7 Tips for Photographers

Hi there, I’m Polly. I’m a journalist, photographer, and a bunch of other labels.

This past month, I soft launched Black Women Photographers, a global community and database of Black women and non-binary photographers on July 7th, my 26th birthday. Before the launch, I kickstarted everything off with a COVID-19 relief fund — #BWPReliefFund — to help those in the community who have been hit hard by the pandemic. 

I’ve learned quite a bit in a short period of time. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m literally just getting started in my career, however, I want to share seven things I’ve learned along the way.


Tip 1: Remove The Word ‘Aspiring’ From Your Bio

Please, I’m begging you. Are you a photographer or not? If you are, say that. You only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. Do you really want to waste it with filler words?


Tip 2: Do It On Your Own Terms

What do I mean by that? I’ve quickly learned that some of my favorite photographers, creative directors, writers, you name it… they all have one thing in common: they do it on their own terms.

You would think it would be easy enough, since there is no blueprint for this, but it is not. With social media being a highlight reel, it creates a false perception that your favorite creative people have it all under control. Spoiler alert: we do not. We are tweeting and Instagramming through it, too.

However, I’ve quickly learned that the more I listened to my inner voice, the more wins I’ve had. I’m doing this on my own terms. Most importantly, I’m having fun with it.


Tip 3: Remove Those Boxes

Remove those boxes that you or others have placed on you. Now, more than ever, it is time to dream bigger than you ever imagined. I know, I know. I have always rolled my eyes when someone told me motivational Disney-esque things like this, but now, I actually believe it. They have converted me to the dark side y’all.

Could you ever imagine that someone who had to do speech therapy for several years would one day talk on podcasts, national radio, and panels? Well, me neither. But I am. And it’s crazy, because when my family moved to the states, I struggled for so long with my speech and writing. And here I am, sharing my love with national audiences, on panels for Twitter, NBCNews,etc, and writing a guest blog for Scott Kelby.


Tip 4: Don’t Forget The ‘B Word’

Don’t forget the ‘B word’: Balance.

It’s something I’m still trying to figure out. I do know that this is the most balance I’ve ever had. I’ve walked for an hour every single (well, minus four days) for the past month and half. It may not be a win for some but it is a win for me. I’ve never been that consistent with creating some sort of balance or self care regimen.

Please realize that ‘the work’ will always be there. There will always be something to work on, some new level to unlock, some unread email or text. You can’t do the work, or at least do it well or for long, if you are not taking care of yourself.

I’ve burnt out too many times, which caused me to fumble some bags, that I would hate for that to happen to anyone else. I think for better or worse, this pandemic has forced us to slow down. Now, let’s make sure that we’re still finding ways to carve out time for some, you guessed, balance. 


Tip 5: Protect Your Magic

Simply, you do not need to put everything on the timeline. There are times where I have gone weeks or months from posting on Instagram. Does that mean I am not working? No.

Frankly, if I wasn’t working that is fine too. I’m doing whatever I need to do to protect my magic. Whether it is working to help others behind the scenes, or creating projects for myself that will probably never see the light of day, or shutting my laptop down before midnight, I’m protecting my magic.


Tips 6 and 7: Time For Some Homework

I could easily fill tip six and seven with a lesson learned. However, I want to challenge you, the reader, to write down two things that you want to work on.

Has this sparked anything for you that you want to share with the class? What’s the best tip someone has shared with you? If you’re willing to share, let me know on Twitter @pollyirungu. Tweet me your tip, takeaway, best piece of advice, you get the point. I will share it with the class, and on my burner, @BlkWomenPhoto.


Polly Irungu is a multimedia journalist, digital editor, and self-taught photographer. She is the founder of Black Women Photographers, a global community and online database of Black women and non-binary photographers.

She is also a Digital Content Editor at New York Public Radio (WYNC), where she is responsible for managing social media for WNYC and PRX’s ‘The Takeaway’, a national NPR show with over 2 million listeners, pitching news stories and features for The Takeaway and her podcast is ranked the 4th most downloaded, amongst others.

You can see more of Polly’s work at PollyIrungu.com, and keep up with her on Instagram, Twitter, and Behance.

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