I recently got to work again with my favourite Ottawa based team on this editorial for MINT magazine: stylist Erica Wark, makeup artist Melody Iafelice and hair stylist Kirsty Macdonald, as well as Angie's Model Tara, who did an amazing job. I fell in love with both the 20s to 70s inspired styling, as well as this beautiful Victorian house we shot in! <3
- What makes a great photo?
It's many little things that come together. It's about the concept, the idea, the creativity (very important). Its about the lighting and the retouching / post work that completes the creative process. Yes, composition makes a strong photo. But a stronger photo, is a photo that speaks. Its about the emotions that comes through. When you manage to make emotion the center of an image, you have a great photo.
- What makes a great photographer?
Curiosity and continuous need to learn. When we photograph, it's our soul that takes over - we see things with our soul, not our eyes. Like any artist, letting inspiration come to you, and using it when it is there. A stronger connection with the inner child. I think that's the main qualities that a photographer needs to be a great one. Forget about all of the technical stuff. As much as I love lighting and little technical details, over the years I have come to realize that if it comes from the heart and soul, it cannot go wrong. That's what art is about.
I recently had a few aspiring photographers asking me for my opinion on what it takes to make it as a fashion photographer. So I decided to put the following list together :
- As a fashion photographer, we have to be out there. Social media is great for reaching out to people, but meeting people in person is a totally different thing. If people can meet you and put a face to your name, you will be remembered so much more.
Collaborating & Creating Good Relationships
- Collaborating is so important for all types of artists. And creating good relationships with people you work well with is just as crucial. It is those relationships that will be beneficial to you in the long run. Make friends in the industry and you will never stop getting work.
- Unfortunately for some, the city you are based in is extremely important for fashion photographers. As for anyone that wants to specialize in the fashion industry. It is a business that is centered around specific cities across the world, such as NYC, London, Tokyo, Berlin, Milan, LA etc. So you need to be willing to relocate if you are from a smaller town or city if you want your career to expand.
- A great photographer is an artist who is constantly looking to learn new things. A never-ending curiosity is one of the best qualities you can have, which will get you far.
Long Term Vision / Goal
- What do you really want to do? Do you see yourself shooting fashion for the rest of your life? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen? I think that a photographer can only really make it in the fashion industry if he sees no other way of living his life. Becoming a fashion photographer has to be a must, it can't just be a maybe.
- You have to love what you do, and everything that it includes. You just have to. It has to be part of you, and it has to become something you cannot live without. Yes, it is work, but it also your hobby, and your passion. Passion is your most powerful asset. With this, there is nothing you can't achieve.
Over the years, I have also come to realize that nobody should be "trying too hard" in order to make it big. If you expect things to come to you right away, you might be up for a surprise. Everything comes with time. And a lot in this industry is about timing. So be patient, keep working hard, and most importantly, HAVE FUN. :)
Every photographer has a different story. Some were born into photography, some discovered their passion at a young age, and some later in their life. Some were lucky to have artists present in their life, and some just found photography unintentionally, by experimenting. For my part, I never planned on being a photographer while growing up. I definitely wanted to do something artistic and creative, but I never really knew what it would be.
I always loved photos, since I was very young. I loved anything that was visual. I used to draw ALL the time. The rest of my family were quite the opposite, and no one really pursued any artistic hobbies. The first camera I can remember having was a really cheap 35mm camera that my mom bought. We would snap the usual family shots with it, and wait a couple of weeks to see the photos in print. How exciting that was! Then, around age 8, I remember my aunt giving me a more high end reflex camera - I think it was a pentax MX. Altough this camera was broken and produced blurry and out of focus images most of the time, I really enjoyed shooting with it, experimenting and trying to be creative!
My first digital reflex camera was a Canon Rebel (the first model). The digital changed my life. I got to shoot more stuff, and this got to shoot more often! I started with photos of my dog and cats, of course, then I turned to landscape, and street photography. My next camera was the Nikon D300 - but I at that moment I still wasn’t very good, or should I say, I hadn’t found my passion yet.
Then in 2008, I met a photographer who was doing portrait photography on the side. He was quite passionate about his photography, and his passion was contagious. I came out of my shell, and started experimenting with portrait and fashion. And I fell in love. I learned a lot from this photographer - he became my mentor.
I quickly realized that this is what I wanted to do, no question. I left my desk job as a web designer to pursue a career in photography full time. The next few years were experimentation. I tried events, weddings, families & babies and all of that. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy those at some point, but I never really got any real inspiration… But when I returned to portrait and fashion, I felt like all the work that was involved was effortless. I was growing so much so fast - I found my niche.
It was important to me to differentiate, from the very beginning, what quality photography work was, and the difference between amateur and professional photography. I chose to learn from the very best of the best, and to only look at work from photographers who were at the top. I assisted a few photographers in Montreal, and this is where I learned the most about the fashion industry. I learned the things to do, and the things not to do; something that they would never teach you in photography school. I still went to school for a bit to perfect my technique, and basically to get a new outlook on the business side of photography.
The rest was just pure passion, and a lot of determination. You have to just go for it. Along the way I took risks, some small and some huge! And I don’t regret any of them - even the ones that didn’t end up working - because that’s when I learned the most. I think that when you have a vision and a goal, everything gets so much easier, and you don’t really see obstacles as obstacles… but more as fun challenges that you are actually expecting. :) Photography isn’t the easiest career. You HAVE to be passionate about it. You have to live through it. It has to become a part of you.
What do I do on days when I am not shooting? A lot of people have this impression that a photographer's job is to snap photos all the time. This is far from the reality. For example, I can spend twice as much time in front of the computer, editing and finalizing the final photos from a photo shoot, after the shoot itself. And there’s also the pre-production of the shoot (meetings with client, location scouting, getting a team on board and meeting with them, preparing the details of the day etc). A lot of elements are included in a photo shoot, so it far more than just a shooting day!
Also, professional photographers are business owners before anything else. This means there is a lot of tasks that are more business related than photography related that every photographer has to do every day. Answering emails, dealing with the bookkeeping and finances (my favourite), working on advertisements, promotion and marketing of the business, as well as maintaining a social media presence - which is VERY time consuming - are all important duties that a photographer has to do.
The chart below, created by ISPWP, really shows how a professional photographer spends his/her time. ;)