Author: Fred Burrow

5 Tips To Help Get You Into Photography

a large flat lay of lots of professional camera equipment

Getting into photography can be a daunting prospect for beginners. There are 101 different cameras to choose from, each with 10 times as many available lenses, and a seemingly unending array of features and settings to get your head around. Many people are also stopped in their tracks by the costs of photography, which are admittedly eye-watering to the uninitiated.

All these combined lead many people to simply give up on the journey to becoming a photographer, but today I’m going to share with you the advice I wish I had been given when starting out that will help get you out there capturing the world how you see it, and hopefully getting paid to do so!

While I’ve arranged these tips in order as best I can, everyone’s experience will be different. It is best therefore to take them all on board and use this article as a platform to launch your own learning and see where your journey takes you.

#1 – Getting a Camera

Now this may seem like the obvious place to start out in photography but for many it is also the first major hurdle they face. Nice cameras aren’t cheap, it’s as simple as that. There are ways around it though and if buying a dedicated camera simply isn’t possible for you right now you can try learning the basics of photography on your phone! 

If you are in a position to buy your first camera there are two schools of thought you can go down: buy nice or buy twice. Both have their merits, and in the long run both probably cost about the same, but we’ll take a deeper look into each of them.

Buy Nice

a large flat lay of lots of professional camera equipment

Now this is definitely the option for those either with a large budget for their hobbies, or someone looking to make photography their profession. If you have a few thousand pounds to spare then buying nice gives you the option to learn on professional grade equipment and means you won’t have to then be incrementally improving your rig over the span of several years.

If you are choosing to spend this amount as an amateur then it is vital that you do your research and futureproof your setup as much as possible, you don’t want to have to spend 4 or even 5 figure sums twice because you made a mistake! A good place to start will be with a full frame mirrorless camera like the Sony A9 or Canon’s new EOS R5.

With a nice camera body in your hands, you then want to invest in a matching lens. When starting out there is no need to go crazy and buy every lens you can, but it is important to invest in quality glass. Sony, Canon and Nikon all have their own line of professional lenses and to get the best out of your expensive new camera, it’s best practise to marry it with lenses by the same manufacturer.

Buy Twice

In many other cases buying twice is seen as the lesser option, but in photography it can be an excellent way to get into the craft early and begin honing your skills so that when you do build up to the expensive end of the gear spectrum you will already be at a level to use those cameras as they were intended.

canon eos 80d with a 50mm wide lens

One of the best ways to start out is to buy second hand, and learn on cropped sensor DSLRs. The advantage of buying second hand is that you get considerably more for your money than buying retail. 

Take the example of this Canon 4000D available at Currys. For £420 you are getting Canon’s most basic camera, a basic kit lens, and an entry level portrait lens, all of which you will probably replace within your first year of shooting. You could instead spend the £420 on a Canon 70D from a site like mpb.com, which is a far superior camera right at the top end of Canon’s amateur line and just below their professional series. While it might be a few years older and already loved by another owner, the technology inside it still far outstrips the new entry level cameras and so is a much wiser way to spend your money.

When trying to spend your money as wisely as possible it is important to invest in the lenses and not in the camera body. New shooters often get drawn in to wanting bigger and flashier cameras, and “long range” lenses. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there and done it but hopefully after reading this you will avoid the temptation.

Professional wide aperture (f2.8) lenses hold their value like nothing else in a photographer’s arsenal, and as a result are one of the more expensive items that every shooter should aim to get their hands on. Instead of wasting money on the cheaper kit lenses, save up and look at getting your hands on “fast” lenses from the likes of Tamron and Sigma. They make excellent glass that is compatible with most of the big names like Canon and Nikon, and for a fraction of the price. 

Buying second hand does mean that slowly working your way up to professional grade equipment is much easier. As the equipment has already depreciated from its retail price the loss you suffer with each new camera body or lens is greatly reduced and so makes the art much more affordable.

Which brand should I buy and with what features?

Unfortunately I can’t tell you what to buy as it depends entirely on the style of shooting you want to do, your budget and any gear that you might already have. The divide between Canon and Nikon shooters is as entrenched as the divide between Apple and Android users, but both brands offer their own versions of the same products and so starting your path with either brand is okay. If in the future you decide to move to mirrorless technology the chances are you will have to replace all of your gear to match, and so will be able to finally change your go to brand to the likes of Sony.

canon eos 5d with a rokinon lens

What is important to look for in your camera is a decent resolution sensor and as wide an autofocus area as possible. Megapixels aren’t everything, and buying a super high resolution camera at the expense of other features is a bad idea, but ensuring your camera has at least 20MP will mean that any photos you take can be cropped or blown up afterwards, which will help you correct mistakes in your composition or compensate for a lack of a telephoto lens.

Possibly the most important feature on a camera that will help you learn photography is a wide autofocus area. It is rare that you will focus solely on a subject smack bang in the middle of your frame, and so instead need to be able to move your focus points over to the sides in order to compose your photos more professionally. Looking back to the Canon 4000D and 70D comparison, the 4000D has a total of 9 selectable AF points whereas the 70D has 19, meaning the user can select the part of the frame to focus on much more accurately.

With your lenses, you should aim to get “the Holy Trinity” for your chosen brand. This consists of a 16-35mm wide angle (short range), a 24-70mm mid range and a 70-200mm telephoto (long range) lens, all with a wide aperture of f2.8

#2 – Learn the basics, and get out of Auto as soon as possible!

The auto mode on cameras is both a blessing and a curse. It allows new users to get excited about photography and keeps things simple when learning how to properly compose a photo, but it also takes all control away from the shooter in regards to the light, colours, and style of the image.

The easiest way to learn photography is to follow the example of experts who are already well established within the community. Youtube has made beginner lessons so easily accessible that paid courses are totally unnecessary for those just starting out. A few of my favourites are:

Peter McKinnon

PM’s freeform style and lively vlogs often contrast with his love for all things dark and moody, but as a highly accomplished product and landscape photographer his knowledge is well worth taking on board. He does regular tutorial videos around taking photos themselves, but also how to edit using Adobe programs.

Jared Polin

Jared Polin is an acquired taste, but he knows everything; and his technical reviews are invaluable when looking to buy high end camera gear. He is totally unapologetic and only gives his honest feedback even if it is a product from a brand that he normally likes. His outdoor and sports photography is also second to none, and allows him to really push his cameras that he reviews.

Chris Winter

Chris Winter is something of a smaller channel, but his overviews, reviews and hands on walkthroughs with lower end cameras are a valuable resource for those looking to make their earlier purchases. He has slowed down the rate at which he produces videos but his archive on older cameras is still there to help anyone looking at buying second hand.

F Stoppers

F Stoppers are one of the OG camera channels on Youtube. These guys have been in the community for decades and have likely had hands on with every piece of equipment out there. If there is an obscure item you want clarification on, or want to know how to minutely adjust the white balance in your camera to set the correct warmth tone then F Stoppers will more than likely have a video on it.

What should I be learning first?

The single most important skill to learn about photography is the exposure triangle, balancing shutter speed, aperture width and ISO to create a bright image that’s free of motion blur and has the subject in clear focus against the background. 

While mastering your camera in manual, you can also work on your composition. The first basic skill to learn is the rule of thirds which helps you to create a more interactive image for your viewer, instead of simply being “a picture of something” or a “snapshot”.

Both of these skills combined will form the basis for improving your images, and with practice will become second nature. If you don’t yet have your camera, you can still train these skills using the camera on your phone! Most modern smartphones have at least an acceptable camera, and some even feature a pro mode that allows you to alter settings like shutter speed and ISO. Take a look in your settings, and see if you can add a rule of thirds grid to your display, and try taking some new photos right away.

#3 – Start Editing Your Photos

There are many out there who think that editing a photo is wrong, and that you should only ever display the image as the camera recorded it. This is an admirable way to conduct your photography, but it lacks any flair. The vast majority of professionals edit their photos using tools like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom either to simply colour correct the image to resemble real life a little better, or to totally change the nature of the photo and create a stunning contemporary image.

a young duck sat perfectly in the lower third of the frame

Whether you edit for subtle changes or total mayhem it is important to get to grips with the software early on, as it is often daunting to new users and takes time to fully master it. Again, Youtube is your friend, and there are thousands of tutorial videos out there detailing the basics of using Adobe’s programs and going on all the way to adding mountains into deserts or creating striking portraits.

example of photoshopped image

If you’re new to Photoshop and want to try learning some new effects then I recommend taking a look at Creative Salek on Youtube, who does very detailed and easy to follow walkthroughs on simple but striking effects.

Shoot in RAW

When you first get your camera it will more than likely be set to save in JPEG format, which is by far the most common image format you will have seen. You should imagine a JPEG as a flat image, like a photo printed out in your hand.

Where RAW formats differ from this is that they preserve every tiny fractional bit of information captured by the camera’s sensor and make it all available to you in the editing process. In Lightroom for example, you can take an almost pitch black and totally underexposed image and simply lift the brightness to reveal the detail preserved by the RAW file. Shooting in RAW is almost like going back in time, and changing the exposure of your image before you take it.

raw image without any adjustments

Raw image with exposure turned up

This is the exact same file, but thanks to the RAW format we can raise the exposure without damaging the image.

Even if you don’t have your camera yet most smartphones have the option to save images in RAW format, and free apps like Snapseed can process these files. This is a really good way to introduce yourself to editing your images and is more than adequate for social media photos!

#4 – Show Off!

So you’ve got your camera, you’re well on the way to mastering Photoshop and you’ve got a nice little collection of images building up; what should you do with them? Show off your work as much as possible.

Social media and the wider web both provide an amazing platform to get your work out there being seen! The most popular apps to use are Instagram, Pinterest and even Flickr, and these all allow you to build up a following and get people interested in your work. But why should you show off even from the start?

Putting your work into a public space starts conversations, and will help you to connect with like minded people all over the world. Seeing your work next to seasoned experts will also inspire you to get out and practise, and push your work to new heights, so that before you know it you’re on their level with a whole host of new skills under your belt.

Having your work on show will also bring you new opportunities. One of the hardest things about starting out is finding interesting subjects or locations to shoot. Having your portfolio easily accessible means that people can see your images if you ask to work with them, or they may even contact you asking for a shoot! These messages won’t just appear however, and you’ll need to push yourself to try new things as often as possible, asking friends to model for you or even just going out and getting lost exploring your local area and shooting what you see.

#5 – A Few Personal Recommendations

All of the above are great ways to help just about anyone get going with photography. I’d also like to add a few of the little tricks I’ve learned that have helped me personally delve further into the world of photography.

Always, always ALWAYS have your camera on you.

There are so many times where some of the best shots you take are the ones you nearly miss. Whether you’re walking to work and witness a demonstration, driving past a picturesque landscape or just on holiday wanting to catch some memories, having your camera on you good to go with a mid range lens and a full battery will ensure you never miss one again. There is a skill to getting your camera out at warp speed, but with practise you’ll get quite good at it and when you master the manual modes you’ll have your exposure dialled in just as quickly!

Save inspiration on your SD card.

If you’re doing a planned shoot and have a style of photo you’d like to replicate then saving some images to the top of your SD card will make referencing them so much quicker, and the model won’t even be able to tell you’re doing it! Simply hit the playback button, then navigate to the right to get to the start of the photoreel, where your inspiration will be waiting for you. If you’re running a mirrorless camera this works even better as you don’t even have to take your eye out of the viewfinder!

Keep learning and practise everything.

Even if you feel you’ve mastered a certain kind of photography, keep learning and trying new things. You can never have too much knowledge, and one shooting technique for portraits might cross over to sports or events etc. Even the “masters” of photography are still learning, and fashions change so quickly nowadays that new editing techniques will always be emerging to keep you on your toes.

If you follow all these guidelines, I promise you’ll be out and about capturing the world how you see it in no time. Just make sure you stay confident and if you find a shot that’s too challenging for you, don’t quit, keep trying until you nail it.

The best stock photo & video sites; both free and paid

beautiful snowy mountains seen through the leaves

When creating anything to be used online, whether it be websites, social media posts or banner adverts, the key to creating something professional and beautiful is good imagery. Imagine a website without a single image, or an advert appearing on screen as a simple white square with some text in the middle. While the latter may be an artistic choice, both are bland and not very engaging and won’t help draw potential customers to your brand.

Many companies opt to create their own images, often arranging expensive photo shoots or employing people specifically to create the media they need. For many this isn’t an option as creating your own imagery can be prohibitively expensive, which leads people down the road to stock. Stock photos and videos are a cost effective way of giving your platform the creative edge it needs to stand out from the crowd.

While the 90’s and early 2000’s saw a meteoric rise in the popularity of stock thanks to the accessibility of the internet, these images were often cheesy and far too corporate for many people. Well in recent years this has changed, and stock photography has become an outlet for artists who put out unique media that sits outside the realm of stereotypical stock. Today we will be looking at the websites and outlets that we feel are moving stock away from its former self and helping to modernise the digital world.

Free Stock Photo & Video Sites

Cheap and cheerful? Here are the stock photo and video sites we rely upon for a supply of good quality visual content at the click of a mouse.

Pexels

pexels photo showing a road in a snowy forest

Pexels has quickly grown to being one of the most popular free stock media sites on the internet, and this is largely down to the slightly darker and more alternative theme of their photos and videos. While still totally acceptable for all audiences, their images do away with super high saturation and brightness in favour of a more muted and retro style.

The nature of the images and videos Pexels tie their success to feature more subtle subjects, allowing you to find media that resonates with your message in a much less on-the-nose way. This helps your website or social media feed to appear far more organic and trustworthy to potential customers.

slices of assorted fruits from the pexels stock website

While Pexels does feature a paid subscription, the volume of royalty free media featured on the site is overwhelming, and with new content constantly being added, and the old removed, the library of available assets is constantly being refreshed. This should provide you the user with the reassurance that any photos or videos you use are unlikely to be seen time and time again over the years to come, giving the impression that the content is bespoke to your platform.

Unsplash

Unsplash is one of the most commonly used websites for free stock photography, thanks to their array of high quality images of all types.

The high quality of Unsplash’s photo library can be put down to the fact all of the images are hand-selected and curated by the website’s team, who ensure all images meet their standards. The images are freely donated to the website by more than 150,000 photographers around the world, with the community continuously growing with more photographers, both professional and amateur.

beautiful snowy mountains seen through the leaves

In total, Unsplash has well over a million photos available for free use, all of which fit into their many useful categories. As well as your standard, useful stock-style photography, you can also find many artistic, more abstract shots that can help add style and distinction to your projects.

The Unsplash copyright license enables you to freely use their resources for all types of project, including commercial use. Searching for images is easy, with good results coming up for most reasonable search terms – for searches that give a large number of results, you can make the selection process easier by filtering results depending on their orientation or colours.

All images are easily downloadable in a variety of sizes, while you can also add images to ‘collections’ on the site, to make your browsing more efficient.

Pixabay

If a wide range of choice is what you’re looking for, or even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, then Pixabay is your answer. With over 1 million free public domain images, alongside a vast selection of illustrations, vector graphics and even some stunning videos, Pixabay has all bases covered.

fox

The quality of their photos certainly ranges and is maybe not quite as consistent as those offered by the likes of Unsplash, but make no mistake that if you filter through some of the not-so-good, you’ll stumble across some unique winning shots.

We’d highly recommend Pixabay for sourcing landscape shots, stunning scenic photography and even pixel perfect animal snaps. Or if you’re stuck for inspiration and want a varied selection, check out their Editor’s Choice category. All of the photos, vectors and illustrations you’ll find on the website are released under Creative Commons CC0.

waterfall

Top tip: To speed up the process and eliminate the Captcha form at download, simply sign up for a free account and you’ll save a good few seconds of your life.

Burst

If you’re selling a product or service then you’re naturally going to want to get eyes on it, and one of the many ways Shopify do so is through their free collection of hi-resolution imagery on the Burst website. People come for the regularly updated bank of visuals, and Shopify will no doubt hope that a percentage of them become interested in setting up an ecommerce store using their platform.

While their collection may not be as extensive as the millions you will find on the likes of Pixabay and Pexels, Burst is unique in the way that it presents the available content. Users are able to browse ‘collections’ such as ‘spring’, ‘fashion’ and ‘retail’ making it really easy to find the images you need. Here you will also find trending collections making the site even more accessible.

woman kicking from burst website

Burst goes above and beyond the realms of a simple stock image site, offering users business ideas and tips to utilise the imagery. You can read in-depth case studies that include a range of supplier information and insights. It’s really interesting content and you can subscribe to receive more.

Paid Stock Image & Video Sites

If you’re struggling to find what you need through free stock websites then you may have to use a premium service, but, you will get what you pay for in this instance if you stick to the following sites.

Adobe Stock

Adobe is one of the world’s most successful software providers, thanks to technology such as Photoshop, Acrobat and Premiere Pro, but also offers online resources such as stock photography.

Adobe Stock Photos was originally used within the creative suite family of programs, but closed down in 2008. However, Adobe acquired stock company Fotolia in 2015, and used it to launch new service Adobe Stock.

Adobe Stock offers a huge range of photos and videos for use in any project, and offers versatile pricing plans that will suit users of all situations.

adobe stock sample

As with most stock photography websites, Adobe offers a ‘credit’ based system, with prices ranging from around £4-6 per credit depending on how many you purchase at any one time. One credit will purchase you a standard high-res image, while HD videos cost eight credits, and ‘premium images’ will set you back twelve. However, you’ll usually find what you need with the standard image selection.

If credits aren’t for you, you can instead create a monthly or annual subscription, with prices starting at a monthly £19.99, which will allow you to license ten standard images each month. If you don’t meet your limit each month, any remaining downloads will continue to rollover until you have 120 remaining on the lowest cost plan, with this number increasing on the more expensive ones.

Shutterstock

shutterstock tiger

Shutterstock is one of the best known stock photography websites on the internet. Chances are if you’ve visited enough websites you will have seen imagery taken from Shutterstock. As a paid platform there is an expectation that the media they have available is of the highest quality, and they don’t disappoint.

The images on Shutterstock are generally super high resolution with rich colours and a very clean style. This makes Shutterstock an excellent candidate for modern corporate websites and other platforms. The amount of available media is staggering, and even with their highest tier paid plan (750 images/mo) you would be hard pressed to use them all. The range of images is also worth mentioning, as everything from high end urban night time photography with deep blacks and neon highlights, to tack sharp nature shots that balance beautiful colours are found within the site. Whether you need on-the-nose shots of a corporate environment or suggestive metaphors for your company ethos you can find it on Shutterstock.

shutterstock building example

As a primarily paid source getting your hands on these images will set you back, but if using stock is essential to your daily work then there will be a pricing plan for you. Shutterstock charges on a monthly basis, with prices ranging from £19 to £119 per month, all with varying allowances. The basic plan will allow you 10 photos a month (£1.90 per image), but as you spend more you get more, with the prices dropping through £1.18, £0.28 and finally to £0.16 per image as you increase your monthly allowance. While this may not be for everyone, when compared to the cost of taking the images yourself pricing plans like these are positively cheap.

Getty Images

Getty are a media licencing company, meaning they purchase the rights to images, video, music and other forms of media so that they can then make the rights available to customers for a price.

We won’t bore you with media licencing, and to be honest we’re far from experts ourselves, but the basic premise is that they own the rights to the image and if you want to use it you will have to pay them. The majority of images are tiered in price, and this range is determined by the ‘size’ of the image. Large images, which are generally the most expensive to purchase, are usually around 7360×4192 px so you know you’re getting a really high-resolution piece of imagery.

Getty images example

You may go on to the Getty website, take one look at the prices, and think ‘who on Earth would pay that much for one single image?’ However, when businesses are producing promotional material they often have a very particular idea of how they want it to look; in this case, Getty’s library would make sense.

Getty offers enterprise solutions and subscription options for regular users. Here there are now download limits and big savings to be made.

Death to Stock

Looking for something a little more ‘out there’? Thinking more ‘outside the box’? Death to Stock does exactly what it says on the tin, completely eradicating the cheesy and overused stock photos that we’re often bombarded with, in favour of original, artist curated content.

While the stock photo market has certainly upgraded and refreshed its content over time, it can still sometimes feel a little bit limited by individual creativity. Certain projects require that edge that maybe you’re struggling to find on some of the more popular stock photo sites.

The concept behind the website sees them fund talented artists to provide unique content that can’t be found anywhere else. With over 4,500 high quality images in the bank and new media added every 30 days, it provides an open book of refreshing content from artists around the globe.

Whether you’re a small business/start-up, freelancer, agency or large organization looking to create or build on your visual brand, Death to the Stock Photo has various membership options starting from as little as £10 per month.

It even offers perks for artists passionate about sharing their creativity with the world, with scholarships and discounts for nonprofits, educators and artists in need of a little financial help with creating their content.

Bonus tip: Some platforms will bundle stock media in

The internet is awash with browser-based solutions for digital marketing. Some of them are really good, some of them, well… Let’s just say we’ve had to trial a lot of platforms to be in a situation where we’re able to pass comments.

What we’ve found over the years is that the better options tend to offer media as part of their platform.

Here are three recommendations from us, to you.

Canva

We’ve mentioned Canva before. It helps users to create graphics, animations and videos as quickly as possible without jeopardizing the quality of the end product.

Without leaving the application you can insert media into your creations by accessing their wide range of stock, and it’s all clearly labelled so you know if you’re due to pay for anything. Highly recommended.

Lumen5

Looking to create video content but don’t have the budget to generate your own media to use? Lumen5 is an ample solution.

Their library of stock video is as extensive an offering as we have seen anywhere and it is handily split up into ‘free’ and ‘marketplace.’

UX Builder by Flatsome

We’ve used a variety of WordPress-compatible page builders over the years and, generally, it’s a case of horses for courses in terms of what we choose to use.

UX Builder is a front-end page builder designed to help the general public make visual, responsive websites without any understanding of code. Their templates all come complete with stock imagery ready to go, and while you may wish to replace these placeholders with your own visuals, you’ll probably find yourself debating whether to keep some of it on your site.

Any questions? We’d love to hear from you. Give us a call on 0161 713 1700 or send us a message via our enquiry form, and one of our team will be happy to chat.

Bullets to Blogs – My Journey into Digital Marketing

Fred sat on a wall in Cyprus

Serving in the British Army

My Army career truly began on the 10th December 2015, when I joined my regiment after spending 6 months at the School of Infantry in Catterick, North Yorkshire. After a quick spot of leave for Christmas, 2016 was upon us, meaning the small group of recently graduated soldiers I was a part of were to head to Chester to report for duty with 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment. I arrived at the ideal time, as the battalion was enjoying something of a hiatus after deploying on exercises in Kenya several times in 2015. 

The slow pace gave the senior guys plenty of time to get to know us, and engage in some “character building” activities to mold us into effective members of the team. By June, we were on exercise in Poland. The 6 week exercise was invaluable in teaching us the importance of owning and learning from mistakes, while working hard to prove yourself to the senior ranks. After Poland, we enjoyed the calmest months of my Army career, not prepared for and happily oblivious to the operational pace of the next few years.

2017 saw my unit earmarked for the UN mission in South Sudan, and so training and preparation ramped up in intensity throughout the first half of the year. Deploying in July, we found ourselves providing protection for refugee camps that had been targeted by tribal militias, and quickly settled into a routine of work, gym, sleep, repeat. These 6 months in close proximity forged friendships that I will carry for the rest of my life, and underlined the importance of the “character building” from the previous year. Those of us who had arrived in 2016 had by now proved our worth, and had been accepted into the camaraderie of the platoon as equals.

 

Fred watching some goats

Watching some goats while on a patrol in South Sudan.

 

After a Christmas and New Year spent on foreign soil we were delighted to get home in the early weeks of 2018. Having a month of post-tour leave meant that the year was in full swing by the time we returned to duties in earnest. Once again, our unit had been selected for operations, and shortly after a month-long exercise on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, we were being briefed up to fly off again. This time to Afghanistan.

Once again shipping off in July (something that became a running joke in the platoon, as one of my best friends found himself spending every birthday for 4 years either on exercise overseas or flying into an operational theatre), we landed in the beautiful mountain landscape of Kabul and the creature comforts offered by American hospitality overseas. These months passed without incident, meeting people from nations all over the world, and creating love/hate friendships with our American brothers/rivals.

Returning from Afghanistan, my battalion upped-sticks and moved to Cyprus for a 2 year posting, which was the final straw in my decision to leave the forces. With the majority of my peer group making the same decision, we deployed to Cyprus and did our best to make the most of the 7 months I would spend in the country, finally returning home in May of 2019.

Looking back, I value my time in the forces immensely, and have nothing but good things to say about many of my former colleagues. I view it as my version of University, and am glad to have left with my mental and physical health intact.

 

Fred sat on a wall in Cyprus

My last Army photograph, taken at the end of my last training exercise.

 

Leaving the Army, and falling into Digital Marketing

After leaving the Army, I was left feeling a little lost, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted an Apprenticeship, and that I wanted to do something I would enjoy for years to come. This is where I found Digital Marketing. Throughout my years in the forces I had a keen interest in creating a brand through social media, and maintaining a creative output through blogging and photography. I stumbled across a role that would be well suited to these hobbies on the Government Apprenticeship website and duly applied. This unfortunately went nowhere, but in researching the industry I was hooked, I knew this was what I wanted to do. 

As anyone who has recently been in the job market knows, applying for positions is a numbers game. The more applications you make the better, as the attrition rate for candidates is eye-watering. One place that I applied to early on was a spot on a Juice Academy Bootcamp. They immediately caught my eye as being a unique training provider, and I was delighted to find out I had a place in their selection process. The downside was that it had been delayed by several weeks, putting it 2 months into the future from when I applied. During this time, I was having little luck with responses. I’d had interviews that ultimately went nowhere, and was surprised therefore to be offered a job the day before the Juice Academy bootcamp. I decided to go ahead with the bootcamp, a decision I am immensely thankful for.

Back to Bootcamp

Thinking back to my selection course for the Army, I think I experienced similar feelings of apprehension and curiosity as I did when walking into the reception of the Juice Academy. There were many more candidates than I was expecting, all looking nervous and nobody talking. Soon, those of us who had arrived early were shown into the main room, and waited for the remainder of the candidates. All in all, there were 43 of us, applying for 14 positions. To say the spectacle was daunting would be an understatement. Upon arrival we were all given numbers to wear on our fronts, deepening the similarities between the Juice Academy and my Army selection.

To level the playing field, the employers spoke first. They each had 3 minutes to explain their company, and were duly rushed if they overran. Following this, the candidates were all split into groups and asked to move into separate rooms. This was for our first task: Self-Portraits. The aim was to describe yourself as creatively as possible, using a variety of craft items. The second half of the test was to stand in front of the employers and introduce yourself in 30 seconds, using your portrait as an aid.

After the self-portraits, we moved on to making a short stop-motion video. The purpose of the task was to see how well we work in a team, and how we could adapt to using new tools quickly. Our video was a Rocky Balboa themed montage detailing a student’s journey through the Juice Academy. It was a nice surprise to find out that we had won, and the video is still viewable on Twitter.

Throughout both of these tasks, the employers were dotted about, studying each candidate and no doubt deciding who they were interested in. This added an element of pressure during both tasks making it feel like an exam.

Speed Dating and the Draft

The most iconic part of the Juice Academy experience must be the “Speed Dating”. Each candidate has a 3 minute interview, before moving along to the next interviewer. This is a loud, hectic experience with everyone making the most of their 3 minutes to sell themselves to the employers, while the employers are doing their best to ask all the questions they can and gain a good idea of the candidates.

I don’t think I’ll be forgetting the speed dating any time soon, as it was by far the most tiring part of the day, but the most nerve wracking was still to come. After the dating, there was a short break while the employers moved upstairs and began deciding who they wanted to hire. I can’t speak for how stressed they were during this process, but everyone downstairs was biting their nails with anticipation. It wasn’t long until numbers began to be called. When this happened, the candidate would gather their things and head upstairs to receive their offer. The most concerning part of this process was that they didn’t come back down, they left the building through a different exit. This meant that the remaining candidates had no way of knowing which employers had hired, only adding to the apprehension.

 

Brown hourglass with blue sand

 

To my delight, the number 15 was called, and I made my way upstairs. I asked the staff member escorting me up who I was going to meet, but they said “you’ll see” and left it at that. As we came out of the stairwell, I saw Chris sitting with a grin on his face in a meeting room, and I was shown in. From there Chris offered me a place and naturally I accepted. In our speed date we’d spoken about me wanting to work for a company that treated it’s customers as well as its staff, and a boss that I got along with but pushed his staff. Pixel Kicks filled both of these requirements, and the indoor beer garden was a nice bonus!

So where am I now?

I’ve now been at Pixel Kicks for my first month, and it’s been a hit the ground jogging experience. The best way to learn is through practice, and so from day 1 the company has had me writing blogs, creating posts and being introduced to analytics. I’m loving the job, the people are great and there’s no shortage of work to be getting on with. I’m really looking forward to learning more and putting those skills to use. As a Junior Content Producer I can really flex my creativity, and in future am hoping to get some photography included in my work.