James Andrews On Having A Full Time Hobby
“After a seemingly random decision to pick up a camera, I studied it for a few years at college before progressing on to get my degree at the University of Bolton. University was a great opportunity to focus on my craft and build up relationships with contacts without having to worry about making it work financially. The month before I finished my degree I registered as self-employed and haven’t look back since that was 4 years ago,” explains James.
From one Northern Powerhouse to another; James Andrews was born and raised in the home of the Liver Bird and travelled the 35 miles down the M62 to Manchester, where he lived and studied for three years. The passionate traveller and lover of visiting new countries and cultures is an architectural, aerial and portrait photographer. Making a living from snapping apartment buildings, workspaces and everything in-between.
Taking these images within the property sector was never planned route for James; “I kind of just fell in to working within the property industry.” However, the Liverpool born lad has always been someone drawn to photographing architecture and was out in the streets doing so long before getting a pay cheque for it. Eventually, the products of this hobby started to be noticed and the ball got rolling, taking the photographs from an enjoyable past time and making it a career path. Although James is passionate about this niche, he explains “it’s important to remain open and flexible to other commissions and genres.” Frequently working on commissions, it allows the photographer to lend his talent to varying subjects. And as an architectural specialist, he feels this type of photography lends itself well to many other areas of the vocation.
Staying on the subject of ‘niches’, I ask; is having one helpful when it comes to the world of freelance? To which he replied, “it definitely helps”. As many of James’ clients work alongside one another on various projects, it results in his work being spread far and wide, being seen by the right people. Additionally, he explains “a niche is usually what you are most passionate about, and it shows in the final result”. Which when we go full circle, is paramount when clients see them within the property when clients see it.
This passion presents itself when looking toward the newest technology in the industry too. Keen to keep up to date with “the usual sources online” means that James is often amongst the first to hear about an exciting new technology relating to his field. As a result, it’s not uncommon for clients to suggest a new approach for the photographer to have already started doing it the week before! Thinking back to technology advances, “A couple of years ago, when drones first started to enter the industry, I jumped on the opportunity to offer that as another option. It ties in well with my niche and I still can’t believe that I get to fly a camera around the sky!”
In such an interesting line of work, it’s difficult to imagine how the typical day pans out for somebody completing this job role. “As boring as it sounds, the weather plays a big part in what I do. Finding the suns position and identifying the weather outlook for the day is the first step to almost all of my jobs. Once I’ve checked that and scheduled, or usually rescheduled with our climate, then there are all of the other little details that come with running a business – that’s before I’ve even picked up a camera.” As we know, being self-employed means you go where the work is. Therefore, anywhere from John O’Groats to Lands End is a potential and often a large proportion of James’ day is taken up with travelling to the working destination.
With such busy days no doubt flying by, personal projects have momentarily taken a back seat in the architectural enthusiast’s life. Surprisingly, when working on assignments outside of paying clients, James often centred them on people rather than buildings. “While living in Manchester, a couple of my projects focused on photographing strangers I met on the street. I used these projects to help push me out of my usual comfort zone”; and this notion, in terms of self-development, is a one-way ticket to progression, both personally and professionally.
To round up our chat, James provides some advice for other freelancers; whether a photographer or a designer. “If I was to give some advice it would be to focus on the people you are working with as much as the work that you are creating together. It’s really important to build positive relationships with everyone you meet or work with; having the talent and experience to do a job well is the bare minimum, you have to be able to enjoy working with your clients and vice versa.”