“Since I always put the effort into building a network, I haven’t really had to pitch anything.”

Andrew Wille, Photographer and Content Creator

Credit: Andrew Optics

Before shooting photography professionally, I was working in public relations, doing account management for tech companies. But what got me started in photography was already happening after I graduated college. Initially, I was just looking for another hobby; something else to do to fill my time and to have some fun. I’ve always liked getting outside, going on hikes and picking up a camera, and just being creative. My girlfriend at the time (and now wife) was shooting for Red Bull, which inspired me and was one of the reasons I bought my first camera – which she actually helped me pick out. She showed me a camera she was really excited about and that was about to come out. Once I was ready to get into it, I just went and bought it for myself.

About a year later, we moved up to the San Francisco Bay area, and I would say this was about the time when this whole photography thing just took off for me. I was still working remotely in PR for a small company, mostly from home. So, every day after work, I would just go out and explore the city shooting street photography, cityscape, and landscape. I would eventually meet other photographers and we became friends. And then they brought their friends, I brought my friends and essentially, we just started building a community of photographers. I really liked the idea of photography being a social thing, but the fact that this was something I just truly, really enjoyed. It made me just fall in love with it even more.

So I went outside five days a week, just shooting for fun and sharing my pictures on my social media. Eventually, my account grew and brands started to reach out wanting to do social collaborations, lifestyle shoots, or create other content for their channels. I did have a website where I would offer prints, presets, and workshops, but the majority of the discovery was all through social media, primarily through Instagram. I would start out shooting for free products, but then I would also get small commercial jobs here and there.

I never planned for photography to be my job or anything like that, but over time I just got busier and busier and it turned into working two jobs at the same time. I think I even was a little apprehensive, almost actively not trying to have it be my full-time thing because I was afraid that I would lose the love for it, if that makes sense. But the inbound things just kept happening and happening and it was really cool to get paid to do something I loved. So I couldn´t help to think about it. Eventually, it just made sense to make that switch from PR to doing photography full-time.

Looking back, I definitely could have gone in a more strategic way about it. It was always creativity and all that stuff first; going with the flow and still trying to keep things as casual as possible. I figured out all the other stuff as it was thrown at me, e.g. how to do taxes and file for an LLC. For me, and I’m assuming for most creatives, that’s the most not fun stuff to deal with, but it’s important for sure.

One of the biggest transitions for me was once we moved to Los Angeles, which was a couple of weeks before COVID happened. LA opened things up quite a bit for me in terms of opportunity, timing, and also location. At first, I was doing completely whatever I wanted to, but as soon as I had a client, I obviously had to adhere to certain restrictions, shot lists, and creative direction, which I actually really, really enjoyed because it gave me a sense of direction.

Credit: Andrew Optics

Credit: Andrew Optics

People reached out to me because of a particular style that I have. Coming from a different background that wasn’t commercial or lifestyle, I think it helped me to set myself apart a little bit, especially with the post-production and the editing. I spent quite a lot of time learning all there is to editing and developing my style, using color to tell emotion, and things like that. And I put effort into building a network of creatives which helped me to even land specific jobs in the first place. Los Angeles is full of talented creators and cinematographers and I connected with a few of them pretty quickly. We formed our own small production company, which meant that I got to do a lot more commercial work.

For example, one of my biggest first jobs in LA was with Xbox. I had worked with other big brands before, but on a smaller scale, whereas, with this one, I was acting as the producer, finding all the models, doing the location scouting, and developing the shot list. It had a larger budget, and thanks to my network I was able to bring in a lot of other creators to help me create something amazing. It was just a really cool experience that taught me quite a bit. Just that shoot alone pushed things to the next level — for me as a professional photographer and for our production company. Surrounding myself with talented people that I trust and work well with is very important to me. Now, anytime I’m getting these bigger jobs, especially video-wise, I know I have a solid team that’s able to deliver.

One of my favorite genres is shooting automotive photography. I just recently did a project with Hyundai for their electric vehicles and we were able to go out to Palm Springs and have a full weekend there. They gave me full creative control, which is of course always pretty cool. There are jobs where I have full creative freedom and they don’t even need to approve anything. They trust me that I’m just going to get the deliverables either posted or sent to them however they want. But then there are other companies that want to have a lot more control and want things a certain way. You can always suggest things that you think are going to work better, but you also want to make sure the clients are happy. So it’s just a balance really.

Credit: Andrew Optics

Credit: Andrew Optics

When it comes to pitching these jobs, I’ve been pretty lucky the last couple of years. Since I always put the effort into building a network and my personal brand, I haven’t really had to pitch anything because the inbound has been consistent enough to keep me busy. But I can definitely see that it is getting harder and harder in the industry and photographers have to diversify their expertise. Personally, I do have a photography course, and a mentorship program with one of my business partners. I also helped lead the Bay team of the shooter’s community, a community of creatives that are passionate about connecting and networking with other people in their field. We host events all around the world, and actually just combined the LA and the Bay shooters community to have one big chapter called Cali Shooters. We’ve hosted a couple of events down here, typically with a few 100 to 300 people where we also partner up with companies and do giveaways.

I love where this whole photography journey took me so far, but I honestly know that I have to pay attention to my work-life balance and not be working 100% of my time. I still want to have time for family and friends and all that stuff as well. It is also very important to me to still be able to connect with the reason that made me initially fall in love with photography. I never want to feel like that it´s just work and run the risk of creatively burning out. I still love to be in that creative space, go to the beach, take a camera, connect with other creators, and just have fun shooting.



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