Photography is a visual medium, but that doesn't mean visual skills are the only ones that matter if you want to take great photographs. According to Paul Hermann, a photographer for 20 years and director of the photography collective Red Eye, the successful photographers he has met all have several traits, including obvious ones like an original vision and a solid work ethic. But as he explained during a presentation on successful freelance photography at the Focus On Imaging conference in Birmingham, they also have a less obvious common trait: they're all well-read and curious about a wide range of topics. "They all have an interest in the world, they read a lot," Hermann explained. Being better informed translates into more ideas and more original images. That's something you don't need specialised equipment to achieve, and it's something you can use to stand out in a hyper-crowded market. As Hermann pointed out: "There's vastly more people who want to become photographers than can be."