Working on photoshoots, both commercial and TFP (trade for photos) is awesome. I get to connect and work with talented like-minded individuals, learn from them, visit awesome locations and wear beautiful clothes and accessories – all things I would never get to do in my day to day life.
Starting out is hard however, getting my foot in the door took weeks. A few years ago I decided to enter this industry as a model (which isn’t for everyone, so don’t worry I’ll tell you how to start out if you’re not a model as well). My first shoot was unpaid for a group of volunteer photographers at the local municipal paper who wanted to test new some new lighting. I was clumsy and clearly inexperienced, but they were kind and instructive and gave me a dozen edited pictures for my time. Just like that I had a little portfolio to use when contacting other photographers and stylists.
My best advice for getting into Fashion (or art direction, hair and make up etc.) is to start from the bottom. Facebook groups like “Melbourne Creative Network” or “Melbourne TFP Collaborations” (similar FB groups will exist in your area) are a great place to start. Groups like these are filled with experienced creatives who want to expand their portfolios. (Always exercise caution and check out the portfolios of people you’re working with beforehand. If you’re still unsure, just let them know you’ll be bringing a friend with you, if they’re legitimate then they won’t mind at all, if they have a problem, then alarm bells should start ringing).
Start out by working as an assistant as much as possible (assist the photographer, the stylist, the make-up artist, the model), expect to do so for free most of the time, as the most important take away will be connections with creatives (who may hire you again), lots of new knowledge, and great pics for your portfolio.
Always have a clearly written introductory email saved in your phone that tells others your strengths, experience and vision. Remember, for assistant positions that are often unpaid, they will be looking for enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, rather than tonnes of experience. A good attitude takes you a long, long way.
Main lesson: You cannot wait for creatives to come to you. It will simply never happen. Creative professionals hire other creative professionals, the people who were creating long before they got paid, all under their own steam and passion. The experience you create for yourself is the best experience you can get.
Part II coming soon…