As we make our way through high school, we start to learn pretty quick what we like and what we don’t. Some of us thrive in academics, some find success in sports, and others just want to create. We choose subjects based on what we’re good at and what makes us happy. When it comes time to move forward into the real world, we try our best to shape our possible career paths around those same things, but so often we end up psyching ourselves out of what we really want to do. We put it off. We say it’s too hard, or too risky – that we’re better off doing something safe and secure. We say we’ll put our dreams on hold and come back to it one day, but for now we have to make the responsible choice for our future.
And then there are those of us that don’t overthink it. They just follow their passion, because why do anything other than what you want to?
“The question I get asked all the time is ‘how did you get into photography?’ Well, the answer Is simple, I was doing what I love.” That’s Reilly Wardrope, who graduated from high school on the Gold Coast last year and who is already living out his childhood dreams of becoming a professional photographer. Now, at just 18-years-old, Reilly has a job at Canon teaching photography, as well as work on the side for local tourism companies like Tangalooma Island Resort, Hot Air Ballooning QLD, and more.
He was 11 when he first picked up a camera and by the time he was 14, he had decided he wanted to take photography seriously. From then on, he did everything he could to build up his photography skills and gain the experience he needed to turn his hobby into a real career. “In 2015, I went to a workshop at Lady Elliot Island with Canon Collective. I spent a week on the island and after five days I was opened to so much more than just taking photos of anything that moved… The trip was so good, I went back again in 2016.”
One look at Reilly’s Instagram and you can tell he excels at capturing stunning images of wildlife, skylines, and landscapes; the ocean seems to be a favourite muse. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, and anyone with a similar creative passion would be extremely familiar with the sense of self-doubt that can set in.
“Don’t get me wrong – there’s been many times when I’ve thought to myself, is this really going to work? Will I ever make any decent money out of this? Will my work even sell? But the more you put yourself into a negative space, the more it becomes reality.”
“If you are really committed to getting a kick out something in life you just need to do it.”
He says that his young age was actually a great reason to take a chance, since there was as much time for everything to go right as there was for it to go wrong. “I thought to myself, If I never give it a go I might never have the chance to do it again.”
The road to becoming a successful photographer is difficult, but Reilly credits the help of various programs and mentors that gave him a leg up. After participating as a budding newbie, he now teaches through Canon Collective, an initiative that provides keen photographers of any age and skill level access to workshops and photography trips all over Australia. “Working at Canon has opened so many doors… being able to give other photographers an experience they will never forget by using some of the best photographic equipment in the world and taking them to the most exotic places on the planet is an awesome experience for not only them but for myself as well.”
As for advice he wishes he heard when he was younger – or advice to anyone looking to pursue their dreams – Reilly has some choice words.
“Don’t hold yourself back, be curious. Try new things. Strive for something that stretches you because if you don’t, you won’t get anywhere.”
If you’re keen to get your own photography out there, Canon Collective host photography events and workshops all over Australia for a range of skill levels and price ranges, from free workshops that’ll get you familiar with your gear, to multi-day overseas photography trips to destinations like Japan or South Africa (hullo gap year).
The workshops are a great way to rub shoulders with like-minded photography-fanatics and try out a bunch of different ways in which you might want to specialise with your photography. If you’re keen to sus out what Canon Collective workshops are going on near you, jump over to their site here and see what’s on offer.
photo cred: Reilly Wardrope