artists, stylists)

Work Ethic.. Do the right thing. Your work ethic will get you jobs over and over again.  You are only as good as your last job so do what you have promised.

Money streams – There are many alternative ways to earn money as a photographer. As the world of technology, publishing and photography continue to evolve and move quickly there are many ways as well as offering your photographic services to supplement your income including royalties from book or print sales, photo libraries and agents on-selling your photographic stories.

Photographer’s Agents – To be respresented or not?  It is a photographers’s personal choice if they want to be represented by an agent and particularly important if you want to eventually access high end advertising clients. Depends on where you want to go and how you want to live your life, you will need a polished portfolio.

Social Media – Marketing your work is of great importance to a photographer. Social media gives you access to the world, having an online presence is vital. Start with one social media such as Facebook or Instagram if you feel it’s too overwhelming.

Set Backs – If you know from the beginning that there will always be humps in the road. What’s important is how to handle them, to turn a negative into a positive.

Pricing, Paperwork and Model releases.. Uggh the thought of paperwork.Who would have ever thought that there would be so much to think about as a photographer. This is a vital part of life as a working photographer. Paperwork covers your back and makes everything clear upfront. PUT IT IN WRITING.

Keeping Accounts – As I mentioned in point 3 if you plan to work as a photographer you need to be clear that this is a business as much as a creative art. You need to know how to keep accounts and run a business.

Have fun – This is one of the most important things we need to hold onto. We started in this photography thing because we love images. Great images come in fun atmospheres and through people doing what they love. Never stop taking the pictures that come from your heart.

I hope this helps you with some things to think about so when you start it will be clear sailing..

If you have a question please leave it in the comments section and I will do my best to answer it.

You may enjoy this interview with fashion photographer Mario Testino on how he got started

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” Aaron Siskind


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Your Photography Career – Freedom vs Security

Collezioni Sposa Night running Carla Coulson

Collezioni copyright Carla Coulson

Ever felt like running away to join the circus? Whoops… I actually did.

I am sure many of you have been overcome with feelings at some stage of wanting to just pack it all in and run off and do something you love? Kiss your boss goodbye forever, toss your high heel shoes and tight skirt in the bin and slam-dunk the bundy card forever.

I crocodile wrestled with this feeling for years (the packing it in bit)..and then eventually my world imploded and I left.

I was having a chat with Francesco (super cute hubby)  the other night (yep he wants to join the circus, I am thinking Lion tamer) about him eventually switching careers.

My darling architect is studying to be a Geobiologist (study of the earth’s and man-made energies and it’s effect on your health) and he always feels there is never enough time in the day/night to study what he loves and yearns for more ‘time’.

We got into a fabulous discussion about Freedom vs Security and I am the first person to support his eventual career change but baby everything has it’s time.

We both agreed that it ‘appears’ the more freedom you have the less security you have and vice versa.  I had plenty to say on this topic about making your ‘freedom more secure’.

Francesco is a tiny bit green with envy each day as he leaves home to go to his day job and leaves me to get on with my work day. I secretly think he thinks I swan through the day from one coffee to the next , kick back on the sofa with super kitty but you all know that isn’t so.

Francesco doing zorba Astylpalia

Francesco doing a happy dance in Greece copyright Carla Coulson

Let’s look at some concepts of:



Regular income

Daily structure


Someone creating the work for you

Paid holidays


Repetitive Routine

Times not yours

Settling for a job you don’t necessary love



Work your own hours

Do the work you love

No boss or office politics

More free time


No regular income

No structure

You need to find clients and create the work

Bookkeeping and accounts

Find a balance between not enough and too much work

Work on your own

happy dance CARLA COULSON

Of course these lists are stereotypes of what Freedom and Security mean to the individual but it has been my goal from the beginning of my photography career to make my career and life as ‘secure’ as possible.

I too crave security. There are many things that come with freedom that can be unsettling like not enough money to pay the rent (been there- scary) but there is nothing so rewarding as doing something you love.

Here’s How I Did It

1. Structure/Work Routine. Once I had my photography skills at a good level and wanted to start working I created a ‘work’ routine. I decided on when I would start work each day and when I would finish and this gave my day, week and life a sense of structure. Even in the beginning when I didn’t have clients there was still a lot to do like have a great portfolio, understand who would be my clients and research them and how to get in touch with them and I started putting together my own stories. Create a structure that suits you and the way you want to work. Ask your friends and family to respect this and not to just drop in or call whenever they feel like it.

2. Invest in the longterm/Regular Clients. When I started working with magazines my goal was to work with the same magazines over and over again so that they would become regular clients. I knew from having a business that a regular client was worth gold.  I worked with one magazine that pretty much gave me a job each month during the year over a period of almost 10 years. This worked out better than even I could have dreamed of. The other magazines I worked with gave me a job on a regular basis let’s say 3 or 4 times a year over a period of 10 years so you can see already how a pattern of security was building between my 6 favourite magazines. I also worked with other magazines on a not so regular basis as one-off clients. Think about who could be your long-term client and how you can reach them and build a lasting  relationship.

3. Income Streams. One of the reasons I started doing books other than for the love of it was to create additional income streams. The great things about books if they sell well is that they can go on selling for years and create an income stream from royalties. When I published Italian Joy thanks to all you kind folks it was a success so that heartfelt book kept selling and selling and even today almost 10 years later I still receive income from it. I have collaborated on 3 other books and written and photographed 3 of my own so together they have been another patch in my ‘security blanket’. Think about what kind of income streams you could create such as selling prints, e-books or ideas.

4. Market Your Work. It can be hard as a photographer or creative to put yourself out there but I knew from the beginning I was only going to survive if I marketed my work. For me this meant getting in to see key art directors at the magazines I loved and eventually publishers. This was one of my goals in the beginning and I have continued to market my work throughout the years by regularly visiting my clients when in Australia, meeting new contacts and getting involved with social media. Even if you don’t want to work with magazines you can apply this to what you do want to do.

Other ways to make changing your career more secure

Transition – this is one of the most under-rated of all the fabulous moves you can make. Start preparing your career move long in advance, use your steady income to buy equipment, set up websites and create a social media profile. Start doing jobs on the weekend if you can and when you build your confidence and client base, go for it.

Savings – Make a budget of how much you will need to live on for a year or two and work towards having that money set aside before launching your career. You will be free from financial worries in the beginning and can concentrate on being creative and getting where you want to go.

I hope this helps any of you feeling insecure about giving up your day job and flying over to the other side. Leave me a comment below and I promise to get back to you..

“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” Chuck Palahniuk




Please share with other freedom fighters! x 

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Backstage Get Published 2013


All Images by Dee Gerlach

I have been wanting share these images of the behind the scenes from the Get Published Workshop in Sydney last December taken by the fabulous Dee Gerlach since I arrived back in Paris.

Dee is a gorgeous gal, fab photographer with a brilliant eye.


Get Published was held in the ever so groovy ‘The School’ run by super stylist Megan Morton and her husband Giles.

A large photography studio seemed the perfect place for a bunch of wonderful photographers to find out how they could have their images published in books and magazines.


That’s me talking about photographic style and vision and the wonderful group of guys and gals. The morning was devoted to magazines and how they work from every possible angle including my ‘coal face’ experiences working with magazines for 12 years.


Morning tea ready and waiting.


Sharon Misko Creative Director of Inside out joined us again this year and walked the photographers through many topics from the magazines point of view including how to present a portfolio, do’s and don’ts, creating a user friendly website for Art Directors, creating a great story, essential images in a photographic story and how to present to an Art Director.


Sharon Misko Creative Director of Inside Out talks about what makes a story standout.


 Sharon Misko Creative Director of Inside Out critiques some of the participants work for the benefit of everyone.


Listening intently to what Sharon Misko has to say.


 Lunch was catered by Mike’s Kitchen.. Heavenly

Carla-Coulson--Get-Published-Workshop- Yummmm by Mike’s Kitchen


A big afternoon on book publishing and how to have your images or a book idea published.


Waiting for our special guest Katie Quinn Davies of What Katie Ate.


Katie Generously shared her story from self taught food photographer, to winner of the James Beard Award and an International best selling book with What Katie Ate.


Katie chatting with the girls at the end of the workshop


Some of my published work on the pinboards.


A huge thanks to the gorgeous group who participated. It was such a fabulous experience to meet so many wonderful people and to have the opportunity to see their work and hear their dreams.


All images by Dee Gerlach

A little ‘Get Published Booklet’ signing!!

I can’t wait to hear what happens for these photographers this year and I am sure there will be many beautiful stories and books published just like last year.

Athalee Brown and her team did an extraordinary job running the event, heartfelt thanks for all the hard work and delish food.

Many people have asked me whether Get Published will be taught online and it’s in the pipeline for next year so if you would like to get on the workshop list and be the first to be notified you can sign up here.

“I appreciate simplicity, true beauty that lasts over time, and a little wit and eclecticism that make life more fun.” Elliott Erwitt




Please feel free to share

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Backstage at The Picture This Workshop 2014

Picture This Workshop

I am so happy to share with you some behind the scenes pics from the 2nd Edition of Picture This Portrait/Fashion Workshop in Sydney this January.

Twelve great photographers participated, 9 fabulous ‘real’ people models, 2 make-up artists, a stylist, Athalee the super workshop organiser and her assistants, the fab Loc Boyle (super Parisian photographer) and moi. We shared four great days of photography, fun, delicious food and laughter in 3 different locations, snapping, chatting and practising.

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

There were big hair and dresses..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson Gorgeous gals..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

And big smiles..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

There was inspiration..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

And hair and make-up..

_MG_7513Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

And Ironing..

Picture This Carla Coulson Workshop

And a little ‘Saint Tropez’  inspiration..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

Did I mention the laughter?

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

And sailor salutes..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

And Hippy chicks..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

Even freezing still manages to look good..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

More beautiful Hippy chicks..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson


Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

And sirens..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

Day 1.. Theory

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

Waiting for the photographers and the workshop to start..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

Some surprises..

Picture This Workshop Carla Coulson

And loads of photos..

I walked away from this workshop with a smile a mile wide, a heart filled with happiness and re-energised from the positive energy of great people doing what they love.

So my heart felt thanks to everyone who participated, each and everyone of you made these four days unforgettable and to everyone who worked on the workshop.. 21 gun salute to all of you!!

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” David Frost
Love and thanks




PS: If you would like to go on the list for next years workshop please get in touch with us at A place will be reserved for you when the workshop registration opens later in the year..

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Carla’s On Design Sponge Today

Design Sponge Carla Coulson 1 Valery Damon

I have had a ‘blog crush ‘on Design Sponge since I first ran my cursor over their name.

Design Sponge is one of the biggest design blogs on the net full of gorgeous design and style and there are always daily surprises and loveliness to dream about and today I am loving it even more – my interior shoot of stylish Parisian designer Valery Damnon is featured!!

Design Sponge 3 Carla Coulson Valery Damon

Valery has a light filled apartment just near Republique full of delectable Scandinavian design..

design sponge carla coulson valery damon 4

With a balcony I dream of. For more gorgeousness and Parisian drooling check out the full story at Design Sponge.

Merci at Tous!


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