Beautiful women, high performance motorcycles, and the freedom to turn dreams into reality on an almost daily basis. Sound good? You bet your fucking life it does. Meet Oli Coulthard. Full time content creator, social media producer, photographer and videographer.
Oli's lifestyle is enough to make anyone jealous although good things don't come without hard work and he's no stranger to it. Only a short time ago he was walking the streets with an empty bank account and an empty tank of gas. Now he's busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking competition, and he is most definitely kicking ass!
We recently caught up with Oli and went behind the scenes on one of his shoots for Pipeburn to find out how he's able to live the life that he does, and what he had to overcome to make it happen...
Hey mate how have you been, what have you been up to lately?
I've been really good thanks mate, we’ve just opened the new Espire Studio office and working on a social media campaign for Toyota. We’re also planning some travel and adventure photography with Saint, the motorcycle clothing brand.
Tell us a bit about what it is you do
Initially I came from a lifestyle/ model photography background and in the last year or so I’ve developed my professional portfolio into more video production and social media content production. Anything that’s in the area of models, lifestyle and motorsport, and anything thats crazy and out of the norm.
What was your path to becoming a full time photographer?
To begin with I was working with motorbikes. But after my crash in May 2015 the way I was working was really affected, I wasn’t disheartened by it but my passion started to slip and I didn’t see the opportunities that I wanted to see so I decided to cut those ties and start in a new direction. My sisters a professional photographer and my Dads in the film industry so I’ve always had that background in photography and creative spaces so I guess it was almost my second nature.
So what’s the story when you were working on bikes, what was the plan back then?
Back then I was hoping to get to the stage where I could open my own custom workshop and build high performance italian super bikes and cafe racers but I feel everything has a time and place. There’s always a balance of learning and making mistakes, you know, failing before you can succeed.
So bikes were your first real passion?
Yeah bikes have always been a passion and continue to be a passion for me. That’s why I’m super lucky to work with brands like Ducati, Triumph, Harley and Saint they’ve given me so many awesome opportunities.
When did photography become how you made a living?
I’d say about a year ago. It was when I was kind of in between working on bikes and trying to find my feet about how I wanted to approach this industry on a bigger scale. Like I was getting some small paid jobs but that was really just so that I could build up my portfolio. And then it got to a point where big brands started noticing my work. So I thought it was time to take that next leap. It was scary but I won’t ever regret it. I always say to people that my biggest fear is regretting chances not taken, and I think that every now and then you’ve got to take the really scary chances. They can have a huge pay off that you’re never going to see coming. So really this time last year was when I was able to support myself fully in this business.
Been working on anything interesting lately? Or is there anything cool in the pipeline?
I’m very excited for what this year holds with brands that I’m collaborating with. I’ve got a few big adventures in the works. London, Bali maybe America later in the year. I’m working on a cinematic video which I’ve wanted to do for a very long time but haven’t had access to the gear. Now that I’m in the business the opportunities and the equipment are available to me.
What is your favourite thing to shoot? And why
It’s gonna sound really bad but it’s probably between bikes and girls. Motorbikes and cars are where my roots are from and that’s what I’m super super passionate about in terms of my hobby life outside of my professional photography life. So motorbikes are a big part but then again shooting models has also been a massive, critical point in my career because that’s what’s opened up most of the doors for me. I’ve been able to work with some amazing friends who’d never modelled or even been in front of a lens before. And I’ve been able to work with some huge brands and big time models as well, so I think having that experience and working with people has been awesome.
I like the unpredictability of it, of a person, like they’re not a still object, you know, they’re real! I also really like the classiness of shooting models, I’m not into the glamour photography, I like things to be true. I like that old school classy, James Bond kind of feel to my photos.
For a lot of people, transferring a hobby into a paying profession can be a difficult task. How have you managed to do it?
It's very daunting, in the photography and creative industry there's going to be a solid period of time where you're not getting paid. As disheartening as it is, you will probably be unemployed for a while and you may have to find other means to support yourself, buy all of the gear, pay for your car or whatever outgoing costs that you've got. You've got to accept that yeah you won't be rich straight away, you will have to do lots and lots and lots of free jobs, even when they're for big brands. You can't have a false sense of entitlement, no one owes you anything until you've proved that they need you. It's a lot of hard work, it's very scary and worrying that you're not going to make it but if it's actually something you're passionate about and not just a whim, if you chase it, and you own it and you make it yours, it's always going to pay off in the long run. You've just got to persist, persistence is key.
What's the best career advice you've been given so far?
I'm lucky enough to have a few incredible role models around me, who have supported me and have always loved my work, and pulled me in if they've got a job I can help them out with. I think some of the best advice I've been given from those 3 to 5 key people is that you've got to stop saying no and making excuses, just say yes. If you have a good gut feeling, or you get good vibes, this goes for relationships with people or brands or just how you approach life, if you get good vibes and a good gut feeling then trust yourself. Because you know you. No one can tell you what's better for you until you find out yourself. You've always got to make a mistake first, before you can learn a lesson and get better, that's my opinion.
Also, balance. Everything in life has to be balanced and that's why I got the tattoo I have on my forearm. So yes, all I want to do is the adventure stuff, but I also need to do the commercial work to get the pay off to go out and shoot the adventure stuff. So there's always a balance of everything.
Who's been an influence in the way you live?
I draw a lot from my friends. I don't have a massive friend group, I'd rather 10 amazing friends than 20 average ones. I've got more friends than that though, trust me! Haha. I do take a lot of inspiration from my friends though, my friend Adam Krowitz (aka The Drone Man) he's been a massive contributing factor. Oli Rowe has helped me achieve some amazing things with a few clients. Chris Soll and Rochelle Fox, they're the ones that really made me realise that I've got to get out of the whole machine, trap mentality of you've got to go to uni, you've got to do this and that to get ahead. They told me if you want something just do it yourself. So I'd have to say that the reason I started on this whole journey and lifestyle is because of Chris and Rochelle who really triggered that mentality for me.
Lastly, describe your ultimate adventure
I'm planning a trip later this year to Iceland, or maybe somewhere in Alaska. We'll probably have a Defender, a few motorbikes on the back of it, a few awesome mates and just have no plan, no final destination, just go where the journey takes us and just capture it all, document it, appreciate and share it.
Check out some of Oli's work on instagram here: