During the recent excursion with FiveOceans and Clean Coast Collective, Professional Photographer and Videographer Kiah Lucey came along to shoot a video and inspire the students. Kiah recently caught up with Tom to share her story and give advice to students thinking about taking a creative path forward...
Kiah, can you please share what lead you into a career of photography?
Kiah: I thankfully never felt any external pressure from anyone to be anything in particular in high school. Looking back at it (school), my three top dream jobs that I toyed with for university applications were amazingly all in the creative industries - architecture, interior design and marketing. I always thought myself to be a business enthusiast before a creative though. I deferred and took a gap year to jump into the workforce, knowing that I didn't yet want to or see the value in going to university for the sake of it being the norm, or for something to do until I figured out what it was that I wanted to do.
My second year out of school I decided to study marketing while keeping my full time job at a small accounting firm. Because I had a foot in the door to uni and a full time job, I quickly realised that everything I was learning at Uni was 'common sense' and the skills that the accounting firm gave me far outweighed that of a higher education. They gave me amazing foundations, flexibility, trust and responsibility to make positive changes within the business and always encouraged my growth and ideas. It saw me naturally progress into management roles and further gain experience in accounting, human resources, operations, sales and marketing on and off for 8 years.
I backpacked Europe solo at 20 with little to no fear that gave me a taste of just how much was out there to see and experience beyond a 9 to 5 job. Suddenly I had a whole new perspective and eagerness to learn from the world, so I moved to Canada at 21 for a couple of years, came back to Australia where I jumped from industry to industry, stayed open to any opportunity thrown my way and took up whatever felt right. Nothing was lighting my fire, except the thought of travel, so I enrolled via correspondence in travel photojournalism, which I lost interest in, because in hindsight, I needed to focus on one component - writing or photography - first one and then the other.
One day (2014) after 9 years of exploring, now considered a jack of all trades, master of none, I was sick of being a wage earner. I felt undervalued for the skills and innovations I brought to organisations that didn't invest in me. It made me stop and really think about my worth, reflect on and identify the things that I kept gravitating towards and felt rewarded by, in jobs and in life. I kept coming back to people, travel, business and a desire to experience and capture the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary through imagery.
I confidently quit my job and enrolled in a Diploma of Photo Imaging at CATC Design, which took me a few months to realise that I had actually attended an orientation day for 2 years prior and had thought that it totally wasn't for me! I treated the fast tracked course like my full time job in order learn all the technical skills that I lacked to make my passion a career. I was so ready to study by then, that I had something to work towards and came out miles ahead with an established business and clients before graduating.
"The best thing I did to get me where I am was not settle for mediocre and change what I did or my attitude when things became stagnant. I surrounded myself with doers and never stopped wanting to learn or be better."
What advice would you share with students thinking about a career in this field?
Firstly, don't sweat it if you are unsure of what you want to be 'when you grow up'.
The best part can be not knowing what to do so you can use the time to explore different industries and try new things. Start taking note of what you're enjoying about a particular job, and what you don't like doing about a particular job.
If it is photography or videography, figure out what you like getting your camera out for - weddings, people, nature, babies, food, fashion, architecture, sport, products etc.
Identify someone who has the skills that you would like and connect with them for some work experience or to ask questions about what they do and how they got there - you'll be surprised how an eagerness to learn is enough for someone to open up, help you or point you in the right direction.
Get educated by a person or an institution that specialises in that area of photography/videography you enjoy and start taking the steps to get you in that creative space. Go with anyone who does things differently and focuses on practical and not theoretical (although it's still important to understand!).
Remember that it's not always about what you know, but who you know, so always be open and put forward your strengths and what you're working towards ... the opportunities present themselves!
"A piece of paper doesn't get you work in this industry, your people skills, passion, execution and confidence to do what you do does."
What do you most enjoy and dislike about working as a photographer/videographer?
I love that it doesn't feel like work. I get to meet new people who do cool things and give new perspectives. I still learn everyday, I get to travel and it's rewarding to help and interpret a business' and a persons desires and work towards their own goals. I regularly have 'I love my job' moments while shooting and am grateful I had the desire and strength to go out and create the job I craved.
The part I dislike is the computer screen time that comes with editing and sometimes just general day-to-day administrative tasks! Running your own business does not mean shooting all day everyday and it's important to understand all aspect of running a business to be successful.
To keep the energy and passion that comes with creating, and to allow growth, I am working towards implementing systems and getting people on board to help with the things I don't so much enjoy.
Could you name 3 skills that you think a person doing this work should develop?
Other than the givens of understanding your camera and how to use it...
1. Attention to detail and pride in what you do.
2. Good communication and people skills.
3. An eagerness and desire to never stop learning (you never know everything and technology is ever evolving).