Name: Tom Kay

Job title: Photographer, videographer and craftsman

Employer: I’m self-employed and I trade as Tom Kay Photographic for my photography business and as The Workshoppist in my other activity, which is making interior design objects out of reclaimed materials

Age: 43

Where are you from? Seaton

Where do you live now? Flimby

Where do you work? I work all over Cumbria as a photographer and I operate from my home workshop in my other activity, as I sell the items I make online through the platform Etsy, which is a website dedicated to handmade products.

How long have you done this job? I’ve been a photographer for more than 20 years. I’ve worked as a freelance for many years, before joining the Cumbrian Newspapers, now Newsquest Cumbria, where I worked for nine years.

I was made redundant from the company last year and I’ve since gone back to freelancing.

Despite a qualification in design, I’ve only started The Workshoppist business after my redundancy.

I’ve always loved making beautiful objects, but I had never actually explored it as a business opportunity. I guess it’s a good way of making use of that qualification as well as diversifying my work.

Take us through a typical day: Anyone who is self-employed knows each day can be very different from the previous one.

In summer, my photography business keeps me super-busy. This is because I get many requests for photographing events. I could be working anything from four to 12 hours a day, taking pictures of people having fun at a festival, enjoying a cultural event or engaging in workshops.

During the winter months I work more with private clients, so I could be taking pictures of dogs running up and down a beach as a treasured memory for the owner, working for theatres and venues shooting pictures and videos of artists for promotional material. I also freelance for the newspapers throughout the year.

My other activity also keeps me busier during the winter, especially leading up to Christmas. During the year I try to build up a little bit of stock of the different designs I produce, so that when orders come in and I can fulfil them quickly, even if I’m busy with my photography.

My days can be filled with anything from taking pictures for a business or a private client, designing a wine rack or a candle holder to sell on Etsy, walking on the beach looking for driftwood to turn into a beautiful lamp or soap dish, working on my designs in the workshop or taking pictures of our beautiful Cumbrian landscape.

What do you like most about the job? I love having two activities that I enjoy equally. I like the flexibility of the hours, as it means I can get out on my mountain bike on a sunny day instead of being stuck in an office and I love that I get to meet some incredible people and take pictures they can treasure.

With The Workshoppist, I love turning materials into beautiful and useful objects. A bit of driftwood could become a lovely frame and an old oak barrel could become a headphone stand.

What do you like least? A lot of my photography work is done at weekends and in the evenings, so I do miss out on some social events I’d like to attend. I’m lucky that I have the most amazing girlfriend who understands this and we make the most of the free time we have.

My experience as a photographer has also enabled me to take commissions for videography projects. In the age of multimedia and multi-platform communication, it’s something I’m excited to be a part of.

Why did you want to do this job? I love how in the type of photography I do, you never know what you’ll get – each day can be a surprise and a challenge. The Workshoppist was born out of pure love of making unique objects. Each item is truly unique due to the very nature of the materials I use. And also my house is not so big to home all the ideas I have and produce, so I had to find a way of keeping my creativity alive, while not hoarding everything I make.

What jobs have you done previously? I worked at Picture It in Workington, printing photographs, for around 10 years. I trained as a welder when I was younger, but then I pretty much got into photography straight away, as I realised that would be the right career for me.

I used to work as a wedding photographer too, but after around 600 weddings, I felt I had done my fair stint.

What qualifications or experience do you need? With both businesses all you need is bags of enthusiasm and patience to learn the craft. Being calm and sympathetic to the subject you are photographing is key, as well as being able to make them smile when they’re feeling a little nervous in front of the camera. What I do is all about getting a suitable expression for the situation, so being able to react quickly is a must. You can’t plan everything so being inventive is a very helpful asset.

Any advice for people wanting to get into your profession? Try to develop your own style. It’s not about copying other photographers or repeating things that have already been done by other craftsmen.

Technology is moving so fast in photography that there are creative opportunities no-one has ever thought of before and they are available more now than ever. Don’t worry about the kit you have – the best camera is the one you have in your hand at the time.

As for making interior design objects, look for your style and own it. I mostly make objects out of reclaimed wood and copper pipe. I like each of my designs to be practical and useful so a lot of time has to be spent testing them, but it’s all worthwhile in the end.