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Getting a start in fashion photography: where to go and what to do

Like many creative jobs, the defining moment of a photographer’s career relies on those first crucial steps: getting into the industry and understanding which doors to knock on, so that clients will listen to what you have to offer.

Portfolio

Assisting and Interning

In many cities all over the world, it’s becoming more and more competitive to get your foot in the door because there is in general less work out there and fewer positions to be filled. If you’re at the start of your career, taking a photographers’ assistant or internship position at your favorite fashion magazine or photography agency is a wise move—you will understand the industry and how it works a lot more by gaining firsthand experience. In the beginning, you will have to pay your dues in order to gain respect for your craft from your peers. It takes years to hone your skills and understand how to break into the industry.

Networking

Networking is crucial so that you can make those all-important face-to-face connections. Many photographers turn to cold calling because they think it’s an easy way to connect with somebody, although it’s not always, simply because many clients like a referral from somebody they’ve worked with, for example an agent, representative, or editor of a magazine. However, it’s a good idea to try every angle possible. You may want to consider making an interesting comp-card or Z-card that can be sent to art directors or potential clients—something simple, but something that makes them remember you, or excites their interest enough for them to want to check out your website.

Online portfolio

Your online portfolio is at the forefront of your business. It could well be the first contact that potential clients will have with you. It’s important, therefore, that the content stays fresh and exciting and is a reflection what you can offer.
Gigi and Irena for Material Girl magazine. I deliberately added flare to this shot. It looks great against the colourful balloons. Gigi and Irena for Material Girl magazine.
I deliberately added flare to this shot. It looks great against the colourful balloons.

Z-Cads and Comp-Cards

A fashion photographer’s Z-card, or ‘comp-card’ will usually be a postcard-sized double-sided printed card showing the photographer’s contact details and some of their images that best reflect their style, market, and ability. A Z-card is usually sent to potential clients as part of your marketing program, and followed up with a phone call.

Website resources

Some websites that provide good resources include:

  • Workbook
    This is a database of creative buyers, artists, representatives, and suppliers across the USA and Canada.
  • Le Book
    A resource that offers exposure to companies and members of the creative arts community. Their Connections event is a tradeshow for the creative community that features thousands of artists, portfolios, and professionals throughout the industry and gives a great opportunity for photographer representatives and industry talent to get feedback on their work and connect with others.
  • My Fashion Database
    My Fashion Databse markets itself as the fashion industry’s go-to resource by showcasing all the new fashion editorials and advertisements.
  • F.Tape
    A free online resource that connects the fashion industry via its vast fashion directory. Find out who are the upcoming big faces of the modeling industry, the up-and-coming photographers, and browse the most recent editorials and campaigns for inspiration.

If you’ve dreamed of working in the fashion photo industry or simply want to learn how to shoot edgy, fun fashion photos, Lara Jade’s Fashion Photography 101 is full of technical advice to improve your images, as well as practical, insider information on how to contact models, build your portfolio, and navigate the challenges involved in dealing with agencies.

Fashion 101| Lara Jade | Ilex InstantLara Jade Fashion Photography 101 by Lara Jade
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