Hi, I'm an aspiring photographer. So far I've done a bunch of test shoots and things seem to be going well, but I'm ready to take the next step forward with my work. What's the best business advice you have?
Not advice, so much as a ‘reality-check’: it’s not enough that your work is good. If that’s all you think is important, then you’ll enjoy a fruitful reception of ‘likes’ on various social media platforms… and not much else. And though I’ve tried very hard, Visa won’t accept ‘likes’ as a form of currency to pay my monthly bill. Yeah, sure, there are those you hear about being discovered from the obscurity of the internet or elsewhere, and suddenly being given great opportunities, bypassing a lot of network building. But most of the time, an ‘overnight success story’ is a misnomer; the majority of people only ever see the final images and don’t think much about the amount of groundwork it took a photographer (or any artist, really) to have gotten there.
Most of the work invested in building a career isn’t in the craft, as it is in relationships; what else is ‘business’, but relationships? Relationships give you access, not your work; your work is why someone is sitting down with you or accepting your phone call; now it’s up to you to foster and use those relationships to your advantage. Every paying job I’ve ever gotten is because someone referred me, not because the client came across my work randomly.
So, I guess my business advice is, yes, find and hone your photography voice and all that stuff I keep on going on and on about in prior posts… but absolutely do not neglect the importance of seeking out and building relationships in the industry. Don’t sit on your ass, thinking someone is going to come to you; and if you’re introverted or shy or not confident, I don’t know what else to tell you, but ‘get over it’, cause you have to make your own luck happen. Destiny will never ‘call’, it just lays out the map; it’s up to you to get on your feet and follow it, and relationships are the bridges.
Lucas, these Natalie shots are awesome. Is this part of a new post process you're trying, or is it client-mandated?
Thanks!! Yeah, I’m trying to move on from the kind of processing I’ve been doing all this past year. I’ve been kinda stuck in this rut/habit of making things a little too vivid and warm-toned. I want to skew back towards a little more conventional and a little less cross-process. At least that’s my mandate at the moment. Who knows if I can stick with it; old habits die hard.
hi lucas! love you work, so happy to hear you got married! your wife is married to a very talented man haha. quick question: do you hire hair/make up/stylists for your test shoots? i usually prefer the models to be natural or more in their own 'style' but now i'm thinking that some professional help might help both of our portfolios. what do you think?
When testing for agencies, I know that typically any agency will want to see images where the model looks as natural as possible; that doesn’t mean no make-up, but definitely don’t go overboard. Same goes with styling. A lot of newbie testers believe they have to show/produce shoots that look like a Prada ad in order to impress the agent. Definitely not the case, and definitely not what an agency wants to see from their testers… at first, that is.
So, when starting out, don’t feel you need to deliver magazine production level stuff in your images. Keep it simple; the agent will be grateful, believe me. Speaking of, this new ‘class’ of up&coming photographers who have been working the testing circles for agencies in LA this last year are really blowing me away: Griffin Joy, Benny Askinas, Andrew Roque, Michael Ngo, Steve Fan, Jace Downs, Josh McCaghren… are all great examples of solid, deliverable work for the agencies they test with. That whole group is insanely talented.
Now, outside of testing, should you be pursuing a higher ambition of scope for your work? God, absolutely (I need to take my own advice, too!). But it all starts with a vision: what do you want to shoot? What story do you want to tell? If you start with that, that will inform your choices for the level of make-up/styling you may need. But I will say, don’t shoot what you think other people want to see… you need to shoot what YOU want. It will ring as hollow, otherwise.
So, if you want to shoot natural looking models with simple styling, don’t feel you need try to aspire to An Le’s scope just to get somewhere. Instead, bring on a MUA who can do good, ‘invisible’ make-up, and a stylist who can provide wardrobe that’s fresh, but simple.
…looking back at your question, I think I digressed a bit in the beginning, but hopefully some of this helped!
Hi Lucas, I'm a self-taught photog who just started doing shoots for fun recently. Your work is a big inspiration! I've been struggling to get better working with light, and I like how you get so much out of natural lighting conditions, for example that beautiful lens flare in the outdoor shots. I also appreciate how generous and in-depth you are with your responses - I've been devouring them all. There's a certain texture I love in your photos. Do you do much editing or is that all in-camera?
A lot of the work is done in-camera, that is, using the right kind of light at the right time of day. What helps most is pre-visualization: going into your shoot already knowing what aesthetic you want, and part of that informs what time of day you’ll start shooting. For example, if I want a romantic hazy look, I know that I won’t be shooting any earlier than 5:00pm (in the summer time); that way, I’ll have that low contrast, back-lit look, with a little bit of flare coming through… and thus, most of the work is already done, and I won’t have to re-engineer much afterward.
It all begins and ends with light.
I do not spend much time editing; and when I do, it’s mainly using Curves to tweak the contrast and shadow/highlight levels. A little bit of split-toning for color, add some grain, and that’s a typical post work-flow for me. Sometimes I’ll tweak colors using the hue, vibrance/saturation sliders, as well as Selective Color Adjustment layers.
…though I will say, I’m getting pretty tired/bored with my current processing color pallets, so i’ll be migrating toward something fresh and new soon. Just gotta learn it first!