i. I work as a freelance action sports and lifestyle photographer. Which means I will photograph and document everything from skiing and snowboarding to shooting for clothing brands and shooting some weddings and engagements in the summertime.
ii. I do this creative work because…
In high school, I realized that this kind of work was my dream job, and after that I never looked back. One of my favourite quotes is by Robert De Niro who describes it perfectly, “you didn’t have a choice when you discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion. When you feel that, you can’t fight it. You just go with it.”
iii. Personal qualities that help me in my work are…
I like to think I am pretty driven, which is definitely an asset. Self-employment requires you to be resourceful and open to challenging yourself. Throughout the years I’ve definitely enjoyed moving away from my comfort zone, which I think can also help when you’re looking to grow your business.
iv. The greatest challenges around doing this work are…
I would say that the largest challenge for me personally would be breaking down my larger goals into smaller steps. I like to work towards my ever-changing “dreams” on a daily basis, and sometimes they seem daunting, with no clear path. The greatest challenge for me is to block out any sense of apprehension and keep going.
v. Creative childhood hobbies
Growing up, I was a winter sport kind of girl. I really loved figure skating when I wasn’t skiing. I used writing as a creative outlet as well as doing quite a bit of sketching.
vi. Other creators who inspire you
I’m inspired by other photographers who have gone out of their way to offer advice and answers to my questions, such as Dasha Nosova and Reuben Krabbe. Not only do I geek out over their photos and talent, but they have also gone the extra mile to help me out when I needed it. They inspire me in more ways than one!
vii. Training that has helped me succeed in this career
I haven’t had any formal training, but I have been lucky enough to receive mentorship that I feel has been extremely valuable. My training has more centred on being safe in the mountains, I have completed a basic level of Avalanche Safety training and Wilderness First Aid but there is so much more to learn. I also try to make use of the amazing resource that is the Creative Live online seminars in terms of photography techniques and business management.
viii. The biggest myth about this type of work is:
A lot of people ask about how difficult freelancing is, but it is a myth that it has to be so challenging. If you love what you are doing, you embrace those obstacles and difficulties as motivation to improve. If you stay the course, the feeling of eventually overcoming the challenge is the most satisfying feeling.
ix. If you want to work in my field:
I suggest that you get out and try and have as many experiences in the field as possible, whether it that takes you into the mountains, a studio or wherever you would like to make a name for yourself. You’ll learn the lessons that are most valuable to your own progression on location.
x. A professional goal I have for the future
The main professional goal I have in the action sports industry is to land a magazine cover. That is a huge focus for me going forward.
xi. If you want to see my work, go to
You can check out my Instagram feed at @ilannaemily, or give my website a look at www.ilannabarkusky.com.
* All photos courtesy of Ilanna Barkusky