Things I've learned as a Commercial Photographer

Updated: Apr 8

To start things off, it's best I tell you a little about myself and my commercial photography journey.

My name is Stuart Bailey (not related in any way to the great David Bailey). I've been a professional photographer since 2015, first starting my photography career working for the international airline British Airways as one of their in-house photographers. I was based 5 days a week at their head office called Waterside, which sits just over the road from London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5.

There I was photographing anything and everything that the airline needed imagery for. From airline food in those horrible tin trays, to large commercial aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the Airbus A350. I also had the opportunity to photograph a large number of celebrities and VIPs too including Prince William and even The Queen.

Prince William (HRH The Duke of Cambridge) - TUSK
Prince William (HRH The Duke of Cambridge) - TUSK

My job at British Airways laid an amazing foundation for me. The only things I was shooting before that job was a few weddings and the very occasional freelance job (which was usually for friends or family).

British Airways gave me amazing experiences, it's where I really came into myself as a photographer, and it's where I honed my skills and found my style.

Commercial Photographer London
Airbus A350 Interior - Shot for British Airways

I was at BA for about 4 and a half years before being made redundant in late 2019.

So I took it as the perfect opportunity to start my own business as a commercial, advertising, and lifestyle photographer in London, and branch out on my own!

It's what I'd always dreamed of ever since I picked up a camera for the first time.

I burned my bridges and didn't apply for any other employed jobs. I set myself up as a company, and started marketing myself like mad, first calling on all the contacts I'd already made along the way.

Since then, I've worked with some amazing clients as a commercial and lifestyle photographer. A lot of my commercial work is in the travel industry, and mostly aviation or railway companies.

I also do work for clients outside of those fields too which is mostly London based, however I love the aviation business and I have a deep knowledge of it, so that's where I focus myself for the time being.

I've learnt a few things along the way, so I'll be editing this post as I continue to learn, so keep checking back here for more!

Commercial Photographer London
Railway Lifestyle Photography - Shot for TransPennine Express

Lesson 1: Being nice to people goes a long way.

It's a very simple lesson. However a very valuable one. You never know who you'll meet and first impressions count for a lot, so be nice!

Despite how people are dressed or act, you just never know if that person in the sweatpants is a multimillionaire who runs a company that could hire you for work!

Some of the people I've met have connected me with people that have bought me amazing opportunities.

Even sitting in a coffee shop in London, start chatting with the people next to you. It's pretty unconventional for British people to talk to strangers (at least in London, up North is possibly a bit different). However, I've made connections that way, and people know other people that could be beneficial to you and your business. Be nice, have business cards on you with your logo, contact info, and a professional headshot of yourself so people will remember you more.

My job at British Airways came about from me selling my amateur photos in a field show in Kent, England. I'd only picked up a camera for the first time about a year prior to that show.

A guy came up to my stand and started talking about my photos, saying how much he liked them and that he could see I have a good eye for it.

Then he mentioned he was the editor of Nikon Pro magazine, so I gave him a business card, and then we stayed in loose contact over twitter for about 5 years.

One day out of the blue, he sent me a message on twitter saying: