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Insights into being a professional photographer

Do you fancy yourself a renovation master or DIY king? The Block Shop helps viewers of Australia's number one renovation show in their quest to find the amazing products used on The Block. I recently sat down with The Block Shop and discussed what it is like being a professional photographer. The article is reproduced below.


Spurred on by a passion for the outdoors and desire for balance, Melbourne born, award winning Australian landscape photographer, Scott Leggo has been capturing the beauty of the Australian wilderness for over a decade.

With his wife Phillipa and daughter Holly, he remains inspired both professionally “My list of places that I want to photograph is still pretty long” and personally “Now that we’ve got a little one, we can’t wait to start travelling with her around Australia. While it might be my name on the door, this is very much a family business.”

How did you get into professional photography?

I had a career in the Air Force for ten years so arguably the complete antithesis of a creative, arty type. I then joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as a diplomat. The opportunities were amazing, but I was never home. I remember sitting in the office one day, thinking “All my mates are either at the pub or they’re out rock climbing and I’m stuck behind this computer. There’s something wrong here.” There was a Ken Duncan print on the wall and I thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just travel around Australia and take landscape photographs and make a living from it?”. I’ve always loved the outdoors and business, however, I didn’t know a lot about photography. I bought some books on photography, purchased a camera and it started to happen from there. That was about 12 years ago. Early on I won some high profile awards and that helped give me the confidence to really grow the business from there.

How has it changed your life?

Landscape photography is for me, an excuse to get outdoors and to travel. Even if I am out to photograph a sunrise and I don’t come back with a great photo, it doesn’t really matter because I am relaxed and enjoying the outdoors. I’m certainly a much more relaxed and balanced person than I was back then. These days I slow down and am a lot more present than I used to be. You have to become a lot more attuned to the changing seasons, local weather conditions and the general environment around you when this impacts your photographs so much. You can't help but feel more connected to your surroundings as a result. My life is a lot richer. I’m a lot more aware of the world around us and equally man’s impact on it too, both positively and negatively.

When is it most challenging?

One of my snow photographs is of sunrise over Mt Kosciuszko in winter. I camped alone for four or five nights in the backcountry, with my tent getting buried in snow each night. The weather was harsh and relentless for the first few days. You start to think, “Am I crazy? Why am I doing this?” Once you’ve got the tripod set up and the sun does its thing, it’s worth all the effort to be there at the right time. You don't get an amazing sunrise every day, but when it comes together, it goes off! Then it’s pretty good, to tell you the truth, to come back and have that photo.  A lot of people don’t get to experience getting out to the back country and seeing a sunrise in the middle of winter. Instead, they can take home one my photographs and enjoy it in the warmth of their home. Particularly for people that may not be physically able to do it, who are older or have a disability; it’s nice to get to share that. That’s a motivation for me as well. 

What is your advice to people wanting to hang photography in their home?

My advice is to get something that has meaning for you or that you truly love. In my experience, a lot of people buy a photograph of a place where they go on family holidays or the snow because they love to ski. Wall art is so much more enjoyable when there is a personal connection. Putting something on the wall just because you think it’s on trend often results in longer term disappointment if you lack that genuine love or connection to the piece. Equally though, people often just fall in love with a photo, despite no direct connection. Red Row Of Trees, a photograph I took in north east Victoria during autumn is a case in point. Many people have purchased this photo because they simply love it and what it evokes for them. With the contrast of stunning reds and greens, it also works well in many living rooms.

What do you love most about your job?

If you can combine a passion with a way to run a sustainable business and share that with other people, it’s pretty special. We just helped another hotel with artwork for their rooms. For me, I think “Hey, we’re helping to contribute to showcasing Australia both locally and to overseas tourists in this case. We’re helping to promote the natural beauty of Australia.” I find a lot of satisfaction in that. Attempting to make a difference through our business is also important to us. Not only do we want to build a stand out business, but also showcase the beauty and diversity of Australia to a wide variety of people that may not have yet travelled to many of the places that I have photographed. In this way, I hope our business can make a small but positive difference in the world.