An interview with Birmingham-based Bulgarian photographer and editor Chavdar Chavdarov. He speaks about how he achieved his dream and battled through adversity.


Interviewer: How were you introduced to the world of photo editing?

Chavdar: In May 2004, I was a student, and would spend most of my free time playing computer games. One day a schoolmate of mine showed me Adobe Photoshop Elements, a photo editing programme. I was immediately drawn to the idea of editing photos and took a brief interest in it. However, as it was a new programme there were very few tutorials online documenting how to use it. I tried experimenting and seeing what I could do with it, but I quickly lost interest.

Interviewer: So you were not fully sold on it at the start, what convinced you to return to using Adobe Photoshop?

Chavdar:A few months later, there was a new version that was released that was called CS2. This time there were plenty of tutorials online showcasing what was possible with CS2. At the time though my sister was doing much better than me at school, and my father was upset about the amount of time I was spending playing video games. This frustration and hostility did not stop me from enjoying Photoshop, I poured a lot of my energy into it. By January 2005, I was curious how I could enhance my schoolmate’s pictures and once again delved into the online tutorials.


Interviewer: What was the first camera that you bought for yourself and your editing work?

Chavdar: In the summer of 2005, I started looking for a camera, so that I would be able to edit and enhance my own photos. I found a semi-professional Silver Olympus camera with a fixed lens, it was a massive investment as the camera cost £360.  My father again questioned my decision and made it clear he did not believe it would be worthwhile.

Interviewer: What were your next steps in pursuing your goal to become a full-time photographer and image editor?

Chavdar: Well my friend advised me to go University and get a Linguistics Major in case my photography career did not go as expected. I was going to treat university as a networking experience as well, I would meet thousands of people who could present future job and career prospects. My father was against my move to university, but I did not let that stop me. In September 2008, I enrolled as a linguist. At university I would finish studying and would immediately start gaming, there was no one to tell me otherwise anymore.

Interviewer: How did you end up working in the US?

Chavdar: In January 2009, I decided that I would go with a Work and Travel company to the US where I could study and gain work experience. My father finally backed one of my choices and agreed to borrow money so I could pay for all of the needed paperwork and documentation. I was overjoyed when the embassy gave me my visa; I could not wait to see America, and to find out if it was truly like the films and television shows.

It turned out the US was nothing like I had expected. For one I had a really difficult time finding any work while being on a visa. I struggled to find a second job, and I started to lose hope as I was not able to live off the money from my work experience alone.Eventually I was able to get two jobs, one as a part of the Kitchen Crew at the McDonald’s based in Bethany Beach DE. The other was as a dishwasher in a restaurant called Cottage Cafe. Only with both of these jobs and my work experience was I able to live comfortably.


Interviewer: Sounds like you made the most out of a tough situation, did you do anything to make the hard work seem easier?

Chavdar: By the end of July 2009, I had decided that I deserved to treat myself for my months of hard work. After a few minutes of browsing in a local tech shop, I stopped and said to myself, “A camera!”. I contacted one of my mentors from the Image Editing and Photography contest I was competing in, and she gave me two web links, one for Canon and another one for Nikon camera. I didn’t know which one to buy. My roommate said one of his friends had a Nikon, and that the camera was fantastic.This broke the tie for me so I purchased the Nikon 3100 with a kit lens.

Interviewer: That camera must have made all the difference for your image quality. How were things looking with the addition of your new camera?

Chavdar: At the end of summer 2010 I had a fantastic portfolio of pictures and edits. I was advised by a friend who was doing branding for a Gaming company named Kingwin to start my own Facebook page. He told me it was a fantastic way to broaden my networking and to find new clients. My page however did not take off as much as I had hoped. I had few to no clients and my motivation for photography started to disappear. 


Interviewer: Did you have any change in luck once you graduated?

Chavdar: When I graduated from University in May 2012, I couldn’t find any work in Bulgaria, and my visa was rejected for the US. I was in the middle of nowhere with no possible career paths. My friend who advised me to go to University contacted me, saying he was in the UK, working in a factory. He said he found the locals different and that there were tonnes of job opportunities for me. 

In September, I moved to Birmingham. My friend was working in a meat factory, and got me a position there alongside him. I was quite unhappy with the job, and I didn’t see a future there. It was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Three months after I started work, he told me, “Chavdar, in this country foreigners like us only work in factories.” These words broke my spirit, I thought there was no chance for me to do what I loved for a living.

I told myself that “There has to be a way of being equal to the locals, to have a nice job and a house.” 

I immediately quit my factory job and started looking for professional photography work. I spent a few months applying, and I was getting desperate. After a few months I had to hedge my bets and I started applying for factory jobs again. In the summer of 2016, I got hired as a carpet fitter by someone who lived in a houseshare with one of my cousins. I also started taking IT courses as I was having no luck in finding a photography job.


Interviewer: That must have been a really tough time for you mentally. How were you able to get back to doing what you loved?

Chavdar: I will never forget the day that reinvigorated my love for photography. On the eighth of August 2012, two days before my birthday, my first professional camera arrived. I will never forget the butterflies I had after opening the door and seeing the Amazon box on my doorstep. I immediately started exploring the menus and was taking pictures of everything in sight. I never thought I would get to the stage where I could afford a professional camera. I spent all of my free time that week on YouTube watching basic camera guides and photography techniques. My favourite YouTuber was Jared Polin of  Fro Knows Photo.I spent hours watching his content to learn all the tricks to using my new camera.

In February 2017, I was finally called for an interview for one of the Photography positions I applied for. The job was for Euro Communications Distribution LTD, in Wolverhampton, and it was a product photography position. A job in the UK as a photographer sounded unbelievable to me. I passed the interview, and in my first week of work, everyone in the office made me feel like I belonged. I couldn’t believe that. After a few months working there, my manager, Greg Based, called for a private chat. He showed me a diagram and explained to me that we had generated 350,000 new visitors on our online eBay store due to the improvement of our images. His words were, “This is all you, Chavdar.” I couldn’t believe it, that my work could have such a monumental impact. The owner, Steven Athwal, expanded the company, and four months later, The Big Phone Store opened in the Wolverhampton city centre. Every day, I was not only taking pictures of different products, but I studied the newest techniques of photography to ensure I was always ahead of the curve. A colleague from work also advised me on what to do for branding, and how I could expand and improve my public image. 



Interviewer: That must have been amazing to know that your work had such a massive impact on a business. You must have been over the moon, why did you stop working with the company?

Chavdar: Right before I signed a permanent contract, I got dismissed from work as the company was moving in another direction. I was hired then as a Quality Inspector position at Jaguar, Land Rover. At the same time, I prepared my new resume, online portfolio and started applying for more photography positions. And I looked for Photography events to gain some exposure and to start networking again.

However, in May 2017, I got involved in Product Photography and began specializing in fashion as well. I also took part in many local fashion shows:

  • Behind the Mask
  • Kashane Swaby UK
  • UK Top Model 2017 and The Birmingham Inspirational Awards which are both organised by Shlepp Entertainment. I spent around £200 pounds on renting equipment. The investment paid off as amongst 20 photographers, I was one of the most advertised.

Nowadays, I work with local brands and companies. I offer Product Photography, Still-Life Product Photography, Studio, and on-location Fashion Photography, creative consultation, and also image editing services.


As a photographer, Chadvar is published by:

As an Image Editor, Chadvar is published by: