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Graduate blog: my life as a freelance photographer

Dibs McCallum completed his BA (Hons) Photography and graduated from MA Photography in 2018.  Dibs shares his journey from starting photography to life as a freelancer, working at Norwich-based FXhome and ambassador for Formatt Hitech Filters and Slik Tripods. 

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I didn’t really discover photography until I was around 30 years old and unfortunately was rather ill. I was advised to get a camera to photograph my time with my daughter who had just been born and from that, I discovered a passion for photography as an art. 

Prior to my studies, I was already working as a photographer in Norfolk and further afield. Norfolk has a thriving art and music scene, so I was able to shoot a mass variety of events, festivals and sports events and whatever else really took my fancy. Throughout my studies, my client base grew and I was also offered an ambassadorship with one of the companies whose equipment I use to make my own work. 

I believe growing my client base like this and creating opportunities is down to constantly networking with various people, being present online and just helping people out – I did this when I was starting up and still do to this day. It’s nice to be nice and if you do it while at work, it makes being at work fun.

My time spent studying at NUA was really important as it taught me a lot about the current industry and where my practice sits within that. It also allowed me the time to experiment with various styles of photography business models over the 5 years to ensure I came out of my comfort zone but also had a good idea of what I wanted to do work-wise. 

Yes, I learnt a lot about practical photography, style, working with clients and real-world experiences from guest lecturers, but for me the most important thing I took from my time at NUA was the encouragement from the mixed cohort of staff who helped me discover who I was as an artist. 

In late 2018 / early 2019, I made the decision to follow my main passions in photography and to no longer shoot for every single client who wanted to pay me to shoot for them. Instead, I decided I was going to shoot what I wanted to shoot and what I love most.

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I now mainly shoot traditional landscapes, wounded landscapes and a few other of my personal interests such as festivals and live performances, Urbex and a few sporting events. I also teach landscape photography to amateur and intermediate level students around the UK.

Since early 2019 I have been working full time for a software company called FXhome based here in Norwich. I am the technical support for the photo and video editing programs and also work in QA for the photo and editing program the company makes. In this role, I am regularly testing and editing with my own stills and moving image, so it is great to be able to work on it at all times. This amazing role allows me to fund my personal projects and have the security to take on the commissions I am most passionate about.

My weekends are then spent running workshops either locally or in Kent, North Scotland or Wales. When I run each workshop, I  also spend a given amount of time on my own shooting time at these locations.

I sometimes have to pinch myself to remind me of how lucky I am to have found this role and to be doing what I do. I did not expect to be here 5 years ago, but I could not imagine doing anything differently now. Every day is varied, I am being creative and helping people nearly every day of the week. Although they are not a client, I feel very lucky and have a lot of opportunities to train further in my role at FXhome and learn about the world of software.

Looking forward, I would love to shoot a massive landscape series for something crazy like National Geographic or run workshops for one of the big tour companies. 

View more of Dibs’ work on his website and Instagram

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