We live in a visual age. Back in 2012, photography community Fstoppers reported that an estimated 3.5 trillion photos had been taken since the invention of the camera. In 2017 alone, we took over 1.2 trillion.

At the heart of this eye-opening trend is the rise of the smartphone. Every year, we’re introduced to a dozen new flagship handsets which rival traditional cameras. There was a time when people owned a smartphone and a separate camera. For most people, the smartphone has replaced traditional cameras.

Photo sharing sites like Instagram have allowed many aspiring photographers to get noticed and make the move from amateur to professional. But in an online world filled with photos, how can you stand out from the crowd?

We asked three professionals who’ve used Instagram to help turn their passion into fulltime careers.

  • Find something that defines you

Neil Andrews, a greeting cards salesman turned jet setting photographer says: “It’s really important to find something that helps you stand out from the crowd. When I go out shooting, virtually every day now, I wear a hat because that’s what people recognise me for. It may seem like a trivial thing, but it’s like my personal branding.”

  • Immerse yourself in the world

When Neil joined Instagram in 2011, he became an active community member. Treating it as a continual learning process has been key to his success. “Learn editing techniques. Look into editing apps. Talk to people. Go on photo walks with people, maybe go to some talks. Learn new things. It’s great because it’ll change your perspective on how you see the world around you.”

  • Find a new perspective

Neil Andrews is known for his urban photography. He finds new angles to take pictures of familiar landmarks like London’s St Paul’s cathedral. Using lines created by buildings, he sets up his composition to use these ‘leading lines’ to draw the viewer into the picture. “Take as many photos as you can from different angles” he says. “The beauty of today’s devices is that they can store loads of images that can easily be deleted, so take lots of shots until you catch something special.”

  • Keep persevering

“The difference between success and failure is finding your own style and sticking at it” says professional photographer Bal Bhatla, a former advertising man who started on Instagram taking photos of his daily commute. “Don’t follow trends. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. You’re on your own, personal journey that you have to pursue. It’s a long journey and there are no shortcuts.”

  • Find the right light

The style that has defined Bal’s work is his low light urban photography. “Find a light source. It could be a street lamp, a lit shop front, or even the reflection in a puddle. That should give you an interesting image.”

  • Take pictures you’re passionate about

Vicky Grout started off taking her camera to music gigs in London as a teenager. Since then she’s become the go-to photographer for the Grime scene, taking pictures of the likes of Stormzy and Skepta. You’ll find her photos splashed across the front cover of Time Out and music magazine, Fader. She attributes this success to her love of music – seeing her photography career as an almost accidental bi-product: “If you’re not passionate, it will come through in your work and people will see that. And you’ll get bored of it very, very quickly.”

  • Don’t be too self-critical

While sites like Instagram have made it easier than ever to share your work, that doesn’t stop people from doubting their own ability. Vicky Grout counsels us to ignore the little devil on your shoulder. “I know so many amazing artists who torture themselves over their work and never put anything out – and nobody sees it. Don’t be overly critical of yourself and your work.”

To learn more from Neil, Bal and Vicky, check out their video tutorials and interviews on O2 Sessions.


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