In the spotlight: Pauline Darley’s 8 tips for the soon-to-be professional photographer | Profoto (CA)

In the spotlight: Pauline Darley’s 8 tips for the soon-to-be professional photographer

19 June, 2017

Written by: Pauline Darley

In the spotlight is an article series featuring up-and-coming shutterbugs that are about to put their mark on the world. In this third and final feature with beauty and fashion photographer Pauline Darley, she shares her 8 things to think about when you are on your way to becoming a young photographic entrepreneur.

Girl in flower dress against green background, shot by Pauline Darley.
Smiling girl, shot by Pauline Darley.


I started working in photography early – I was 20 years old when I became a professional photographer and I have learned a lot in the past 7 years. I have been thinking long and hard about the tips I would like to give anyone who aspires to become a professional photographer.


Work, work, work

For me, working hard is the key. Being a photographer often means working freelance. We are lucky enough to be able to arrange our own photo shoots, so get creative! When I was starting out, I took photos every day and edited them the same evening. This is how I have worked for years, and I think it’s really helped me to progress. I tried out different lighting, different compositions, different environments to find my style. I don’t think you should ever settle for what you’re doing now – even if it works you always have to think about growing and developing. So here’s my advice: whenever you have a few days off, arrange some photo shoots!

Girl in glasses against green background, shot by Pauline Darley.


Work with others

Contract negotiation, managing orders and so on aren’t skills you’re born with, especially when dealing with a complicated administrative system. Don’t be afraid to pay someone to manage all that for you (it’ll save you a lot of stress!), and learn from other photographers. Ask for their advice and their help. It’s important to have a good network around you – good friends, a good team who you can rely on and who you can trust. For me, a good team is the secret of a good photo shoot.

Be organized

This is an essential for me. Keep on top of your emails, your files, your hard drives, your photo shoots. There’s too much to say in just a few lines but you’ve got to be organised to make progress.

Girl in pink blouse, shot by Pauline Darley.

Do what you want to do

I don’t know if there is really one “trick” to becoming a successful photographer; for me, my trick is to always do what I want to do. I photograph a huge range of subjects – some natural, others more eccentric; in a studio, outdoors; portraits, fashion, beauty and so on – but I love it all! And I never wanted to settle on one thing. I need to try things out. I do what I want to do in the moment. Clients will want certain things and maybe fate is playing a part in my career path, but I’ve stopped wondering about that for now. One piece of advice I would give is to please yourself above all else! Don’t take photos for other people, do it just for yourself.


Close up of beauty model, shot by Pauline Darley.

The lows

There are two of these for me: the first is when your confidence takes a dive. We rarely like our own work – it happens to everyone and it’s not that big a deal. The best thing to do is to challenge yourself, to always push yourself further. Don’t spend too much time thinking things over and just act instead. The second low is when there are dips in demand, at certain times of year it can be difficult to work in the way you’d want to (during the holidays, etc.), but take that time for yourself, get away, think about ideas for photo shoots.

Woman in brown dress, shot by Pauline Darley.

Know when to get away

Be able to say stop and take a break so you can recharge your batteries, and find or rediscover your inspiration. It’s very important but also very difficult to manage as a freelancer.

Try new things

Because that’s how you learn about yourself and how you can develop. Try new lighting, different compositions, different environments. Step outside your comfort zone and see what happens. Maybe it’ll be a complete disaster or maybe you’ll be surprised! You have to give it a go before you know. Learn the basics and then try them out. One step after another. And always remind yourself that you’re allowed to fail, you have to allow yourself that.

Woman in blouse with Asian patterns, shot by Pauline Darley.

Be yourself

I don’t think that it’s necessarily a stupid idea that you have to change yourself to advance in life. What I mean is, to begin with, I was aware that I am quite a reserved photographer – I’m an introvert and that’s just who I am. I could never change that, so I worked on myself, on my strong points so I could adapt my personality to suit my work.

Written by: Pauline Darley