My Career: Picture perfect passionate job

Alison Miles, OSM Photography & Visual Solutions tells us about her career
My Career: Picture perfect passionate job
Photographer and Digital Media Consultant, Alison Miles, pictured near her Cork home at Ahakista, West Cork. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM PHOTO

Name: Alison Miles, OSM Photography & Visual Solutions

Age: 30-40!

Lives: Dublin and West Cork.

Job title: Freelance Photographer & Media Consultant.

Education background: Bachelor of Arts Business Marketing & Diploma in Photography.

Hobbies: The Arts, walking, travel, skiing, sailing.

Describe your job in five words: Creative, challenging, demanding, diverse, sociable.

Describe yourself in five words: Ambitious, authentic, honest, independent, open-minded.

Personality needed for this kind of work? Someone who is not afraid of hard work, a good communicator with social interpersonal skills. Confidence in one’s own ability and having the business chops is advantageous, especially if self employed.

How long are you doing this job? Over four years.

How did you get this job? I grew up in north county Dublin and was always drawn to the performing and visual arts. From the age of four I performed on stage and was good at drawing. I got to skip quite a lot of classes at school because I’d be asked to do the artwork such as backdrops for stage where I’d also end up performing. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school and then it was a very different world when it came to career opportunities. I’m very independent so started working to make money so I could move away from home and pay for college, but always kept my toe in the water creatively and this evolved into photography when I invested in a good camera.

After a corporate career in media advertising sales for 15 years, I left my job as head of direct sales and with a business marketing degree and a passion for photography, I headed out to start my own business.

I made decisions on a personal level that changed my life and in 2015 I went out on my own, literally, in every sense of the word. I have no regrets and I have learnt so, so much about myself, about life, what is important and equally what’s not important. Integrity and authenticity are very important to me.

Being an entrepreneur is nail-biting stuff but very liberating, all at the same time. It is not for most people, but it was something I just had to do. So I asked myself how could I combine my experience in media with my passion for photography into a business offering. That’s exactly what I did and I’m now a freelance commercial photographer and media consultant, one half of OSM Photography & Visual Solutions, with photographer Michael O’Sullivan, and we run our commercial brand from Dublin and Cork with a studio in Cork city, Studio Danu. We travel the country and abroad for commissioned work.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? All the qualifications in the world cannot beat practical work and life experience. With continuous learning in photography and the need to keep up with technology, the more practical experience, the better you will be as a photographer, providing you have the eye for photography and business acumen to begin with. It’s not about how good the camera and equipment are, it’s about the person behind the camera and how they use it.

Describe a day at work: Preparing for a shooting means getting equipment ready the day before. On the day of the shoot there is much preparation time needed, whether it’s in the studio or on location. Liaising and communicating with the client on everything relating to the shoot, travelling time and pre-shoot arrival time are all important. Then there’s the actual shoot and afterward it’s about the post- production work hours and delivery of the images to the client. Other days it’s about working on the Mac on images and delivery. Only a small percentage of time is spent behind the lens, less than 30%, so the rest of the time is actually spent wearing all the other hats necessary to successfully run a business, from marketing, invoices, printing, networking, meeting clients, correspondence and so on. Both working in and on the business are equally important.

How many hours do you work a week? a photographer’s hours vary considerably and can be unsociable at times. One of the advantages of working for oneself is choosing what type of photography work one wants and/or needs to do and the number of hours required.

Is your industry male or female dominated? Photography has traditionally had more male photographers than female photographers in the industry.

Does this affect you in any particular way? Not for me. Men and women have different points of view and have a different ‘eye’ so it’s good being a female in an industry that has more male photographers.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: It can be. Photographers need light, space and time to assist with doing a good job but these elements are not always there or made readily available so it can become even more challenging to achieve and deliver good images, especially for clients and their briefs. Scale can be anywhere from 1-10+!

Do you work with others or on your own? Both. When you are working as a freelancer you can shoot on your own and some shoots require working with another photographer or videographer. Collaboration is good when working as a creative.

Best bits: Working for oneself and being your own boss. Every single day is never the same. Getting to travel, meeting all walks of life, visit interesting and beautiful places and ultimately live an authentic life. I’m very, very lucky… I’ve the best of both worlds living and working between the two cities and the Wild Atlantic Way.

Worst bits: Sole traders and small to medium sized businesses will tell you not getting paid on time and chasing invoices are one of the biggest challenges with running a business. Cash flow is key for any good business to survive.

Advice to those who want your job? There are a few perceptions about photography and a photographer’s life. One is that it’s glamorous, all the glamour is in front of the lens and a lot of hard work. Another perception is that creatives love what they do so it is not work for them and therefore they don’t need to be paid adequately to earn, what is for the professional photographers, their full time living and only income.

Any other comments? There have been companies based abroad attempting to get photographers in Ireland on board for their photography services. They want all the benefits of freelancers but are determining the rates with the end user. These rates are low as if the photographer is an employee. This is not good for part-time people who do photography in their spare time and who have a job, and more importantly not good for the full time professional photographer trying to run an expensive business. Ultimately, it’s not good for photographers and the industry anywhere in the world.

Photography, like any creative career, should be treated the same as any professional career, this needs to be considered to be the norm in Irish society. We’ve still a way to go though…

For more contact (0)87 8250-722 or (0)86 173-9875. Email photography@osmcommercial.com. See www.osmcommercial.com

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