The fashion industry can be fast-paced and exciting, so it’s no wonder so many young photographers are drawn to it. It’s also notoriously competitive, however, if you’re hoping to pursue a career in fashion photography, it’s important that you understand the challenges and are willing to work hard to develop your own style, market your work and build up a good reputation.
But how exactly can you get started when you’re a total newbie to the industry?
Here are a few tips for taking those all-important first steps.
1. Familiarize yourself with the industry.
You probably have a few brands you’re familiar with or fashion magazines you enjoy reading, but if you’re looking to break into the industry, you need to be familiar with the major players, terminology and history as well as the latest trends.
The best way to do this is to start reading all the major fashion magazines and blogs, as well as researching and following some of the leading photographers in the industry, such as Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz and Mario Sorrenti.
2. Learn to use the necessary tools and techniques .
If you want to work as a fashion photographer you may need to learn some new photography skills and work with unfamiliar tools such as beauty dishes, reflectors and soft boxes.
You could go to a photography school where you’ll be taught how to use these tools, manipulate light and edit your photos, but another way to learn the tools of the trade is to assist or shadow a well-established fashion photographer who can help you learn on the job.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice.
Once you understand the tools and techniques used in fashion photography, you’ll need to spend as much time as possible practicing your new skills and gaining confidence in your abilities.
Try to shoot a variety of people in different locations and you can even experiment with styling your own photo shoots now and then. This will teach you to communicate more clearly with models and assistants, and also develop your own personal style as a photographer.
4. Begin building up your portfolio.
The first thing clients will want to see when considering whether or not to hire you is your portfolio, so creating one is an important first step for new photographers.
Of course, it’s a bit of a catch 22, because no one will hire you unless you have strong samples to show, but it’s hard to build a portfolio when you’re not working, so in the beginning you may have to take on lower paying jobs or even work for free.
These days it’s also important to make your portfolio available online, so along with being active on social media, it’s a good idea to create your own website or blog where you can show off your best photos and connect with potential clients.
5. Grow your professional network.
Your professional network will grow organically as you get more jobs, but at the beginning of your career you can use all the help you can get, so try to get to know as many photographers, models, designers, makeup artists and editors in the industry as possible.
Start by becoming active in photography groups online where you can ask questions and learn about industry get-togethers or fashion shows in your area. You may also want to print some basic business cards so you have a quick way to exchange information at photo shoots or events.
Tess Pajaron is the Outreach Manager for Bob Books, UK’s top supplier of photographic paper books.