We Quizzed A Pro Photographer On Making Yourself Stand Out When Everyone Wants In

photography - Aiden Williams
Contributor: Kassia Byrnes

Imagine being your own boss, working with some seriously cool people and travelling to some seriously cool places to snap a few photos – and getting paid for it. The. Dream.

It’s a reality for Blue Mountains-born, professional sports and travel photographer Aidan Williams. He was given his first camera at five years of age and kept on snapping his way into some of the biggest titles in the world – including National Geographic – and won a tonne of awards.

“Growing up, I always had a camera with me (disposable until I moved to an SLR),” recalls Aidan. “I loved documenting everything that was happening – whether that be a school camp, weekend sport or family trips. The travel side of things came naturally with wanting to explore and seeking adventure.”

It wasn’t until he was 16, though, that he began to consider that photography could be his full-time career.

“When I was starting my HSC, I started to think about what I had a passion for and what I would enjoy doing for a career in 10, 20 or 30 years from now. [The answer was] sport and photography.”

He went on from graduating high school to enrolling in a Photo Imaging course at TAFE NSW.

“It provided me with the perfect foundation of skills and experience to take into the industry,” explains Aidan.

“[It] taught necessary skills, provided opportunities to gain experience, had industry professionals teaching the course and [supported you] if you needed any extra help. Believe me, I made as much use of this as possible… lucky all my lecturers were patient enough to answer my one thousand questions.”

There’s no denying that photography is a very popular career choice. Knowing the right skills is one thing, but how do you set yourself apart from everyone else vying for an ‘in’? Aidan says it’s not easy, and it took a “major leap of faith to make it happen”.

“I had heard about a sport called slacklining and knew it was different from your regular newspaper sports.”

“I fell in love with [it], what it symbolised to me and the photography process involved. Quitting my job, I booked a one-way ticket to throw myself completely at it.”

It’s fair to say he never looked back. These days, he’s got several prestigious awards under his belt from all over the world, and counts many big names amongst his regular clients, including Cirque Du Soleil, Canon, The North Face and Yahoo.

“My best career moment was being away on a month-long project in the mountains of Patagonia,” Aidan reminisces.

“I returned sleep deprived and body aching from over 75 kilometres of hiking with 40 kilos of gear. [I got] to my hostel to hear that I had completed my childhood dream of being published in National Geographic.”

If you’ve been reading along getting increasingly jealous, then I’m right there with you. Aidan says your strongest chance of finding success as a photographer (or any career, for that matter) lies in doing what you love and being able to back yourself up.

“Photograph what you love, it will show through your work. I am also a big believer in finding a way to make a career work no matter what. Be patient and doors tend to open. “