photography q&a for young, young photographers

I received an email with some great questions from middle school students Claire and Morgan. Its my pleasure to answer your questions. If any photo friends wish to add their advice/opinions leave it in the comments section. Here you are ladies:

1. What kind of photography do you do?

Fashion/editorial and wedding using film and the wet plate collodion process (tintypes).

2. How do you advertise your service?

Social networking sites and wedding blogs.
A large amount of my recent wedding bookings were from a sidebar ad I ran on facebook. Sounds strange, right? I’m finding that more of my potential clients are really looking for their photographer online. Social networking is really the way to go. This is really great for me, advertising costs tend to be low and this puts everyone on an even playing field. Twitter and facebook are fun too! If I have a great website and portfolio, I look just as good as someone who has been shooting several years. Last summer I had a booth at the summer wedding expo and definitely felt that the more established photographers have a leg up in that situation. I didn’t renew my expo contract. 🙂 Being featured on other wedding blogs is also a great way to create exposure. This means that I submit wedding photos to blogs like or . Brides really like to see wedding inspiration and if they find they like my style they will immediately contact me. I have one wedding next month from a couple that found my photos on Style Me Pretty.

3.  What are good ways to capture important times in an event?

Pay attention, stay connected with other people at the event, and be at an event you WANT to be at.
For example at a wedding, I pretty much know the sequence of events that is going to happen. But each couple is different so it’s important to know what they want me to photograph during the wedding. Once at the wedding its good to make friends with the dj, and event/location coordinator. Then just stay on the ball about what is happening. GET CLOSE. Really try to feel the mood of the event. Move around A LOT. Shoot from various angles and really pay attention to what is happening. I pretty much feel like I am a guest at every wedding, this helps because people don’t feel like I’m intruding. People need to feel comfortable enough around me so I can get the photo I need. For example, I have to be able to ask an aunt to move over just a bit so I can get the right angle or be in a really small room with a few friends of the bride as they are getting dressed.
A big part of capturing great photographs is personality. Some people are better suited for shooting weddings and some will be much better at shooting  sports. I have friends that do both, their personalities are wildly different but the photographs are equally as good. To take the very best pictures you really have to be vested in a field that you like. One of my favorite quotes is from Magnum Photo Agency photographer, Alec Soth “If in your heartest of hearts you want to take pictures of kitties, then take pictures of kitties.” I can guarantee they will be the best kitten pictures, ever.

4. What are important elements to commercial photography?

The most important element to commercial photography is that both you and your clients love your work.
There are no select elements like bright colors or photographing people in action. Some photos on billboards are very clear and in focus, but some photos in magazines are softer. There are endless applications for photography. Commercial photography can span any field from fashion to photographs that appear on food labels. Since you are doing photography to make money, you have to make sure that people are going to want to give you that money and also that you are going to be able to wake up everyday and take these photos again and again. If you are making photos you are happy with but no one wants to hire you, its not working. And if you are making loads of money but are unhappy with your work,  its not working either.
One of my favorite things about photography is balancing the creative aspect with the business aspect. No one ever tells you about the business aspect in school. EVER. Right now I’m in the midst of reading lots of business books and following great blogs that focus on how to build a freelancers career. Freelancer means that you work for yourself and make money from various assignments you are hired for. The photographers at Vogue, don’t sit in the Vogue office and take photos at a certain time. They live all over the world and are working to be the photographer for different stories that appear. Few photographers are under contract and make contract salaries, but most make money in individual commissions.

5. What are good techniques to taking good commercial pictures?

The best techniques come from being familiar with lighting and your equipment. Some photographers are all natural light (Sally Mann) while some may use six different strobes in each photograph (Peter Yang). Learn the ins and outs about lighting. Experiment all the time! You don’t need expensive equipment to take great photos. Know all there is to know about the camera you do have before you get the next one. The best advice I have been given is to really learn your gear inside and out. Style is inside of you but they only way to project an image is to be able to use your tools to create the end product. Find photographers and photos you admire and copy them using what you have. After you can compare the differences and see what needs to be changed. The more you work and try new things, the closer you will get. Its also nice to get an outsiders perspective, since its easy to get emotionally attached to your own work. When someone else looks at your photos they tend to be a better judge of what everyone else is seeing. Be aware of others’ perspectives but in the end trust your heart.

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  1. Hi Heather!
    Thanks sooo much for helping us with this! It is so helpful! You are the best and we hope you visit our class sometime!

    ~Claire and Morgan 🙂

  2. Along the same lines, another fantastic Mr. Avedon quote:
    “And if a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible. -Richard Avedon, 1970”

  3. Fantastic advice!

    I think it’s also important in this day and age to think outside of the traditional market “box.” For example that photo spread we saw in PDN about photogs who raised their own money to fund projects. At least in the editorial field, it’s becoming more and more difficult have a stable income. Because of that more photogs are experimenting with alternative methods and ideas to fund projects, taking matters into their own hands.

    I think my fav photog quote is from Richard Avedon, and I think about it all the time.
    “I believe in maniacs. I believe in type As. I believe that you’ve got to love your work so much that it is all you want to do….[edited for middle-schoolers]… I believe that work is the one thing in the world that never betrays you, that lasts. If I were going to be a politician, if I were going to be a scientist, I would do it every day. I wouldn’t wait for Monday. I don’t believe in weekends.”

    1. Thanks Veronica! She has photographed several assignments for Austin Monthly magazine and just spent the last year in Spain teaching. Also taking beautiful photographs for a personal project. She is in the midst of editing these photos down to a small selection to be featured in an exhibit. Veronica works and works and works on her photographs!


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