Just ask Donald Pettit, NASA astronaut and "amateur" photographer. Donald…
After hand surgery left fashion and lifestyle photographer Josh Wool no choice but to give up a successful career as a chef, he picked up a camera and started taking “really bad photos.” In two short years he started to amass an impressive Tumblr following and was named one of 2014 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch by PDN. Although the heart of his work is portraiture, he’s also been picking up fashion clients who like his subtle approach. Josh shared how he broke into the competitive New York photography scene and how he plans to build on his early successes.
How would you describe your style of photography?
A lot of people describe it as quiet, which is pretty accurate. I try to find genuine, quiet moments where you’re re- ally going to catch someone’s personality. It’s very simple and clean. It’s not loud and in your face. It’s more subtle and allows for more of a connection with the subject.
Who were your first fashion clients?
I have a friend who has a clothing line, and she asked me if I could do a look book. Initially it was a trade but it pretty quickly turned into some paid work with her. I ended up doing three or four for her and doing some other assignments along the way. I also did a bunch of ecommerce work for a high-end swimsuit line. It’s been a sort of slow, natural progression into fashion photography. I ended up doing some work for JCPenny and then most recently I did a menswear line called The Hill Side.
How are clients using your work?
The clients that are approaching me like the style of portraiture I do, and I think they want that intimate touch. I think they’re looking for something a little different. There’s been this trend in fashion photogaphy of really loud, flashy photos, and I think that is starting to shift. They want a way for their clientele to connect to the product.
How did the PDN article come about? How did you get noticed by them?
One of the editors saw some of my work through Tumblr. Tumblr’s been huge for me, just the reach that it’s given me. I think 90 percent of the work that I’ve gotten is from people seeing it through Tumblr. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook to help expand my online presence.
Do you have a strategy for what you’re putting on social media?
I use Tumblr as a visual diary. I show things that I’m working on from day to day. I try to post as least one photo per day, but it doesn’t always happen. My Tumblr has more than 20,000 people following it. It’s a way to to give people a reminder that you’re there.
What else do you do to market your work?
I’m getting ready to start a big print push with postcards. I also do email promotions every month where I push out 4 or 5 emails to different brands, marketing directors, art directors, or photo editors.
Do you have any do’s or don’ts for someone trying to break into fashion photography?
I think the biggest piece of advice I could give to anyone is to be patient. It’s not been an easy process. It’s accelerated at a pretty rapid rate, but day to day it feels like nothing’s going on sometimes, especially the first year that I was here. It’s easy to get frustrated and discouraged, but you just have to remember that it takes time and it takes a lot of work and a lot of endurance to push through it. A lot of people come to New York and nothing happens in the first six months and they get really discouraged and they quit. That’s not a good way to start a business. You have to be dedicated to it and be willing to put in the work on the promotional side of it as well as have a product somebody wants to buy.
It’s also saying no to things. It sounds sort of counterproductive, but I shot a few things when I first got here that I really wish I never did and wish that my name wasn’t on. It’s hard to turn down a paycheck but if you can’t live with it at the end of the day, if you’re not proud of the work, then it’s not worth doing. It’s not always the best decision financially, but for me I can sleep at night, and I’m proud of everything I put out.That’s a big one for me.
Any other advice for aspiring fashion photographers?
I think the biggest thing that really helped me the most is having an original voice and never trying to make somebody else’s photograph. You see a lot of people who are doing the same style of photograph, and it’s all become very homogeneous in some ways. If you’re doing something a little different, it tends to stand out, no matter what style it is. I think being original and not being afraid to take a few risks here and there are a big help.
Want more information on how to break into the fashion photography industry? Download our guide Breaking into Fashion Photography today!