Mobile Photography: How to Turn Your Hobby into a Career

Mobile Photography: How to Turn Your Hobby into a Career

Ballymena photographer and documentarian, Ronan O’Dornan, was given his first camera by his mother when he was eight and, from this moment, he was always taking photographs – capturing people and experiences through a new perspective. He was hooked but didn’t realise then how he could turn his hobby into a career so he threw himself into teaching after graduating from university.

In August 2017, after being involved in a near-fatal crash, Ronan woke up from surgery unable to work, drive or do the one thing he loved more than anything – pick up a camera and take photographs. Having left teaching to pursue a photography career full time just months earlier, Ronan was gutted to lose the momentum he had gained. However, faced with the realisation that he nearly didn’t make it to his 28th birthday, Ronan was now determined to stop at nothing until he achieved success in his new career path

One year on, Ronan is collaborating with Bushmills Irish Whiskey to share his story and inspire others to fulfill their true calling as part of #BlackBushStories, – an event series celebrating the stories and crafts of independent, spirited and extraordinary talent across Ireland. Each collaboration in the series features those who have challenged traditional thinking in their fields and live outside the box, and aim to inspire undiscovered talent to ignite and follow their own individual passions.

Forging a new path can be daunting, but it can be done. Inspired by #BlackBushStories and Ronan’s journey, here are some tips for embracing your own creativity and turning your mobile photography hobby into a career.

1. Start sharing your work

Very often the first step is the hardest when it comes to turning your passion into your career; fear of judgement and fear of failure can stand in the way. So, start with small steps to get the ball rolling.

The easiest way to start getting your work out there is to set up a dedicated photography social media account. This provides a one-stop place for people to view your work, separate to your personal life and identity if you’d prefer. It also helps to establish you as a dedicated, professional photographer and acts as a digital portfolio for others to see.

2. Get tagging!

Tagging showcase pages in your post, such as Irish tourism accounts, amateur photography accounts, and travel accounts is a great way to get featured on their pages which have huge social followings. This will naturally lead people to your own account, increasing your following and providing an opportunity for people to see more of your work.

Tagging other established photographers in your photos and asking them to provide feedback on your work is also a great way to improve your skills, learn from those who have gone before you, and get your name out there, building a reputation among other photographers.

3. Find your niche

Anyone can learn to compose a photograph and throw an Instagram filter on top. In finding what makes your photography unique from the rest, you will create a selling point and build more of a following for your work. This could be how you play around with the composition of your photos, or simply the chosen subjects of your work.

Find your specialty, whether it’s landscapes, portraits, cityscapes, microphotography or night time photography. Honing your skills and pioneering your craft in this way will ensure you’re the go-to photographer in that field. All of a sudden, you will have made a name for yourself and your career will flourish; it’s all about creating an unmistakable style that others will recognise.

4. Keep learning

Learning doesn’t stop. Even for the best photographers. It’s important to continue developing your technique and improve your photography skills, no matter how long you’ve been doing it.

Budding snappers can attend photography workshops to learn a new specialised form of photography, attend editing courses to get the best out of their photos, or simply meet and collaborate with other photographers to see similarities and differences in how each of you work, and to pick up new tips and tricks along the way.

Later this month, Ronan will host a free interactive photography masterclass, ‘Black Bush and Photography’ at House Belfast on Thursday 21st June where he will show attendees how to take great photos on their smartphones with tips and tricks that can be applied straight away, and how to be creative and tell authentic stories through images.

5. Get creative

Photography is creative by nature – so why not push the boundaries? Showcase the unrivalled character of your work and make it jump off the newsfeed with some carefully executed editing. Play with Photoshop. Create cinemagraphs from your still images. Crop them. Filter them. This will give your work an identity and help it stand out on social media. It’s important for your work to have its own identity – don’t be afraid to go beyond the standard snap. You could have a perfectly composed photograph, but on a crowded image platform like Instagram, it needs some extra punch to stand out. That’s where editing comes in to give your snaps unrivalled character and depth.

6. Invest in your passion

The evolution of mobile photography has opened up a creative outlet to everyone, giving us the ability to document people, moments and experiences everywhere we go. With the advancement of features like focused lenses, portrait mode and other specs, everyone has the ability to tell amazing stories through photography.

Additionally, spending a little bit of money on the best editing apps will ensure high quality finished images you’ll want to share, and that others will love, too. It’s a small addition to your photography that makes a big difference.

7. Just go for it

It’s important to fuel your passions in life. They are what motivates you and helps to break the pattern of the mundane. It’s important to make every day count. 40-50 years is a long time to be doing something you don’t want to do. Follow your passion; you don’t have to do the expected and the boring.

Ronan’s advice; “Surround yourself with great and talented people, believe that you can, and never look back.”

8. Get noticed

With a mobile camera, we all have a unique opportunity to capture stories through our own eyes. There are a million untold stories out there; you just have to look in the right places to find them.

Bushmills Irish Whiskey has also collaborated with Ronan to launch an all-Ireland social media competition, whereby budding photographers are encouraged to find a story that moves them and upload their photographs to social media using the hashtag #BlackBushStories. The photograph could be a city, a person, a landscape, a moment or anything else that captures their imagination. A winner from each county in Ireland will be picked and will receive a bottle of Black Bush, with the overall winner also receiving a Sony Xperia XZ2 smartphone and trip to The Old Bushmills Distillery (including an overnight stay at the Bushmills Inn.)

To find out more about Ronan’s journey, the photography competition, and to be in with a chance to attend the exclusive ‘Black Bush and Photography’ event, visit Alongside the interactive masterclass, guests will enjoy a tasting session on some of Bushmillsbest-loved whiskeys plus a selection of specially-created Black Bush drinks. To join in the conversation and keep up to date with the #BlackBushStories series, follow Bushmills Irish Whiskey on social media on Facebook @BushmillsIRL and Instagram @Bushmills_IRL.

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