Feature Image by: Richard Johnston

From plumber to pro: Why you should start your photography career today

28th June 2018
Richard Johnston also known now as Lonely Hunter, was a plumber who enjoyed shooting photos in his spare time. Since first picking up a camera Richard had been curious to see how his photography would stand up against the work of his peers, but until two years ago he hadn’t been given the opportunity to find out.

Then in 2016 he entered the Canon Light Awards and things changed. He soon found out his ability deserved to be more than just a pastime. Not only did he top the qualifying brief that he entered, but ended up taking the overall crown as well, winning himself a trip to east Africa in the process.

The following year Richard decided that his plumbing career had run its course, and set off on his new journey as a full-time photographer. A year on from his big leap, we touched base to find out if following your dreams is really a viable alternative to the daily grind.

Landscape image of sand dunes

What pushed you to enter the Canon Light Awards, and what was it like?

Photography was something I enjoyed in my spare time, but I guess there comes a point in any photographer’s journey when you start to wonder if there is value to your work, and how it might stack up against others. Canon's Light Awards was a great platform for me to get the feedback I was looking for.

I’d never entered a photography competition before, and I could never have anticipated actually winning. I remember not being able to wipe the smile off my face when I got the call from Canon informing me that I’d won the 'Wonders of the Sky' brief. I also had no idea that winning meant I’d be in the running to win a trip to Africa.

I always wondered if I had what it took to pursue photography as a career, and winning the Canon Light Awards helped give me the confidence I needed to pursue it full time. It’s given me the opportunity to meet some incredibly talented people, and it’s also proved to be a stepping stone in my career.

If you hadn’t won the competition, would it still have been possible for you to make the career transition?

I think I still would’ve made the transition, but it may have taken a little longer. The whole experience definitely provided me with some opportunities that I otherwise wouldn't have had.

On the trip I had the opportunity to get my hands on some high-end equipment that I’d never used before. I was also given tips from Canon Ambassadors and Masters, which vastly improved my photography and taught me how to best tell a story through imagery.

Portrait image of lion

What were the pros and cons of quitting your plumbing job and following your passion for photography?

The main challenge was figuring out how to make it all work. Trying to get my head around the business side of photography was definitely one challenge. You can go and take photos until the cows come home, but if you’re not marketing yourself correctly and running the business side of things efficiently then people won't know who you are. It takes time and hard work, but it’s very rewarding when you start to succeed. I also love going to work now, and that’s not a feeling I had when I was plumbing.

Is there enough space in the gig economy for everyone to follow their dreams?

I think everyone should follow their dreams at some point. I didn't want to look back in 10 or so years and think to myself, “Why didn't I give it a go?” — even if it doesn't work out in the long run.

If you want it badly enough, then one way or another you will find a way to make it happen.

Landscape image of desert

What have you learnt about working for yourself?

There are definitely some things that are more important than I gave them credit for in the beginning —like networking. I quickly realised that the people you have good connections with can play a huge role in the success of your business.

Another area was time management. I often find myself needing to do two or three different tasks at the same time, which is why you need to be able to work as efficiently as possible in order to get the most out every day.

Push your technical and creative photography skills to the next level at the next Canon Light Award LIVE in Brisbane, 1-2 September.

Photographs by Richard Johnston. You can follow Richard’s adventures on Instagram @lonelyhunter
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