Posted 16 March 2022
Mention Sophia Carey
Interview by Lyla Johnston

“There’s a synergy between platforms”: Photographer and YouTuber Sophia Carey on building an online presence

Starting out by sharing photos on Instagram during her teen years, photographer Sophia Carey has gone on to not only hone, but share her skills with the world. A believer in learning through doing, today this ethos has seen her host Skillshare courses, and create informative tutorials for her 12,000 subscribers on YouTube – all the while maintaining her own photography practice. Never afraid to experiment with both analogue and digital mediums, clients including Vodafone and Panasonic have also called on Sophia for her ability to create atmospheric and meaningful images. Here, Sophia talks finding your niche, managing multiple streams of income and why you shouldn’t put “all of your eggs in one basket” when it comes to social media.

Sophia Carey, photography by Tom Humble

Sophia Carey

Job Title



Manchester and London

Selected Clients

VOXI by Vodafone, Panasonic, JUST Water, Football Beyond Borders

Previous Employment

Park Café Assistant

Place of Study

BA Graphic Design, University of Salford (2017–2020)


Social Media




What I do

How would you describe what you do?
Most of my work can be described as portraiture on location, usually outdoors and relying on natural light, but I also work a lot in the studio and in other genres such as events!

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a set of specific inspirations, but I’ve always loved art and cinema. The way in which meaning is conveyed through cinematography inspires me to create, especially within my live music and events work. I think that trying to convey emotions and atmosphere creates both a really meaningful and really satisfying image.

“Trying to convey emotions and atmosphere creates both a really meaningful and really satisfying image.”

What’s been your favourite project to work on, from the past year, and why?
One of my favourite projects from the past year is definitely the work I did for World Soccer Shop (below) leading up to the Euros. There was a great amount of creative freedom; I was commissioned to shoot both digital and analogue photography, which I always love, and I got to work with three amazing models that I’ve worked with previously and been honoured enough to build good relationships with.

The actual shoot was in May and it was for a summer campaign – yet, in good British fashion, we got caught in the middle of a hail storm. Although they don’t sound like the most ideal of working conditions, I think that shoot was a reminder that when your work consists of doing something you love, with people you enjoy spending time with, it doesn’t feel like work.

‘Juan and Morgan’, World Soccer Shop, 2021
Sophia Carey photographer creativelivesinprogress 06

‘Juan’, World Soccer Shop, 2021

Sophia Carey photographer creativelivesinprogress 04

‘Toni’, World Soccer Shop, 2021

Sophia Carey photographer creativelivesinprogress 03

‘Strip’, World Soccer Shop, 2021

“Soft skills and people skills are just as important in this job as technical ones.”

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
The only training you really need to become a photographer are skills that you can train yourself in. How to use your camera of choice helps, of course, as well as your editing software and other technical elements of the job, but it’s also important to be able to problem solve, think outside of the box and get along with people, too. The soft skills and people skills are just as important in this job as the technical ones.

If you could sum up your job in a meme, what would it be and why?
(Below) This definitely sums up working for yourself and being a freelancer! There is a tendency to overwork yourself or find it difficult to find your work-life balance as a freelancer but, that being said, I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

How I got here

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I fell into photography quite organically and so the definitive starting points of my career all feel like a bit of a blur – mostly because I didn’t know that being a photographer was what I wanted to do at the time. On reflection, I think that I threw myself in at the deep end on a lot of occasions and forced myself to learn quickly because of that. I’m a true believer in learning through doing, and that ethos is definitely what’s been at the core of my journey so far.

“I threw myself in at the deep end on a lot of occasions and forced myself to learn quickly.”

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
A recent podcast that I’ve been delving into is the No Gatekeeper podcast by Jordan Curtis Hughes, set up with the founding principle that art should be accessible to anybody and everybody. Jordan offers a great amount of advice, and interviews other photographers about what it’s like to be in the industry and ways to break into it.

The Creative Boom podcast is also a great resource which I often listened to uni. Again, there are great interviews with a lot of amazing artists from across different disciplines, speaking about a breadth of topics.

Finally, YouTube is an amazing resource and I’ve learnt so much from so many different channels. One of the channels I’m loving at the moment, which is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about studio photography, is Ian Hippolyte’s channel.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Learning how to run a business alongside trying to grow into a better artist was quite a big challenge, and still is. From invoicing and pricing to marketing and contracts, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to working for yourself and doing things properly.

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Social media is an amazing tool to get your work out in front of people and is instrumental in my marketing strategy. It’s also just a really nice way to connect with the communities that you’re working within, and meet like-minded people. Social media has played a great part in my journey but I equally think it’s important not to rely on it completely.

I think that finding a balance with social media comes when you understand its importance in your marketing strategy, but you also understand the importance of stepping away from it. Setting boundaries, in my experience, is good self-care and generally also good for your business: you have more time to focus on your work, on yourself and your health – and you don’t get caught up too much over the metrics.

At the end of the day, social media is a tool and shouldn’t be your entire business; connect with people in person, set up a website and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket – we’ve seen what happens when there’s an Instagram outage!

“Social media shouldn’t be your entire business; connect with people in person, set up a website and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!”

Can you tell us more about your YouTube channel and how that started?
I started posting videos on YouTube, initially as a way for me to put a face to my work, connect with my audience and try to share the answers to questions I’d receive often on Instagram. Over time, it grew into a place for me to connect with the community in a different way and learn a lot from the people who were supporting me.

I’m also lucky enough that it grew into a supplementary income stream, and you can never have too many income streams when you’re a freelancer! Building a presence across social media platforms is really beneficial, but there’s also a synergy between them, which often leads to your following growing on other platforms, too.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Understanding how to manage both your personal and business finances, when they should be separate and your tax obligations is really important. When you’re a freelancer or a sole trader like I am, you are your business, and not having a clear understanding of how much you’re making, how much you need to make and how much your spending can add additional stress onto your shoulders that you don’t need.

I’m a strong believer in trying to create as many income streams as you can manage. This was made even more apparent to me during the pandemic when shooting in person was restricted and I had to rely on other streams of income, such as my Skillshare and YouTube content, consultation and graphic design work that I usually do minimally.

“I’m a strong believer in trying to create as many income streams as you can manage.”

How did you go about landing your first clients?
My first clients were people who found me through word of mouth or through Instagram. I started posting photos of my friends, the area I grew up in and the events I would attend on my Instagram when I was 16, and I managed to grow my account quite quickly from there. This was back in the day when Instagram was a lot easier to manage.

Attending music events and taking my camera around London when I was younger, proved to be a great way for me to meet people and connect with potential clientele. The amalgamation of networking online and in real life really helped me in landing my first clients.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Never stop learning. As cliché as it sounds, it’s such good advice when you work in an industry that is constantly changing and forcing you to adapt. There’s always more to learn. It’s okay to not know everything, make mistakes and change your mind about things. It’s also okay to look back at your old work and cringe a little – that’s a sign of your growth!

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
I’d definitely recommend practising until you find your style. You don’t have to stick with it and it can evolve over time, but having a style to start out with can be really useful when you’re trying to define yourself within a niché or the markets you’re interested in.

The same goes for finding a niché. Finding one to start out in with help you streamline your marketing plan, but it shouldn’t restrict what you shoot and where you end up. Allow these things to change and evolve as you do.

Mention Sophia Carey
Interview by Lyla Johnston