Making Money with your Adobe Creative Cloud Skills: Sam McAllister, Digital Marketing Institute / Trinity College Dublin

Featured in Photography
Image source: Sam McAllister
Making Money with your Adobe Creative Cloud Skills: Sam McAllister, Digital Marketing Institute / Trinity College Dublin

Before we met Sam, we scrolled through his Instagram and had so many questions. Who is the person behind these stunning images? How is it possible to be a student, while also making money as a global travel photographer? How does that just…happen? And, how do we get that life?

When we met Sam, he assured us, in his wise-beyond-his-years way, that it didn’t just happen.

After secondary school, Sam saved up and took a gap year before starting university at Trinity College Dublin. But after his time abroad, he came back with more than great memories. He came back with a passion for photography, and a renewed sense of purpose that changed the course of his entire life.

Throughout his college career, Sam has worked hard to hone his craft, market himself via Instagram, and manage important stuff like school, friends, and family.

Read on to learn Sam’s process for editing photos in Adobe Lightroom, and get inspired to develop a look that’s uniquely yours.  

Learn photographer Sam McAllister’s Adobe Lightroom process

1. Import your images into Adobe Lightroom and catalog them.

“The first thing I do after a trip is import my photos, and catalog them by day if I’ve been on a multi-day shoot.”

2. Select a preset, or invent one from scratch.

“I have about three presets that I use most often, but sometimes I still create them from scratch. To do that, I’ll select the image that’s most representative of the whole set, edit it how I like, and add it to my preset settings. Whether I’m using an existing preset or creating a new one, I like to add a touch of grain to reduce that overly sharp, digital feel.”

3. Apply your preset to the rest of your images.

I simply copy and paste my preset to the rest of the images in the set.”

4. Do local adjustments on individual images.

“Exposure, white balance, filters, and spot removal are the first things I adjust locally. Most spots can be removed in Lightroom, but for bigger spots, I’ll pop over to Photoshop, edit, save, and return back to Lightroom. For filters, I sometimes use subtle gradient or radial filters, but only when I feel like it adds something special to an image. Finally, I do some noise reduction and a touch of sharpening. These tasks can be a bit Lightroom-intensive, so I like to save them for the end.”

5. Export and save.

“When everything is done, I export to my desktop and save them there.”

We asked Sam several questions on his journey, check them out below.

How did you discover your love for photography?

There’s something about working a boring, unfulfilling job that really pushes your mind’s creativity. When I worked in retail, I’d spend hours daydreaming about far-flung places. I had just turned 18, so I felt that I could no longer hide behind the “Oh I’m just a kid, I’ll wait until I’m older” mentality, which really spurred me on. I figured that Costa Rica was about as far from this little island as I could imagine, and decided to travel there with my savings. The adventure came first, and the GoPro I brought was secondary, which I think has really helped cement how I still approach travel. It was on that trip that I really got interested in learning how to shoot with a DSLR.

How did you learn to use a camera properly?

Well, I got my DSLR right before the next leg of my gap year. I was traveling around Europe with a camera that was new to me, so it was definitely a “learn as you go” situation. I was shooting constantly, and looking up DSLR and Adobe Lightroom tutorials on my phone. I started posting images from my trip to Instagram, and, as my craft improved, my following started to build. Instagram is kind of my memory book, so I’ve kept those early images on my grid. They’re a good reminder of how far my skills have come, and have yet to go. Occasionally people message saying that they love how my images have improved over time, and that it’s inspired them to keep shooting.

When did you get your “big break”?

I got a DM on Instagram from The Luxury Collection. They were sending photographers to some of their luxury hotels in Austria, and they invited me along. I only had a couple thousand followers at the time, so I was unbelievably excited to be working with such a huge brand. When the photos from the trip went live, my following began to grow. That exposure I had from working with an international brand was key to helping me get my next paid gigs with conviction.

How do you protect yourself and make sure you’re getting paid fairly?  

I always make sure to draw up a contract before a job begins, so everyone is clear on what I’m charging for, and what I’m delivering. Some people think being a photographer is as easy as walking out the door, snapping a photo, and sending it off. The amount of time it takes to scout, shoot, catalog, edit, retouch, etc. is often overlooked. I’ve found that when you explain what’s involved in your process, it gets everyone on the same page and helps explain why your rate is what it is. There are a ton of resources online to help create a basic legal contract, something that I urge any creators to use every time they make something for someone else.

From your experience, what’s the key to success as a photographer?

Passion! If you truly love photography, and can’t really imagine doing anything else, then you already have the most important key to success. If the idea of a being a photographer is more captivating than actually doing it, just be careful that when times are tough it could be hard to keep focused on your passion.

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