Hannah Smoker, Class of 2010 | Military Photographer

Hannah Smoker RAF PhotographerGraduating can seem like a joyous but also daunting process, entering the ‘real world’ of employment and fulfilling those career dreams. But the question I found was where do I start? After completing BA (Hons) Media Production at the University of Lincoln in 2010 I knew I wanted to pursue a career in photography or film, but didn’t know how to even remotely achieve it as well as be able to afford to live. There are a lot of free internships out there to gain experience but I didn’t have the savings or come from a location where I could do it living from my family home. 

So I decided to go travelling, visiting New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. Upon my return still none the wiser I continued in a trade I had worked in since a teenager, catering. But knew that although it had taught me a lot and shown me that a hands-on job role is what I would like, it was not going to get me closer to the world of media. I also tried my hand at family portraits and wedding photography but realised this was not the job that I wanted to pursue long term. Living in Lincoln helped me gain knowledge and understanding of other options, the main one being that the Royal Air Force has a photographer role, after deciding to join, I completed all the tests required and was on basic training within 6 months of sending that application form off.

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I haven’t looked back, it has given me so much opportunity in photography but also in so many other aspects.  From having the opportunities like photographing the Royal Family on VE Day at Westminster Abbey to flying in the back of a Typhoon at RAF Coningsby. A life in the military doesn’t just involve the job, I have visited Germany to go skiing and sailing, visited Menin Gate in Ypres and tried my hand at Ice Hockey! This is just a snippet from the 5 years that I have served so far.

I am currently posted at RAF Scampton with the Red Arrows, where I have so far travelled to the Middle East and Europe (in the back of a Hawk T1!). The next stop for the team is on to the USA for 8 weeks this year.

I am a firm believer in taking chances and getting the most out of the opportunities you are given. If someone had once told me that I would be in the military I would have laughed. But I do believe that you should listen to your instincts and take those opportunities that you had not thought about before. This is the best career decision I could have made to date, and who knows what’s around the corner?

If anyone would like any more information about the RAF Photographer role, please feel free to email me hannah.smoker100@mod.gov.uk | See RAF Photographer vacancy.