How to Become a Fashion Photographer for a Magazine
The life of a fashion photographer seems very glamorous and it is. You get to travel to exotic locations, hang with the most beautiful people in the world and meet movers and shakers in the industry.
And the pay isn’t bad; in fact, it’s great! But it is a very competitive industry and there are many aspiring fashion photographers who have spent years trying to become the next Annie Leibovitz, Emily Soto or Mario Testino.
If you want to become a fashion photographer for a magazine, talent will only get you so far. You must be prepared to stay ahead of the competition by being smarter and purposeful about your approach.
The truth is, there are only 3 things you need to focus on to increase your chances of making it in the high- flying world of fashion photography:
- Research on the Fashion Industry – Before you decide to enter any venture, you must learn all you can about it. Fashion photography thrives in an industry unlike other branches of photography such as sport, art, still life, street, nature, wedding and portraiture.
Clio McNicholl, Photo Editor for Allure Magazine, says that photographers who want to break into the fashion industry should also research about the publication or company they want to work for.
They should figure out how their specific skill set could contribute to what the publication does. A big mistake made by new fashion photographers is not knowing who the Photo Editor is.
The Photo Editor is the person in charge of evaluating all submitted portfolios.
If you want to become a fashion photographer for a magazine, you should also understand the current realities of the job.
Eva Mueller who has been doing fashion photography in New York for more than a decade cautions that the first few years can be quite harsh.
According to Mueller, some publications have no budget for photography while others will take their time in paying for your services. You could be without pay for months on end.
Eventually, your persistence could pay off if you could land a contract with a magazine like Allure that pays new photographers $350 per day and experienced ones $130,000 for a fashion spread.
- Approach Fashion Photography as a Business – Without question, photography is an art. It requires a great deal of creativity and dedication to hone your craft.
Professional Steven Giralt gives the advice that if you want to succeed in a career in photography, stay true to your art but also approach it as a business.
It will be difficult to express or advocate your vision if you cannot sustain your passion financially. Here are a few tips you can consider to transition your love for photography into a thriving business:
- Build a Website – One of the cheapest ways to showcase your talent and be discovered is by building a website.
A website is your online business address. You can also think of it as your virtual art gallery. With a website, you have a central hub to distribute your work and receive people who want to know about your talent.
But it’s not enough just to have a website. In order to be effective, your website must have the following qualities:
- Mobile Responsive – Accessible by a variety of mobile gadgets
- Fast to Download – It should download content faster than 9 seconds
- Accessible via Multi- Browsers – Not everyone will use Google, Bing or Yahoo! Make accommodations for Safari, Firefox and other smaller browsers
- Fully Functioning Buttons and Features – Websites are great for sharing content to other networks but make sure yours are working
Don’t hesitate to hire the services of a professional web designer and programmer to get the job done right.
- Create a Professional Portfolio – McNicholl continues that a Professional Portfolio is the fashion photographer’s most important tool. According to McNicholl, she receives 50 unsolicited fashion portfolios per month.
Although a website can provide a preview of your work, nothing beats having actual copies in the hands of a Photo Editor. McNicholl offers the following advice when creating a portfolio:
- Bright imaging of 4” x 5” transparencies work best
- Include tear sheets or pages of work that have been published in magazines
- Include 8” x 10” prints
- Call the publication and find out the name of the Photo Editor
- Label everything with your name and contact number
- Include a stamped self- addressed envelope if you want your portfolio back
- Network Tirelessly – If you want to get your name out there, you have to bodily go out there and rub elbows with people who can get you on the right track.
- Connect with Other Fashion Photographers – Yes, it’s a competitive industry but it’s not necessarily dog- eat- dog.
You can apprentice with a known fashion photographer so you can sharpen your skills. Or build contacts who can give you referrals.
When reviewing portfolios, McNicholls gives priority to photographers who were referred to recommended by people in her network.
- Seek Out Young Fashion Designers – There are also many aspiring young fashion designers who are trying to break into the industry.
Seek them out and work out a win- win arrangement by collaborating on a limited basis.
- Reach Out to People in the Fashion Industry – In addition to photographers, reach out to other people who work in the industry. These include models, makeup artists, graphic designers and hair stylists.
- Reach Out to Associates From School, Previous Work – Don’t leave out the people in your network. Find out who among them is involved in fashion or a related industry.
Some may need your services in an unrelated industry. Not only will the job pay the bills but it will add more variety to your portfolio.
- Market and Promote Your Craft – Social media is a powerful tool to promote your work. But posting your art on Facebook will not get the job done. Neither will trying to amass followers.
When it comes to social media for business, you must be more strategic toward your approach.
- Join online forums on fashion photography to build connections and for engagement.
- Share your thoughts, ideas and opinions on photography as art and as an effective way of presenting fashion. You can do this through blogs or daily posts.
- Create fan pages for people to follow and engage in.
- Be selective of your social media networks. Instagram and Pinterest are appropriate for presenting your work. LinkedIn is great for building professional networks.
- Be active on social media every day; post content at least once a day per social network.
- In your posts and blogs, invite readers to visit your website.
- Invest in Good Equipment – Of course, if you are serious about fashion photography, you should have equipment that can get the job done right.
But you should only spend for what you can afford. There are high grade DSLR cameras you can buy such as the Canon 80D or Nikon d5600 which are exceptional but reasonably priced.
Then you can spread out your resources to cover other equipment you may need for fashion photography such as additional lighting or lenses.
- Live Where You Want to Work – If you’re a Filipino who wants to become a fashion photographer in Singapore, you have to uproot yourself and move to Singapore.
In the same way, a Singaporean who wants to build a career as a fashion photographer in Paris, should make arrangements to live in France for some time.
If you want to establish yourself in a specific city, you should live where the work is.
- Sign Up with a Photo Agency – Photo agencies bridge photographers with their clients. Established and aspiring fashion photographers can always use the services of a Photo Agency.
For the aspiring photographers, you can leverage on the experience and network of the Photo Agency to have your work distributed to a variety of prospective clients.
Here are a few other ways a Photo Agency can help you get started in a career in fashion photography:
- Agencies are in daily contact with their clients; they can easily put in the word for your services
- Agencies can re-sell your existing work or services in other markets
- Agencies can offer you advice to guide your career
Remember there are many Photo Agencies to choose from. Take the time to listen and learn what they can offer to further your career. Approach your first meeting with the Photo Agency as you would a job interview. Therefore you should have an idea of what you want out of any potential arrangement and a set of expectations.
As Steven Girault says, “Photography is the easiest part. Getting the work, keeping the work and running the business are the hardest parts of the job as a professional photographer.”
Having the talent places you one step closer to your dream of becoming a fashion photographer for a magazine. Achieving it will depend on the next steps you take.