When I was at university I was running the photography society, and there was something I was lusting after, I wanted a digital camera. A shiny digital SLR. There was just one problem, money! They were the newest, latest thing and were expensive. Canon’s D30, was the only option (this was back in 2000 or thereabouts), and was retailing for about £3,500 in the UK at the time. Way way beyond the means of a poor student. But there are always options
My lab partner from a previous year had got himself the job of editor of the student newspaper, and was being very successful. He was simplifying a lot of the slower, time consuming ways the newspaper was put together (mostly that meant getting more volunteers in so he had to write less), but one thing that was still really slowing them down was putting photos in the news paper – taking the photos, getting them developed in a 24 hour lab, choosing the right photos, scanning them etc. He also had one other issue, as a result of being so successful they had quite a large surplus of cash and limited options on what they could spend it on, as there were strict rules imposed by the university.
It really did make a lot of sense for them to switch to doing their photography digitally, so it wasn’t at all difficult to persuade him to invest some of their cash into a new shiny D30. We agreed that the photography society would help out getting good photos for the newspaper (including a brief series of semi-naked portraits - but that is another story). In return, trusted members of the photography society would have the option of borrowing the camera from time to time.
At the same time that this was happening. I also met the captain of the university dance team, he was a keen photographer and had been taking photos (on film) at dance competitions. A thankless task as so few photos come out as keepers. He talked me into coming and taking photos of his team. So I grabbed the new D30, and hopped on a coach (leaving a 4am) to get to the dance competition, and start taking photos.
I shot over 600 photos that day (that would have cost £200 in film and processing costs had I been using film), and threw away almost all of them. I think I found 5 or 6 I liked!
The next day I got an email from the team captain. Could the people on the team get hold of the photos, it didn’t matter how good they photos were! They wanted to use them as training aids, to look at their technique etc. So I went back to the full set of 600, and cut it down to the 150 or so I was willing (begrudgingly) to let other people see.
There were no websites for sharing photos back then. Flickr didn’t exist, Facebook hadn’t even launched. So I went out and brought 60 blank CDs, and sat at my computer, for hours burning a copy of the photos onto each CD. I then asked people to pay me £1 for a CD, to cover the cost of the blank CD. One or two people refused to give me just £1, instead giving me £3 or so. I started to realise that there might be a way to make a bit of spending money doing this.
Over the next few years, I raised my prices to £3 per CD, and repeated this many many times (I built an archive of 10s of thousands of dance photos). Slowly I put all the profits I made into a fund and watched it grow, slowly, as my time at university passed.
As the time went on, new cameras came out, and the prices started to drop. It took me 3 years, but at the end of it – I had enough money in my fund to afford the newest, latest SLR
So that’s the story of how I got started in event photography. I began to understand that there is a demand for these photos. When someone puts a huge amount of time, and energy and effort into training for something (as the student dancers were), they want photos. They want them for training, they want them for memories.
How did you get started taking photos of events? Or are you just looking to get started? Tell me your story in the comments below…