Graham Monro is a Sydney based professional photographer and the founder of Australia’s leading wedding and portrait studios gm photographics.
Graham has shot the likes of Brooke Shields, Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II. gm photographics was also the chosen wedding photographer for many Aussie celebs including Guy Sebastian, Lizzy Lovette and Ada Nicodemou.
A Canon user from the beginning, Graham has recently been granted the elite title of Canon EOS Master, winning numerous awards from the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP).
After one career as an advertising, design and editorial photographer, Monro now heads up Australia’s premier wedding and portrait studio gm photographics.
Graham is a prolific photographer with work published extensively throughout Australia and internationally.
Graham’s extensive career has seen him gain many accolades including:
• Master of Photography II Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP)
• Fellow of Photography New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP)• NSW AIPP Landscape, Advertising and Wedding Photographer of the Year
• Rated in top 4 Best wedding Photographers in CAPTURE Magazine 4 years running.
• Finalist in 2009 Head on Awards for Australian Portraiture
• Finalist in Fresh Milk International
• Photos published in nearly all major Australian magazine titles
With passion and enthusiasm Graham gives back to the photography industry and has been commended for his work in many of the professional organisiations including Elite ACMP Collections, the AIPP and NZIPP.
What is your life motto? I’ll be there soon. This is based on if you keep at it you will get there, it’s just a matter of time. Keep plugging away at what you love and you will succeed.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? When I was 14 I had my first photo published and by 16 was the Sydney rep for a little known motorcycle newspaper called AMCN. I used to catch a train all the way to Liverpool from Killara and then hitch hike to Oran Park or catch a train to Pennant Hills and hitch to Amaroo Park depending on race day. The next day would wag some lessons at school and print photos in the school camera club darkroom, write the story in the library and express post it to Melbourne for Tuesday night’s deadline. I was so keen that I would have paid them to publish my photos. Seeing my photos published was a huge buzz. I feel it was ten years later in my mid twenties that things really started rolling for me in professional photography.
How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? All hours. I have been extremely fortunate that photography was my first love and my hobby. If I weren’t working so much on the business, I would be doing more photography – definitely shooting more and doing the less of the business stuff.
Describe how difficult the business really is? Photography is extremely competitive. When I started it was film days (unlike today where everything is digital) and many people thought photography was difficult and very technical. Nowadays every one has a camera; but I think all that is irrelevant. If you really want to do something just do it. It’s as simple as that. You can make whatever excuse you want to not do something and of course you never will. In all businesses the ones at the top do well by doing what they love and working really hard, the ones in the middle spend too much time competing with each other rather than just going out and winning clients and the ones at the bottom are too cheap, drive themselves broke and undermine the industry. So you need to decide which one you want to be.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Early in my career I wanted to get sponsored for a trip to Outer Mongolia. I pitched to the company’s second in charge and he then went to the big boss for me. It failed. He did not have my belief or enthusiasm. Motto: Always pitch to the big boss!
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? “Go with your gut” – A great photographer, Greg Barrett said that to me in the late 70s. I was his assistant at the time. Your gut instinct is your best advice. Listen to others but most of all go with your own instincts. Whenever I have gone against it I was wrong.
In your mind, is formal training essential? I was not formally trained at art college or photography college but today I am always going to seminars, workshops, lectures and seeking advice and education from my peers. Photography and the creative fields (like all fields) require ways to improve yourself, and as you get older they keep you inspired and invigorated. Otherwise doing the same ol’ same ol’ gets boring.
However if I was starting out today I would go to PSC or RMIT in Melbourne and I would have a part-time job in photography. Formal training is a great way to ensure you develop a good technical understanding. Photography and cameras have developed to the point where there is not as much difference between an amateur and a professional due to the auto functions of cameras and the availability of great software. However, a professional should be able to produce results that their client’s cannot do for themselves.
The great thing with photography is you can always shoot. Too many wannabes sit around talking about doing things rather than actually doing them. Talk is cheap.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? Having a mentor is great! I have several heroes in photography and with the internet you can keep up with them very well. But nothing beats meeting up face to face and listening! Peter Eastway is a photographer and publisher and many other things too and I often seek advice and mentoring from him. Many times you can think that you are the only one with a problem but so many of your peers have had these problems and even worse than you. It’s when you talk to others and communicate openly that you learn a lot. This comes from being in your industry associations and I am in the AIPP in Australia.
If I wanted a new mentor I would just look around and find who I liked and approach them. Be generous when you seek people out for advice, do something for them. Many possible mentors are sort by others too so think of what you can offer them to pay you attention. Take them to lunch, write a letter (not an email; a letter). Enthusiasm, honesty, humility and respect usually always wins someone over. Dare to be different when you approach them.
What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? Get published. Get your work out there.
Pursue work experience with a great photographer who is also a great businessperson. Give your time for free if necessary to gain the valuable experience. Have great technical ability first and then develop and hone your skills creating your own style – there are so many photographers you want to stand out from the crowd.
Photography is all about personality and making people feel comfortable in front of the camera. Ensure you are always well presented and engaging when working with your clients.
What kept you going when you felt like giving up? The thought that I will get there soon. Often when you are pushed against the wall you come out fighting hard. It is amazing what you can get done in a day if you really try. Refusing to give up and trying different ways of solving problems is good. Once I was doing a difficult job and it keep failing. After the third reshoot I went to the lab to check the film and I was not impressed with it. The film technician offered some advice as to how to correct the rest of the shoot and I went with it. Two hours later after clearing my head by going to yoga I returned and all was good. I also realised after that yoga session that I needed to chill out more and change my thinking and deal with certain clients in different ways.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Sometimes it is, but most of the time you make your luck by putting yourself in the right place at the right time with the right people. Working hard and working smart are the two things to combine then add in fitness and time to have a life and take time out to appreciate the things you have in your life already like family and friends and love.