Name: Claire Pepper
Job title: Freelance Photographer
Time in current role: 9 years
Claire is a London-based fashion photographer. Visit her website here.
Why did you decide to go freelance?
I went freelance straight out of uni so I’ve never had a full-time job. I think it was easier that way as it would have been hard to make the move once I had got used to a regular salary! I was inspired by photographers I met when I was studying and I wanted to pursue a similar lifestyle.
What are the key functions of your role?
Obviously shooting photos for clients, but there’s a lot more involved. Alongside pre and post production on shoots I have to do everything to keep my business running as well. So everything from castings, meetings, location scouting and retouching to tax, looking for new clients, maintaining my equipment, tidying up my studio and so on.
Talk us through your typical working day
The great thing about my job is that there is no typical day – which I LOVE! On a shoot day I normally have an early start and will head to my studio to set up or to pick up my kit which I have normally prepped the night before if I’m shooting on location.
The beginning of a shoot is normally quite chilled – we discuss the hair and make up brief and then me and my assistant will set up lighting and do test shots. Unless it’s a particularly hectic day we’ll always have a break for lunch which is a good time to catch up with the team if we haven’t already had time to chat. We’ll normally finish shooting at around 6pm and then I’ll head back to my studio to unload my kit and back up all the shots. If I’m having a very busy week I might have to then work late to catch up on emails or work for other clients.
If it’s not a shoot day I normally try and do some exercise in the morning – a run, indoor cycle or swim. I go to my studio to work most days as it’s helpful to get out of the house and I have a better desk setup there with a big screen for retouching. My day might include post production on images I’ve shot, researching models or locations for an upcoming shoot, emailing or meeting up with clients, or working on marketing such as my website and newsletter. If I’m very busy with retouching I’m guilty of eating at my desk with my eye on the clock, and sometimes if I have a lot of retouching I also have to work late. I’ve tried to outsource this part of the job but unfortunately I’m too much of a perfectionist and control freak and normally end up just doing it myself, even though it does take up an awful lot of time.
Your favourite part of the job?
I love shooting outside on location, as long as the weather is good of course, and working with small brands and seeing them develop over time. I also love working with creative art directors and talented teams and bouncing off those people. Lastly, I enjoy the freedom that being freelance affords me, and the feeling of control that it gives me over my life.
…and the part you could do without?
Quiet periods where I think I’ll never be hired for another job again! But (pretty much) everyone has these, so it’s important to have a supportive network of other photographers to help you realise that.
When clients don’t pay, that sucks. I recently had a client go into administration owing me a lot of money, and there was nothing I could do.
How would your clients describe you in three words?
Hopefully they would say I’m creative, easygoing and hardworking.
Plans for the future?
This is an interesting question for me as I feel like I’m at a point in my career where I’m really happy with how things are going but not sure what the next steps are. I’d like to work on bigger and better (budget) jobs but at the same time I really love working with small brands and wouldn’t want to lose that. I’d like to travel more and that’s a goal I’ve started to fulfil this year. The traditional next step would be to look for an agent, but I think the industry’s changing and that’s becoming less important, plus I’ve heard so many horror stories about agents! But I think some of those bigger doors are difficult to open without representation.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring freelancers?
Your portfolio and your network are the most important things to build, but both of these take time, so you have to be patient. Concentrate on doing good work and being nice to people and things will pick up over time.
Pursue the things you have a genuine passion for and you’ll be more successful! I spent ages trying to be a trendy fashion photographer, and then I realised I’m actually much more into riding my bike and running marathons. Now I have loads of sportswear clients who I really enjoy working for. LLY