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September 30th, 2015

Lauren Dukoff on Production Skills and Creative Experimentation as Keys to Success

Lauren Dukoff discussing her work during an Iris Night talk at Skylight Studios.

Long before Lauren Dukoff, the subject of the cover story in PDN‘s September issue, started shooting fashion stories for Vogue Japan, she had known for her music photography and portraits. She captured intimate, often candid images for Rolling Stone and Spin, shot the art for Adele’s album 21, and in 2009 published her book Family, based on her collection of behind-the-scenes and on-the-road images of her longtime friend Devendra Barnhart and the musicians with whom he collaborated. She found herself in recording studios, dressing rooms and intimate settings with artists she looked up to. “I felt so awkward in this private space, but with my camera, it was a kind of shield and it gave me a reason to be there,” Dukoff said in a recent lecture at the Skylight Studios, part of the Iris Nights lecture series run by the Annenberg Space for Photography. (The full video of Dukoff’s talk, “A Collaborative Path,” is archived on the Annenberg website. )

While Dukoff’s quiet approach to capturing unguarded moments might seem like an odd stepping stone to directing models in couture gowns and managing large productions, she told her audience at Skylight Studios that she got valuable training and encouragement while working in the studio of Autumn De Wilde. Dukoff had long admired De Wilde’s work and was happy to take on any job available. In time, she worked her way up from babysitter to studio manager, where she helped arrange productions, and learned “the nuts and bolts” of hiring a crew and looking after shoot logistics. While some young photographers “go the assistant route,” Dukoff said, learning production “was really valuable to me because I knew I wanted to be a commercial photographer.”

De Wilde also encouraged Dukoff to believe in the work she was shooting on her own time through collaborations with friends. By pursuing it, Dukoff says, “I was starting to build a visual identity of your own.”

As PDN‘s story explains, Dukoff moved from capturing in-between moments with musicians and other artists, to creating posed portraits, and then to collaborating with fashion stylists on celebrity portraits for magazines such as L’Uomo Vogue, Lula and Vanity Fair. Along the way, she also learned to shoot commercials by collaborating with experienced film crews. Like De Wilde, she has experimented with a variety of genres, to stretch herself creatively while also expanding her clientele.

“I find that as soon as I’m comfortable I think: I better figure something else out, because there’s so much more to do, there’s so much more to learn,” she told her audience. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay true to your style. But don’t be afraid to try things and expand.”

Dukoff spoke at the Iris Night lecture during the run of the “Emerging” exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography (curated by the editors of PDN). Other photographers in the “Emerging” show who shared how they found their voices, established their place in the photo world and navigated the photo business include Zun Lee, Olivia Bee, Corey Arnold and Bryan Derballa. All the videos of their talks can be found online at the Annenberg website.

Related Articles
Lauren Dukoff on Collaborating with Celebrities and Couture Designers

PDNVideo: Olivia Bee Talks About Instagram, iPhones, Expectations and Envy

New Perspectives: Emerging Exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography

January 20th, 2015

Adobe Spotlight: Kate Edwards’s Ethereal Fashion Photography

Sponsored by Adobe

All photos © Kate Edwards

Kate Edwards is a Brooklyn-based fashion photographer who creates dreamy, ethereal imagery through calculated use of gesture and color. Her models are often lost in thought, or turned away from the camera, and she’s drawn to iridescent color palettes that are carefully refined, or pale neutrals that evoke a sense of quiet and contemplation. Post-production technique is crucial to perfecting the look of Edwards’s imagery, and we spoke with her about her creative process from start to finish, and how she has simplified her workflow in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC for a more efficient output.

PDN: How do you conceptualize your fashion shoots?

Kate Edwards: My creative process usually involves a lot of brainstorming. I tend to have a wandering mind, so I find that I get most of my ideas from a variety of things that influence me on a daily basis; walking my dog, listening to music, or flipping through a million fashion magazines. I tend to take a lot of photos while I’m out and about that help me create ideas through lighting, colors or patterns. This ends up influencing how I conceptualize my fashion shoots as well. There are so many things you can do, so many possibilities, that for me, being inspired by a lot of different things makes it way more interesting.



PDN: What are some of your favorite shoots that you worked on in 2014?

KE: I did a bunch of shoots that were definitely a ton of fun, but I have to say that my most memorable photo experience this year was actually being accepted and participating in PhootCamp. It has been around for about six years, and allows 30-40 up-and-coming photographers spend a week together taking photographs of everything and anything that inspires them. Each year the location is different, and for 2014 it took place in Joshua Tree, California. All we had to worry about was bringing our favorite cameras and making work. What an unbelievable experience for a young photographer.

PDN: You have a knack for creating rich color palettes and tones in your imagery. What influences your color choices?

KE: Like I mentioned before, everything influences my color choices—even down to some random song I am listening to, or an amazing wall I walk that is painted the coolest color. Right now I love peachy hues, lots of neutral styling and soft light. I try to always keep it simple though. I tend to become too overwhelmed when there are too many elements going on in one shoot or even in one photograph. I am a “less is more” kind of photographer.

Edwards4 Edwards3

PDN: What are your goals in post-production? If you are enhancing or altering the existing coloring, what’s your approach?

KE: I try to remain consistent and not overdo my retouching when it comes to my photographs, which can honestly be hard to do when you start diving into editing something you’re really excited about. I used to spend hours doing things in post that I really didn’t need to be spending that much time doing. Now there are easier, more comprehensive ways to take a group of images in Lightroom and create consistent and reliable workflows, so you’re not sitting at your computer all day instead of spending more time shooting. Especially when you start to become busier, this is a valuable tool.

When I do start altering colors, I try to do this consistently from the beginning so that when I need to tweak certain things afterwards, there remains a balance between all of the photographs as a group or story.


PDN: In what situations do you use Lightroom, and when do you opt for Photoshop CC?

KE: I use Lightroom almost always, and then depending on the shoot and the content, I will use Photoshop CC to go in and fix certain issues with images that might need cleaning up (a sign needs to be retouched out, a perspective that needs to be changed, blemishes on a models face that need to be fixed).

One of the hardest, but most valuable tools I have learned as a freelance photographer is that time is money. It is extremely important to find useful ways to edit larger groups of photos so that you can move onto your next project and not be prisoner to retouching! As someone starting out, Lightroom is extremely valuable to know first and foremost.

PDN: How much time, on average, do you spend editing your photos?

KE: I used to spend forever, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Now I spend a fraction of the time because I know which program to use for each job I am shooting. For example, I spent a day in Lightroom retouching an entire wedding I photographed (approximately 200 photos). I also spent an entire day retouching six photos for an eyewear print campaign in Photoshop CC. It just depends on what I’m looking to accomplish.

PDN: What do you think are the fundamentals a photographer should learn in Lightroom and Photoshop CC?

KE: In Lightroom, first and foremost, it is extremely important to understand how to process your RAW files. The next step is to create useful workflows for the kind of work you are shooting, and to create presets in Lightroom that can be applied and adjusted to all of your images efficiently.

In Photoshop CC, it’s fundamental to understand what you want to correct about your images and which tools to use, because there are an endless amount of possibilities with that program. It is the perfect tool for retouching, so understanding what you’re looking to accomplish is important. The first actions I learned in Photoshop CC were Layers and Masks in order to have the freedom to apply adjustments to specific areas of your image without affecting the rest.


PDN: Do you have any retouching tips for photographers looking to experiment with color? What are some of your favorite tricks in either program?

KE: I love using a tool in Photoshop CC called Selective Color. It allows you to adjust colors way more in depth. For example, if you want to subtract a little yellow out of your blacks, it creates an interesting purple effect. Experimenting with this tool can be a ton of fun. I also like adding gradient layers onto images to play with the color palette.

To see more work from Kate Edwards, visit

To learn more about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop CC, visit The Creative Cloud Photography plan, offering both programs and more, is 9.99/mo.

January 16th, 2015

Martyna Galla Makes Her Mark with a Online Portfolio

Sponsored by Format


At just 22 years old, fashion photographer Martyna Galla is a force to be reckoned with. She’s amassed a list of clients that includes Avon, Universal Music and Elle; success she credits to her insatiable enthusiasm for creating imagery. Raised in a small town near Warsaw, the burgeoning teen’s discovery of the medium began when she was given her first camera at 14. Galla began photographing her sister and “the prettiest girls at school,” and within just two years, landed her first paid job shooting model tests at Warsaw modeling agency D’vision Models.

The professional opportunity solidified Galla’s aspirations to build a career as a photographer and propelled her to enroll film school in Łódź, Poland, where she was further trained in photography.  Now out of school, constantly shooting tests, regularly investing in gear and studio space, and expanding her contacts to include a wider range of models, make-up artists and stylists have all contributed to her growth.

© Martyna Galla

Just as crucial to her development as a professional photographer, however, has been the ability to market her online portfolio. “People must see your work,” Galla says. “Potential clients, friends, agents, models—you never know who will like it and recommend your work.” But not all websites are created equal, as Galla has learned. Out of all the options available, Galla rates, a portfolio website platform for creative professionals, above the rest. “Format was not the first platform I used to share my photography, but it is the most professional. My work is available in high quality and is viewable on any browser or mobile device,” she says. “My portfolio is the one I continue to share with clients. Its professional design lets my work shine.”

© Martyna Galla

Format’s online portfolio website offer photographers all the advantages they desire when showcasing their work online. Its elegant, professionally-designed themes enable photographers to create a stunning presentation of their work in an instant—all without any knowledge of coding. Format’s websites are also fully customizable, including a custom domain: photographers can choose from a wide variety of specially-designed page templates or build their own from scratch using Format’s advanced code editor. In addition, Format’s websites are mobile- and tablet-ready, and include built-in, powerful, image-based blogging, seamless linking to social networks, unlimited bandwidth, automatic and fast image resizing, continual fast speed image loading, password-protected pages, search engine optimization, video capability, and 24/7 around-the-clock reliable service and support no matter the time zone.

Work as strong and as unique as Marytna Galla’s demands a presentation that only has been able to deliver—and quite effortlessly so. Interestingly, when asked to describe her photographic style, some of the words Galla uses are “easy,” “sensible,” and “calm,” adjectives that could also be used to describe the experience. “I like to keep things simple,” she continued. “When I find the person in front of my camera to be charismatic and interesting, I let them have the advantage while shooting. It always brings something new and unexpected.”

Visit and create your very own online portfolio.

See a short video on Galla and her work below.


November 18th, 2014

My Adidas: Company Printing Customer Photos on Sneakers

Left: a screen shot of the #miZXFLUX app image adjustment screen. Right: the preview screen of the #miZXFLUX app.

Our special edition PDN Tulipmania sneakers. Left: A screen shot of the #miZXFLUX app image adjustment screen. Right: The preview screen of the #miZXFLUX app.

Earlier this month, athletic and lifestyle apparel company adidas launched an app, #miZXFLUX, that allows customers to use their own photographs to create unique sneakers.

Customers can use the app to scale and size their images on a pair ZX Flux sneakers, which are modeled on the ZX 8000 running shoes adidas originally released in 1988. The photo-printed shoes cost $110, and the app is available for Apple and Android devices.

An adidas representative told Sports Illustrated about the materials and printing process. The images customers upload from their phones are upscaled and sharpened from the 115dpi minimum resolution before they are printed. “We actually improve the photo from the phone and final production is 300 dpi printing quality,” adidas global digital manager Mac Russell told

Adidas’s Vietnam factory uses “a large wool printer” to ink the photographs onto single pieces of synthetic leather for the shoe’s upper, Russell added.

It will be interesting to see if any professional photographers take advantage of the technology. In addition to creating shoes with great images, enterprising photographers might come up with good marketing and promo efforts. Feel free to email us if you need our shoe sizes.

October 27th, 2014

Obituary: David Armstrong, Age 60

Photographic artist David Armstrong, who first made his name as a member of the “Boston School” with Jack Pierson, Mark Morrisroe and Nan Goldin, and eventually shot for Vogue, GQ, and other fashion clients, died October 25, in Los Angeles, from liver cancer.  He was 60 years old. reported that Armstrong’s agent, Jed Root, had confirmed the news.

Born in Arlington, Massachusetts, Armstrong was also very much of New York City, his long-time home. With intentions to become a painter, he attended the Boston Museum School and Cooper Union in New York. He received his B.F.A. from Tufts in 1988.

Along with fellow “Boston School” contemporaries like Stephen “Tabboo!” Tashjian, Armstrong and his friends made art of their lives in the counterculture. He first met Nan Goldin as a teenager, and their work was first shown together at PS1’s “New York/New Wave” exhibit in 1981.

David Armstrong 615 Jefferson

The cover of David Armstrong’s 2011 monograph 615 Jefferson Avenue. © Damiani/Photo by David Armstrong

Armstrong is often cited as having had a significant influence on Ryan McGinley, who also turned an interesting life with beautiful young friends into photographic art. Much of Armstrong’s work features lots of natural light, and his gaze is unmistakably erotic. Throughout his career, he made sharp-focused portraits of beautiful young boys, but he also made cityscapes in soft focus, especially after moving to Berlin in the early 1990s. His work was included in the 1995 Whitney Biennial.

Armstrong ushered into the universe of fashion by designer Hedi Slimane, who first commissioned him to make backstage photos of his work at Dior Homme. He would go on to be published in the French, Italian and Japanese editions of Vogue, Arena Homme+, GQ and Out, among other magazines, and counted Ermenegildo Zegna, Kenneth Cole, Burberry, Puma and Rodarte amongst his commercial clients.

Over his career he published several books, including a 1994 collaboration with his old friend, Nan Goldin/David Armstrong: A Double Life; he also published1997’s The Silver Cord, and a 2012 pressing of 30-plus-year-old photographs called Night & Day. His final monograph, 615 Jefferson Avenue, is comprised of bright portraits of male models taken at his house in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

In a conversation with old friend Jack Pierson about his process and motivation, published in Out magazine in 2011, he said, “I always think you want to come away with some beautiful, beautiful picture of the person, the boy, that’s really everything you want to express about them. Or, at least something you can rub one out to.”

June 12th, 2014

Todd Hido Shoots Fall 2014 Campaign For Victoria Beckham’s Fashion Line

An image from Todd Hido's campaign for Victoria, Victoria Beckham's Fall 2014 collection.

An image from Todd Hido’s campaign for Victoria, Victoria Beckham’s Fall 2014 collection.

We never thought we’d mention Posh Spice and Todd Hido in the same sentence, but here goes: Victoria Beckham (previously known as pop singer Posh Spice) enlisted fine-art photographer Todd Hido to photograph ads her Fall 2014 collection of women’s fashion.

The images of models wearing Beckham’s looks recall Hido’s fine-art photographs of women in motel rooms who appear to be living on society’s fringes. In images on the fashion designer’s website we see models posed on bare mattresses or in rooms with shabby carpeting and unmade beds. Hido’s work for the label also appears to include video pieces. In one video we see a model standing against a wall in a dark room while fuzz flashes across the screen of an old-model television set.

Hido didn’t respond to our request for comment. According to W Magazine, Beckham herself said that, “Working with a photographer who doesn’t traditionally shoot fashion really enriched how I could portray the collection this season.”

Related: The Prevailing Wind: Todd Hido’s Excerpts from Silver Meadows

May 21st, 2014

Advice From the Trenches for Graduating Photography Students

Classes in photography can be a leg up to landing a job as an assistant or getting started in the photography business, but real-world experience often teaches practical lessons not taught in photo schools. What are the important lessons photographers didn’t learn in school, that photographers found themselves scrambling to make up after college?  We recently rounded up some advice for recent graduates (published on PDNOnline). We also asked photographers David Brandon Geeting, Cody Cloud and Andrew Burkle for their perspectives.

Geeting, a Brooklyn-based editorial photographer, graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2011, and worked as a photo assistant and did other jobs before going into business for himself in 2012. Burkle, a food photographer shooting advertising for national brands, graduated from Ohio University in 2009, and worked as a photo assistant in Chicago before opening a studio last year in Cleveland with photographer David Hagen. Cody Cloud shoots fashion in Los Angeles with his partner, Julia Galdo. He earned his MFA from San Francisco Art Institute in 2005.

Here’s what they told us about the things they wished they’d learned in school, and their advice for new graduates.

What skills do you wish you’d learned while you were in school–but didn’t– that would have helped you most when you got out?

David Brandon Geeting: I wish I would have taken more studio classes and learned more lighting techniques. I shoot a lot of work in the studio now, and everything I do is totally self-taught. When I was in school, I just walked around with a 35mm point-and-shoot camera and made C-prints of off-kilter moments and funny trash on the street. I had no plans of shooting commercially – I thought I would make a living as an artist. I thought I’d be having solo exhibitions and publishing weird books. That is still the goal, but in the meantime I am doing the best I can to survive with self-taught techniques that I could have learned before graduating.

Andrew Burkle: I really wish I had gotten more input on how to price myself and bid on jobs. The problem was that we learned invoicing but not bidding, [which] is a hard skill to teach and standardize. In the beginning I was probably under bidding and getting work, but vastly under valuing myself as well as inadvertently lowering the standard cost for other bidding photographers.  I think that is a common young photographers mistake though. It is an important step to start pricing yourself correctly.  Even if that means losing out on some work.  If you know your work has value, you have to stick to your price.

Cody Cloud: I wish we would have learned more technical lighting and more Photoshop. Where I went to school they didn’t emphasize the technical side, and coming out of school, my [Photoshop] skills weren’t up to par for jumping into the real world. I assisted a long time. That’s how I learned to light. Julia [Galdo] does the Photoshop so the partnership works out good.

What advice do you wish you had gotten (or heeded) before you graduated?

Geeting: The best piece of advice I got in school was from Joseph Maida, my junior seminar teacher. The thing he said that stuck with me was, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader,” which is actually a Robert Frost quote, but it applies so well to photography. I didn’t pay much attention to these words at that time – I was too busy being a self-righteous college kid – but they were always in the back of my mind. Today, I might have a pre-conceived idea before I start shooting, and even if that idea is illustrated exactly as I had imagined in my mind, there’s a good chance that it won’t be very interesting to look at. If you are not surprised by what you are shooting as you are shooting it, no one else will be. Being able to adapt is so important. Leaving room for change and happy accidents is something I have built my practice on.

Burkle: I learned this eventually on my own: Very few [people], if any, will appreciate you. You have to work hard, work often and keep your head up. You will most likely be poor for a while. However, once you’ve proven to people that you are hard working, persistent, talented and easy to work with, the world will start to take notice.  This process can take a few months or even a few years.  Unfortunately, your degree in photography is for your own peace of mind.  The photo world estimates your worth in real-world experience.

What professional advice do you have for students who are just graduating?

Geeting: GET A BLOG. And update it every day. Make something every day. If you really love what you’re doing, it shouldn’t be a chore. You don’t need to spend a bunch of money on a leather portfolio or promo cards or whatever people think will get them noticed. Just make the work. And then get up the next day and make it again. If you are putting in the work, good things will happen to you. That’s just how the world works – the energy you exert will come back to return the favor. I really believe that.

Burkle: Keep on top of your technology–cameras, capture software, photoshop, new equipment and techniques, archiving software, etc.–and shoot as much as possible for yourself.  The latter seems obvious, but I fell victim to this early after graduating. When you start working 60 hour weeks for someone else and you don’t have much access to studio time, shooting for yourself becomes a struggle  very quickly.  FInd the time.  Work on weekends.  No one will hire you for the portfolio you “want” to create.  Clients hire photographers, not assistant with potential.

Cloud: I would tell students to work on talking about their work. In every meeting, you have to pitch your ideas. Clients need to hear exactly what you’re going to do and the reason for it. You have to articulate it so they can get it. That’s going to help you get jobs.

Related stories:
So You’ve Just Graduated With a Photography Degree. Now What?
What I  Didn’t Learn in Art School: Life Lessons from 10 Photographers (for PDN subscribers)
Creative Pitches That Land Advertising Clients
The Money Issue: Estimating 2.0: Bidding on an All-Media Library Shoot (for PDN subscribers)

April 29th, 2014

ICP Celebrates Infinity Award Winners (Recap and Video Links)

Last night the International Center of Photography honored photographers working in photojournalism, fine-art and fashion at the 30th annual Infinity Awards. The awards were inaugurated in 1985 as a way to recognize outstanding achievements by photographers working in various genres within the medium.

It was the first Infinity Awards ceremony for new ICP director Mark Lubell, who promised the crowd that the organization would remain at the “center of the conversation” about the medium. Perhaps as a way to illustrate that point, ICP arranged for a drone to photograph partygoers during the cocktail hour, then put those photographs on-screen at the beginning of the ceremony.

The Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award was given to German-born photographer Jürgen Schadeberg, who as an expatriate in South Africa during Apartheid, made some of the most famous images of Nelson Mandela, and encouraged black South African journalists to pick up cameras and tell their stories.

James Welling was honored for his contribution to fine-art photography; Steven Klein for fashion; Stephanie Sinclair and Jessica Dimmock were honored for photojournalism; Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin were honored for their publication Holy Bible; and Samuel A. James received the Young Photographer award.

Sinclair and Dimmock received a standing ovation from the crowd for their work documenting the practice of child marriage and its effects on adolescent girls, their families and their communities. The project, “Too Young To Wed,” is a decade-long pursuit for Sinclair that has spawned a non-profit that she hopes will help young girls and communities do away with the practice of child marriage.

Samuel A. James, who in his young career has worked extensively in Nigeria documenting the impact of oil extraction on the culture—including photographing the illegal tapping of oil pipelines and makeshift refining operations by impoverished Nigerians—thanked the Nigerians who “gifted me these stories” during a short acceptance speech. James also dedicated the award to a friend who was killed in an explosion while attempting to refine black-market crude oil.

In accepting the Publication award for their book Holy Bible, for which they combined the King James Bible with images from the Archive of Modern Conflict, Broomberg and Chanarin called the book their “attempt to somehow illustrate this text,” and said they hoped it would be an invitation to others to make their own attempts. They also paid tribute to their publisher, Michael Mack for his production of the book, and to the Queen of England, who owns the copyright to the King James Bible.

In a slightly incongruous presentation, pop star Brooke Candy spoke about Steven Klein and introduced a high-octane video that reviewed much of Klein’s work. The fashion photographer briefly thanked the crowd after noting that, “photography pretty much saved my life.”

MediaStorm produced short documentary films about all of the recipients except Klein. Watch those films on the MediaStorm site here.

Related: Tour de Force: James Welling’s Artistic Versatility
Best Photo Books of 2013

April 22nd, 2014

Video Pick: In Bed With Chanel

Laurel Pantin in Chanel from Ann Street Studio on Vimeo.

It’s not easy to create an engaging video, let alone a brief, engaging video. Jamie Back and Kevin Burg of Ann Street Studio recently did just that with this 15-second flick featuring Lucky Magazine market editor Laurel Pantin in a big white bed wearing colorful fashions from Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection. The video is part of a collaboration between Ann Street Studio and Chanel. The brand reached out to Beck and Burg, who are best-known for their creation of Cinemagraphs, as part of their marketing for their new collection, Burg told PDN via email.

The concept for the video “came together organically,” Burg says, evolving from the still-image shoot they did with Pantin. “On set we were thinking about motion, and I had the idea that she could change outfits after every time she pulled the covers over herself. And then we had fun with it. Jamie would be at her feet pulling [the covers] off her, like a parent waking their kid up when they want to sleep in.” The idea to show a new outfit for each day of the week, Burg says, “came together in the editing process, and it became this kind of ‘waking up for school’ idea… in luxury fashion.”

The images and video were featured on the Ann Street Studio site and social media channels. The video was created with Instagram in mind, hence the 15-second length. Brands often ask Ann Street Studio to create editorial-style work and release it via their channels, Burg says. “Sometimes brand work is for [the client] and sometimes it’s exclusively published by us.”

Related: Building a Better GIF

March 27th, 2014

PDN’s 30 Photographers Provide Career Tips to Aspiring Photographers (UPDATED)

A panel featuring three of this year’s PDN’s 30 photographers discussed strategies for building a successful career and offered a wealth of useful tips to an audience of students and industry professionals at the School of Visual Arts theater in New York last evening.

The PDN’s 30 photographers, Bobby Doherty (still life), Billy Kidd (fashion), and Bryan Derballa (editorial/lifestyle), discussed how they found their visual styles, how they use social media to get noticed, build networks and land jobs, and the importance of learning and practicing good business skills. Photographer Tony Gale, a Sony Artisan of Imagery who has taught photography, and photo editor Emily Shornick of The Cut at New York magazine, also provided insights on navigating the industry. The evening was sponsored by Sony, Offset, Canson Paper and ASMP.

Describing how they launched their careers, Doherty, Kidd and Derballa all said they developed their visual styles by shooting whatever interested them a lot–even obsessively.

“It’s important to be making the kind of photos you would want to get paid to do, before you get paid to do it,” Doherty said.

Bobby Doherty's early makeshift studio.

Bobby Doherty’s early makeshift studio.

A 2011 graduate of SVA, he started by experimenting with conceptual still life work in his apartment at night. “I didn’t have any money. I had two flashes, and [bar] stools” and broom handles that served as stands (shown at right). Doherty says he was focusing on “how to accomplish an idea with as little as possible, technically.”

Kidd says when he moved from Arizona to New York, he did test shoots with models four, five, or six times a week–“whatever I could do,” he says. “I experimented with light, to find out who I was.”

Shornick emphasized the importance of developing a distinctive personal style. When it comes to hiring a photographer, she said, “”I don’t want to be surprised. I want to pre-visualize” what a photographer will deliver.

One of the biggest challenges for photographers is getting noticed. All the photographers on the panel said they take as much pleasure in sharing their work as they do in shooting it, and they use social media–particularly Tumblr–to build audiences.

Kidd said he posted images from his test shoots on a Tumblr blog. “That’s how my rep found me–from my Tumblr page,” he says. On his Tumblr page, he says, he posts “everything I shoot, and want to show people.”

“Be liberal and fun with your Tumblr,” advised Derballa. Years ago he started Lovebryan, a blog that features not only his work, but that of several other photographers whose work he likes. Derballa also noted that he uses Tumblr “to follow trends” by looking at what other photographers are shooting.

Panelists also discussed the importance of personal connections and face-to-face networking. Doherty says working as an assistant eventually led to a job with Lucas Michael, who shoots for New York Magazine. That led to a meeting with Director of Photography Jody Quon, and a couple of weeks later, Doherty had his first assignment from the magazine.

Kidd says he got access to models for test shoots through a friend who worked for modeling agencies. Derballa got his first assignment from The Wall Street Journal after a chance meeting with former photo editor Matthew Craig while Derballa was talking about a self-funded assignment at a bar with another photographer.

The discussion also turned to business practices, particularly the importance of good communication skills, dependability, and presenting a professional appearance in your emails and invoices.

Here are some tips the panelists offered:

On networking:

Connect with everyone you can while still in school, including teachers, fellow photography students, and students in other departments.

Attend industry events and meet everyone you can, without thinking: Who can I talk to who can give me work?

If you’re shy, and feel uncomfortable schmoozing at events, force yourself to go with a goal of meeting just one person. Those connections multiply, Gale said. “Then you’re the person who everyone wants to meet because you can introduce them to other people.”

On assisting:

Be an assistant. By assisting, Gale explained, you connect to people and resources, “and you learn so many things it’s not possible to learn in school” about technique and business.

To get assisting jobs, a good attitude is more important than technical know-how, Gale said. “What I need is someone who is going to be paying attention, and not be upset that I said ‘everybody is going to need coffee’ or ‘sorry, but you have to stand out in rain and watch the gear.'”

When you send e-mails asking about work as an assistant, personalize them, Gale advised. “Don’t send an e-mail addressed to 30 other photographers.” And don’t talk about what a great photographer you are, he said. “I don’t care.”

On approaching photo editors:

“Email with a link. That makes it easy to bookmark you,” Shornick said. Mailers just get thrown in a drawer and forgotten. Email “every now and then” about a recent assignment or new personal work, she added. “Quarterly is a good approach.”

No cold calls. “I’m really busy, I just don’t have time,” Shornick said.

Don’t show up unannounced. “That’s really inappropriate.”

Make sure your web site loads fast, and is free of bells and whistles. “I hate Flash websites. I just want to see your work,” said Shornick, who has discovered photographers at portfolio reviews and through Flickr.

Provide multiple contacts and Indicate your physical location. “If I can’t figure out where you live I’m never going to hire you,” Shornick said.

On providing good service to clients:

Be dependable. “The most important thing is [meeting] deadlines,” Shornick said.

Be responsive. “I always pick up [phone calls]. It’s probably someone who wants to hire you, or wants to know why the photos aren’t there,” Derballa said.
“Yeah, pick up the phone,” Shornick said, or she’ll just call another photographer.

UPDATE: The School of Visual Arts has published a video of this talk:

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