The Dots hosted a Photography Portfolio Masterclass at the incredible Spring Studios to give talented emerging Photographers the chance to have their work reviewed by some of the UK’s most prominent Picture Editors and Photographic Agents.
With such a wealth of experience in the room, The Dots team took the opportunity to ask a few questions on how to get ahead in the hugely competitive Photography industry. Here’s what the industry representatives had to say:
1. Be original
Photography industry leaders are primarily on the hunt for originality and a unique perspective because, “in the end if you’re presenting a book that looks like someone else, you better be a cheaper version of them, because there’s no reason to hire you just to be a copycat” (Robin Derrick, Executive CD, Spring Studios).
Matt Davey (Co-Founder & Director, Probation London) told us that he looks for “ originality – an ability to express ideas in their work and create something other than just a pretty picture.”
2. Have a ‘Can-Do’ attitude
Never underestimate the importance of having an upbeat and ‘go-getting’ character. If someone thinks you’re going to respond to a difficult brief with enthusiasm, they’re more likely going to want to work with you.
Dalia Nassimi (Deputy Picture Editor, WIRED) told us “If they have that easy going, very can-do personality and are up for a bit of an adventure you get real magic.”
Similarly, the main thing Jamie Klingler (Publishing Manager, Shortlist/Stylist Magazine) looks for in a photographer is “someone that will do anything and that are part of my team on the day. These are the people who I wanna work with again and again and I wanna have a drink with, and who I’ll hire a million times over.”
3. Be personable
You’re going to have to work with lots of people throughout a shoot and if you’re unpleasant to be around, chances are noone is going to want to work with you again. “You need to be personable, you need to get on with people, you need to be able to chat and work around an idea.” (Steve Peck, Picture Editor, WIRED Magazine).
It may not seem that important, but as Nicola Kavanagh (Editor in Chief, Glass Magazine) points out, if it’s a toss up between two photographers, “and they both have a really strong portfolio, I’m gonna go with the one that’s easier to get along with, because everyone likes a nice, easy life!”
So it seems that being nice really can help you finish first, hurrah!
It may seem obvious to some, but our industry leaders’ main interview tip was to make sure you do your research.
Jamie Klinger (Publishing Manager, Shortlist/Stylist Magazine) made it very clear that “if you walk in and you don’t know what my job is, you don’t know where I’ve worked before, you haven’t seen any of the shoots I’ve produced before – you’re not gonna have an ‘in’ with me, you’re not gonna be showing me your professionalism.”
David Birkitt (Owner & Managing Director, DMB Represents) noted that you should “have a really good reason as to why you’re coming to see me, be aware of what I do. Be aware of something you can add to what I’ve got, not replicate what I’ve got. Have a goal, have a reason for why you want to come, and have at least one thing that you wanna learn.”
Our golden rule for interviews: Do your homework!
5. Have a point of view
Robin Derrick (Executive CD, Spring Studios) illuminates why perfectly – “when people ask me how to become a fashion photographer – which is mostly what I commission. What they should remember is the word ‘Fashion’ is as big as the word ‘Photographer’ in that phrase, and it’s very important for a fashion photographer to have a point of view on fashion […] most people can take a picture; I think really learning about fashion and having a point of view on that is normally what improves the work.”
Holly Hay (Photographic Editor, AnOther Magazine & Another Man) reinforced this notion, stating that she also looks for “someone who has something to say, someone who has an opinion on the world and on fashion and on style.”
6. Make sure your style fits
If your work is more ‘classic’ than ‘edgy’ then there’s no point in applying for a job at places such as Dazed or Vice as that’s not the kind of work they’re looking for, it’s “a waste of time for everybody, a waste of time for the photographer and for ourselves” (Dalia Nassimi, Deputy Picture Editor, WIRED)..
Your time is precious; make sure you’re not wasting it!
7. Be passionate
Jamie Klingler needs to see passion from a photographer in an interview – “it’s not an easy job, we’re not in this because we want to work 9-5, we’re in this because we want more. So you have to show me that you want to give more and you want to collaborate more.”
Dalia Nassimi points out that, “in magazines – you’re not in it for money you’re in it for the experience, for the exposure. You’re going to get access to a really interesting person or access to a really interesting company. That’s what we’re giving you – go run with it, because in ad world you don’t get that.”
So, in your interview, be passionate about the project and let them know how much you want the opportunity to work with them.
8. Be on time
Again it may seem obvious, but punctuality is crucial in an interview. It’s the very first impression you give to the interviewer and you don’t want it to be a bad one, as Jamie Klingler stresses, “if I think you’re late for an interview you’re gonna be late for my shoot and I just don’t deal with lateness […] I’ve never hired anyone that was late for an interview.”
9. Be persistent
After so many emails sent with no response, it can feel like you may never get your big break.
But Holly Hay’s advice for breaking into the industry is to “have persistence – don’t feel like you’re chasing people. Everyone is so busy they won’t feel hounded […] it’s all about timing – hitting someone’s inbox at the right time. So persistence and be brave, and stay true to why you originally started taking pictures.”
Looking to get feedback on your portfolio? Find out about The Dots next Portfolio Masterclasses.