Posted 09 August 2022
Interview by N'tanya Clarke

Photographer Connor Pope talks the power of online communities on their craft and inspiration

Having observed the creative process of YouTube photographers, Connor Pope landed their first clients simply by geotagging their Birmingham location on Instagram. Since then, they’ve photographed everything from coffee shops to tattoo parlours and fashion portraits – while building up a vast body of personal work, including an upcoming project exploring human happiness. Here, Connor talks to us about their love for photography being fuelled by the power of a Discord community – where photographers with different skillsets and knowledge come together to discuss and influence each other’s work – and the importance of realising your worth as a creative.

Connor Pope

Connor Pope

Job Title

Freelance Photographer



Selected Clients

Clothing By Verge

Previous Employment


Place of Study

BA French, Aston University (2018-2022)


Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do as a freelance photographer?
My role is to help clients meet their creative visions through photographing for them in digital and analog formats – whether that be minimalist branding images or highly edited portraiture.

If you could sum up your job in an emoji, what would it be and why?
💁‍♂️, because I love capturing people in their best moments.

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
YouTubers! I know it’s very 21st century, but seeing the creative processes of YouTubers is what really motivated me in my first year of shooting. Some that I’ve found particularly influential to my work are: Jamstills, Negative Feedback, Grainydays, Rosie Matheson, Barney Arthur and Willem Verbeeck.

“Seeing the creative process of YouTubers is what really motivated me in my first year of shooting.”

What’s been your favourite project to work on, from the past year, and why?
Actually, it’s a yet-to-be-released personal project on what makes people happy. I really enjoyed this project, mainly because I got to speak to strangers and gather a lot of different perspectives on life, whilst keeping their image anonymous by only capturing their answer, hands and outfit.

I like taking photos like these in my personal work – I think it respects people’s privacy and somehow makes the image more thought-provoking. It gets you to wonder about what their lives are like.


Snippets from Connor’s upcoming personal project



How I got here

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
I don’t think it’s completely necessary, but it has definitely helped when it comes to knowing how cameras work. I’ve always been interested in cameras and the differences between models, which has come in handy during roles where I’ve had to use a camera that was not my own. Knowing how to use the equipment without having to train myself each time just means that I can get on with the job quicker!

However, most of the time, I’m focusing on the more creative aspects of the work. This is much more skill-based – knowing which composition will work best, directing poses, editing... I think that anyone can do this without formal training.

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
In terms of the knowledge and skills, I picked them up relatively quickly. But gaining traction in terms of clients was really difficult, as people either wanted more experience or didn’t want to pay enough to cover my costs. I did feel quite stuck at this point, but once I realised that I needed to focus on getting the right clients, everything took off.

“Once I realised that I needed to focus on getting the right clients, everything took off.”

How did you go about landing your first clients?
My first clients came about after I had been posting for a few months using the location tag of Birmingham. A charity found me through the tag and asked for some free work in exchange for experience and exposure. From that, I was able to showcase those images and gain some paid jobs.

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work? Do you have any advice or learnings to share?
For my journey specifically, it has been invaluable as I get the majority of my clients through social media – through location tags as well as mutual connections. The rest of the clients have come through networking and word of mouth recommendations.

But I know that this isn’t the only way to get clients like mine! I know some people have been successful by having websites and are not very active on social media. I think the key is to work out how you want to create a foundation for your work – and to stick with it until you reach that ‘snowball effect’ point.

Connor pope creativelivesinprogress portraiture1

Connor’s portraiture work for modelling agency Ukiyo Models, shot in Birmingham city centre

Connor pope creativelivesinprogress Portraiture2

Connor pope creativelivesinprogress portraiture 3

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
It might sound a little bit old school, but using physical photo books as a kind of Pinterest board has been really useful to me. They work so well as references for studio and portraiture work.

Online communities have also been really useful and influential for me. A YouTuber that I became friends with created a Discord community, which was my first experience of being in a photography community group. There were people at all levels of expertise and knowledge and it inspired me a lot.

I’ve been a part of other communities which focus more on the technical aspects of photography and client work too – these were less inspiring, but practical for providing me with things to keep an eye for professional work.

“Online communities have been really useful and influential for me, with people at all levels of expertise and knowledge inspiring me.”

Connor’s portraiture work for modelling agency Ukiyo Models, shot in Birmingham city centre

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
One that comes to mind at the moment is realising that when you’re a creative freelancer – more so at my stage of freelancing – is that, in a way, you’re doing several jobs at once. I always love taking photos, but then behind the scenes I have to keep up with invoices, maintain communication with clients and reach out to potential clients.

Then there’s the personal work side, which includes things like designing book layouts and contacting potential places to exhibit my work. I do enjoy all of it but it can feel overwhelming during this period where I don’t earn enough to bring other people into my ‘business.’

Connor pope creativelivesinprogress clothingbyverge

Connor’s photography for Clothing By Verge

Connor pope creativelivesinprogress clothingbyverge1

Connor pope creativelivesinprogress lothingbyverge3

Connor pope creativelivesinprogress lothingbyverge4

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
At the start of my freelance career, I often undercharged people in order to get the experience and exposure, but then I realised I was at the point where I didn’t have to take on every ‘free’ offer I was getting. So to supplement my work, I buy and test old cameras – digital and analog – and resell them at cheap prices.

I think realising your worth is a really important part of the creative journey – one that I’m still on! It’s difficult to work out, especially because it doesn’t directly compare to other professional jobs, but it’s so, so important to value your work.

“Realising your worth is a really important part of the creative journey – it’s so vital to value your work.”

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
“Build a brand, not a business.” A lot of people have said this in the past, but it changed the way I thought about myself as a freelancer. I started using my social media platforms to talk more about the things I liked and was interested in, rather than just simply showcasing my work.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Get to know people who are already doing something similar to what you want to do. When I did this, it really taught me about which type of work I enjoyed – and which I wouldn’t. More importantly, it taught me which skills I already had and which I needed to improve on. Even just talking on DMs can provide insightful info. I’m always around on Instagram for a chat!

Interview by N'tanya Clarke
Mention Connor Pope