Breaking Through: Top Tips from the New Pros

Breaking Through: Top Tips from the New Pros

Every year, PDN magazine hand picks the top 30 new and emerging photographers to watch, and this past March the School of Visual Arts hosted a seminar featuring several photographers from the 2012 list, along with other heavy hitters in the industry. I had the chance to attend and listen in as moderator Holly Hughes, editor of PDN, asked three of the list’s emerging photographers about their top tips for “making it” in an increasingly competitive industry. The panel was also joined by associate photo editor of New York Times Magazine Clinton Cargill, and Sony’s Artisan of Imagery Andy Katz.

While these photographers are only on the cusp of their careers, their insights into navigating the photo industry are invaluable no matter how long you’ve been shooting. The number one piece of advice that came from all panelists? Persistence and continuous shooting is the key to getting commissioned work.

Straight from up-and-coming pros, here are their best strategies for building and expanding your photography business: 

2007 SVA alumni Ryan Pfluger is a fine art and editorial photographer who has shot for clients such as New York Times Magazine, TIME, and Real Simple. He describes his work as personal and quiet, and he’s a major advocate for the blogging platform, Tumblr. Ryan’s main set of advice is to:

  • Be proactive, constantly come up with your own projects, and make it happen.
  • Always share your new and personal work with photo editors and all current and previous contacts.
  • Keep shooting despite financial setbacks, creative slumps or personal hiccups.
  • Build your brand by having a consistent design aesthetic that suits your work.

Photographer Sam Kaplan's Website

Still life photographer Sam Kaplan built his portfolio during his time assisting in a studio. Kaplan challenged himself with his own self-assigned series, and received both technical and professional advice from those he assisted. Today he’s worked with clients such as Fortune and Popular Science. He advises young photographers:
  • Continuously shoot and create work in order to find your voice.
  • The personal work you produce can lead to paying jobs in the future.
  • Learn to trust yourself and your gut instinct when you’re on assignment, over complicating things can cloud your vision and voice.
After starting the magazine Corduroy during his undergraduate studies at SVA, editorial and commercial photographer photographer Peter Ash Lee developed a unique perspective from experiencing both sides to the editorial business. He warns photographers to treat photo editors with care – “they’re people too,” he reminded us. Here are his major insights into contacting editors:
  • Personalize your messages and target the right publications.
  • Treat your relationship to the editors with common sense.
  • Be genuine.

Actress Gemma Ward photographed by Peter Ash Lee

From the buyer: Clinton Cargill, associate photo editor of the New York Times Magazine, acknowledged that sometimes getting the job is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Since the Magazine is weekly, they often don’t have time to send out a photographer on an assignment. He shared advice on what he’s looking for in portfolio work and a little reality check for photographers:
  • Have a strong, unique, and consistent point of view.
  • Give me an idea of how you would approach an assignment.
  • A 5-minute meeting with him during the work week is considered a lot of time.
  • Portfolio reviews are beneficial for buyers because he can spend a quality amount of time with the work, and give honest, critical feedback.

The most important advice in regards to the craft came from veteran Andy Katz, who reminded the audience, “The images are out there – the light is out there – we just have to go and grab it.”

To see the full list of PDN‘s 30 new and emerging photographers to watch, visit their website.

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Marketing associate at PhotoShelter

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