How to Start a Photography Business [Interview - Nicole King]

Post by Open Colleges on March 05th, 2017

Have you ever considered moving into a new industry? Or maybe you’re thinking about the first steps to opening your own business? So - what’s stopping you from having the career you really want? 

The simplest way to kick-start your journey is by learning a new skill. More people are studying than ever before, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in five Australians aged 15 to 64 were enrolled in a course during the last year.

It’s common for people switching careers to find that they need to retrain or upskill. Learning more on a subject that you’re passionate about can often help encourage you to find the extent of your ability. 

How creative passion led to a career change

Pictured: Nicole King with her family 


Nicole King realised that returning to a full working week after maternity leave was no longer the right option for herself or her young family. To pursue her interest in Photography, Nicole enrolled with Open Colleges and transformed her passion into a successful business.

“After having my second child, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I had been getting help and was feeling proactive about going back to work, except I was hoping for a healthier work-life balance. I needed the flexibility to get on top of everything while raising my two sons, who are one and five, only I was turned down when I approached my employers about returning on a part-time basis.

“That's when I started to think about changing my career. I'm 41 and my background is in media sales so I guess it seemed strange to my family and friends. I’ve always enjoyed working with bigger companies, so I felt like people were thinking, ‘How, at this age, can you give up and start something new?’

“My husband asked me, ‘What do you want to do? What would make you happy?’ I thought about this for a little while, and I kept coming back to my love for photography. I've always loved taking pictures.

The first photography job

Black and white photo of child in rain, Nicole's first photography job
Image credit: Nicole King


“Then, an old friend of mine got in touch. She was earning extra money as a freelance photographer except recently all her camera gear had been stolen. She explained her situation, and told me that she’d been following a lot of the photos I had been posting to Facebook and was keen to refer me for a job.

“The job was a photo shoot with a marketing company who were producing a website on behalf of a local vet. It took her some time to convince me, but I did it, and I couldn’t believe that I got paid! They asked me to send an invoice, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god. I need to send an ABN. I guess this means I'm in business!’

“I knew this was exactly what I wanted. I began searching for courses that would improve my skills and help me start my photography business. I got on my computer and found the Open Colleges website. I came across the Certificate IV in Design (Photography) course, and I was surprised that I could do it online. I loved that I could study in my own time at home, and that suited me so well with my two kids.

Setting up a photography business

Nicole King - Start a photography business
Image credit: Nicole King


“Before I began the course, digital photography was new to me. Completely new. I studied a design degree at UTS back in the 90s, but I only took photography for a couple of years. I had a manual camera where we developed, and processed film and prints in a darkroom, which now seems like the pre-historic days! This was very different. It felt like I was totally retraining myself.

“I had never used Photoshop or any other Adobe programs, so I was impressed by how practical the course was. We were taught how to set up our own website, and had help creating a Facebook business page. Everything you needed to become a photographer was included. I just didn't expect that. 

“I had been volunteering at my son’s school taking photos of the school plays, which I also used for some of my Photography assessments. A few of the mums had seen my work, and when I announced I was starting a photography business, they started asking me to photograph their kids.

“At first, I was taking their pictures for nothing, just for the experience. I thought as a student I wasn’t good enough to be charging but I eventually spoke about it with my course trainer who helped me find the confidence to begin charging for my work. 

“I added a small fee and I was surprised to still be getting bookings. As I became more experienced, I kept increasing my retainer and now I’m shooting group portraits, birthdays and many other family milestones.

Learn more about the employment outlook for a Photographer here.

What’s next for Nicole?

Boy and dog playing at beach - Nicole King photography
Image credit: Nicole King


“Over the next few years, I’d love to build up a better website where I could allow my clients to access and purchase their photos online. I think it’s important to show people what I do and what my style is. At the moment, I’ve created a website from a free template, which I didn’t even know existed until I did the course! It’s been wonderful learning about all these resources, and I just want to continue Photography as a business for the rest of my life. 

This has been my big career change, and I can't believe I've done it because – it just happened this way! I didn't expect it at all, and it’s been sincerely life changing.”

By learning practical skills, Nicole has applied her expertise for capturing unique moments in life and naturally, her enthusiasm has become a magnet for attracting customers. Visit Nicole’s Facebook page here.

Studying online at your own pace, in whichever location you want to be is entirely possible. While changing careers is a big life move regardless of your age, find out what’s important to you. What are the skills you enjoy, and what you are good at? What sort of working environment do you think you'll be happy in? Brainstorming your ideal situation can be the best way to take action. 

Discover an online photography course that allows you to fit study around your lifestyle today, or download a free course guide via the form below.

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