Embracing Street Photography: The Journey of Self-Taught Prodigy Joe Redski

Success story summary Joe Redski, a self-taught photographer with a rare arm disability, began his journey with indoor still life photography 12 years ago. He transitioned to outdoor shooting and discovered street photography by innovatively using a compact camera on a selfie stick. In 2023, he launched a YouTube channel sharing his street photography expertise.

Can you please share a brief history about your photography business? What motivated you to start this venture?

I started photography about 12 years ago. I have a fairly rare disability in my arms which limits that use of them, so when I got my first camera – a Panasonic GH2, I solely created still life imagery in my living room.

After some time of learning how to use lighting to shoot still life, I realised that I could take photos outdoors with the help of a tripod and my trusty shutter release cable after practicing monthly photography tasks in a UK magazine.

About 5 years in, a local horror novelist commissioned me to shoot a still life image composited with a landscape image, for his book cover.

It was undertaking this task that made me realise that I loved shooting outdoors, and I had a skill for recognising a good composition.

Plus, I honestly couldn’t take much more of tripping over light stands in my living room shooting still life photos so I decided to continue my photographic journey outdoors.

At first, I practiced landscape photography; however, as much as I loved shooting sunsets, I just couldn’t get up early in the morning to venture outside.

I always admired watching street photographers on YouTube. The concept of constantly being alert whilst looking for interesting compositions and subjects on the city streets, appealed to me like no other genres of photography.

However, I was stuck with a tripod, thinking that I would never be able to hold a camera in my hands.

I initially shot street photos using a tripod or a monopod – urban landscapes, and people scenes in my hometown of Rye.

One day in the not so distant past, I had a bright idea of buying a compact camera and attaching it to a selfie stick.

This was probably the best move of my photographic journey, as I could finally shoot freely with the aid of the selfie stick and a shutter release cable.

A year or so ago, as a fairly experienced street photographer, I decided to go professional. I shot a few Events, but I personally didn’t enjoy the process of hustling for jobs, and then dealing with clients. I also ran a 1-1 workshop in the town where I lived, but even though a worked, I didn’t publicise enough.

I came to the decision, that after years of acquiring knowledge, writing blog posts on my website, writing articles for online photography publications, and sharing tips, I decided I wanted to share my knowledge in the form of video. So, late in 2023, I decided to start a street photography YouTube Channel.”

What kind of challenges did you face when building up your portfolio or setting up your studio? How did you overcome these challenges?

“Starting a YouTube channel was not too difficult. I played with the idea of starting a channel over the years, and I actually made some photo editing tutorial videos, that I remade, for the sake of quality, in preparation for the launch.”

When I finally launched, I had about 5 videos that would go out each week. So I felt pretty relaxed.

I also tried to create photography tutorial animations, but I realised I didn’t have the time to create animated YouTube shorts as well as longform videos. When you plan your channel you don’t know how much time you actually have until you start making videos. So unfortunately, the money and time spent of animation software and training, didn’t really come to fruition.

As a person with a disability I am unusually physically strong. Yet I find clipping camera monitors and other equipment onto camera cages fiddly for my fingers that don’t have much dexterity, so I mostly like to venture out to shoot videos with all of my equipment set up, which is a recipe for disaster.

Pain in shoulders, cameras with lenses attached accidentally becoming unclipped from tripod head’s and falling to the ground – it is just not a well thought out plan for business success. Therefore, the setting up of equipment on location, the shooting process, the packing up and taking home, takes me longer than your average YouTuber and can also be pretty stressful.

Coming up with weekly ideas for videos can also be fairly challenging, including the pre-production, shooting and editing, so I find it is important to take one step at a time.”

Could you describe the early days of your business? What were the initial reactions and feedback you received?

When I launched I was surprised at how quickly my subscriber count grew within the first few months. It wasn’t meteoric, but I was pleased that in my the couple of weeks, I gained about 100 subs. As I write this, I have close to 700. One of my videos has over 7000 views and counting. It may not seem like much, but when you first start out it feels like an achievement.

When I visit new YouTuber forums, many seem to take much longer to gain subs and views. I’m quite pleased with how my channel is progressing.

How did you manage to grow and expand your business? What strategies did you use to attract more clients?

The hard videos to make are the tutorials. I have to write scripts with a shot list, with over 50 shots on average. These are the videos that have to be researched for channel growth, that will hopefully get subs and many views. They can take a week or even more to plan, shoot, and edit.

The easier videos are the very enjoyable street photo walks in different places, at night, or during the daytime. However, as a small YouTuber, they don’t get as many views, because people want to learn, and not really want to see me out and about having a good time with my camera. At least not yet, anyway.

So on one week I will make a tutorial, that will hopefully grow my channel, and then the week after I will give myself a break and film a photo walk. It will be like this until I come up with an alternative photography format that will also help my channel to grow.”

How has your business performed financially over the years? Can you share some milestones or achievements in terms of revenue?

“I think at the time of writing you need 500 subs and 3000 hours of watch time. I’ve accomplished the first part, however, I have just passed 1000 hours of watch time, so still a way to go before I am monetised.

In the descriptions of my videos I link to the products that I have created on my website, including:

  • My street photography guides
  • Lightroom presets
  • Night street photography e-zine.

These all bring in a few extra pounds every month. I also have Amazon affiliate links in the descriptions, but I haven’t seen any traction there just yet.”

What are some key lessons you've learned along your entrepreneurial journey? Is there anything you would do differently if given a chance?

“I only wish that, when I was a child, I would have begged my mother for a younger brother, so that he could now work for me and do all of the carrying of equipment and setting up for me.

I would be paying him, of course.”

Are there any tools or software that have been particularly useful in managing and growing your business? Give us a list of what you use in your kit.

“I use all of the regular stuff for photography: Lightroom and Photoshop.

A software company gave me to opportunity to review their brilliant film photography emulation tool called Dehancer, in a YouTube video, I now use it in many of my photos. It creates bloom and halation around light sources, making my images look very atmospheric.”

Some more equipment:

  • For video creation, I use Davinci Resolve Studio. It’s pretty great. Especially with the colour grading tools.
  • The cameras I use are the 28mm Ricoh GRIII, and the 40mm GRIII X. I have both of these mounted on selfie sticks when I shoot, with a shutter release cable also attached.
  • For filming my videos, I am using the Sony A7RIII with the Tamron 28 – 75mm lens.
  • For lighting in my home studio, I have the Aperture 120d that together with the lantern softbox gives me beautiful warm, soft light on my face.
  • For sound, I use the Deity S Mic 2 microphone that I have plugged into the Zoom H6 audio recorder.

Could you recommend any books, resources, or mentors that have significantly influenced your business journey?

“I’m a visual learner, so I have learned almost everything I know about photography from professional photographer YouTubers. Mark Wallace, Don Giannatti, Jared Polin, etc, etc. I wouldn’t be a photographer if it wasn’t for YouTube.”

There are a wealth of YouTube videos on creating a YouTube channel and planning and shooting videos; there is no better place to learn about YouTube than YouTube.

“I can spend endless hours on YouTube just learning.

I find it difficult to absorb knowledge from books. That’s why I have watched countless hours of YouTube tutorials, and also paid for courses on websites such as Creative Live.”

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who wish to start their own photography business?

Just do it. I’ve spent many hours dreaming of how I would start a YouTube channel, how a certain piece of equipment will change my filming, or my shooting process, or how I would get better as a filmmaker / photographer if I only had this lens or that software, but all the dreaming counts for nothing without experience.

Plan and create. Efficiently.

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Joe Redski is a pioneering street photographer and YouTuber who transformed his rare arm disability into a source of creative strength.

Using a compact camera attached to a selfie stick, Redski mastered the art of street photography, capturing the essence of urban life.

His YouTube channel (@joeredski) was launched to share his knowledge and passion. It has since quickly gained traction as he showcases tutorials, photo walks, and insights from his photographic journey.

Despite personal challenges, Redski’s innovative approach and dedication have inspired a growing audience, making him a notable figure in the photography community.

About Joe

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Turning limitations into creativity, my journey from still life to street photography shows there's always a way.

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