Last week we began our Resident Creative series with the super talented Liam Cameron, and explored his live music photography. This week we go into his experience and lessons learned with fashion photography.
What inspires you?
Film, other photographers, life.
What holds you back?
Being a lazy fuck, resistance, entitlement, travel, gear. (Excuses).
How do you approach fashion shoots, do you like to plan it out or wing it on the day?
If it’s just me and a model, most of the time I just pick a location, time and loose concept. It keeps it fresh and fun. I like mucking around with them. Taking yourself too seriously is sickening. Obviously, there are a million and one variables that could possibly hinder a successful shoot. Shooting with natural light for example is a huge constraint. Not knowing how to properly use flashes or anything is something that I’ll have to address soon. So, yeah, I like to wing it.
I wouldn’t call myself a fashion photographer. I think it’s my weakest photographical specialty, so I just want to shoot as much fashion and model stuff as possible. I’ve noticed an improvement in the last couple of months and my style has slowly transformed. Picking a different location for each shoot allows me to experience a wide variety of conditions and explore new areas. Win-win. If it’s a bigger styled collaboration or look book, more preparation does goes into it. When people are relying on you, it goes without saying.
Collaboration is like making a good meal. Having one ingredient isn’t very palatable. Mix in a few diverse ingredients and you’ve got something.
How do you build your fashion portfolio, do you arrange shoots with agencies or just have a lot of ridiculously good looking friends?
It’s still got a long way to go.
I began with old mates who helped me with uni assignments. The good thing about your friends is that they’ll do anything you say! They weren’t super models, but they weren’t scrubs either.
So, use your friends! (If you don’t have good looking friends, sorry, but it’s game over.) However, luckily, there are plenty of people out there looking to collaborate for experience and portfolio development. You can find these people on the internets. This includes many Facebook groups with models/makeup artists, etc dying for experience.
A lot are after TFP (time for print i.e. free collaboration in exchange for photos). And the good thing about Facebook is that you can discern if they’re legit or not. You can use each other to develop experience, confidence, communication skills, contacts, etc. And of course images for your portfolio. You can exploit these to gradually reap more and more benefits. Snow ball it. An initial milestone involves agencies letting you work with their talent or designers/labels wanting to shoot with you.
Having been through the pain of trying to wrangle people for a shoot, it has been worth it for me. But, now that I shoot predominately for a commercial agency there’s no shortage of people to work with which is definitely a relief.
This is only one way of going about it. There are probably other effective ways out there. Good luck.
What impact has TFP shooting had on your work?
Big. Positive and negative. But, really positive because any experience is a learning tool.
Loads of people and businesses use TFP to take advantage of photographers by offering great exposure, which can lead to (everyone’s favourite) future employment. It’s mostly bullshit. They get what they pay for though.
I’ve been sucked in doing free shit for businesses who made lots of money from the images numerous times. It sucks. Yet, you can’t blame them if there are suckers (like me) out there who are willing to do it for nothing. Some of them are also just scraping by. For big companies and organisations it’s unacceptable though.
It has been more than prosperous on a number of occasions, however.
Besides the music place that I talked about last week, I started shooting for this agency for free. They really liked my shots and sent me more models. I said yes to everything they requested. You’ve got to be willing to give. Eventually they said that I should get paid for this. And now I get paid for shoots as their ‘preferred’ photographer.
Getting rewarded for putting in effort feels nice. You’ve got to demonstrate to people that you’re worth it and offer something of value. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop looking for more work or shooting free stuff. It just helps. Not saying yes to everything increases your perceived value and being more selective keeps morale above the “fuck this, I quit” level. There is good in TFP. Of course it has devalued some of the industry, but you can really take advantage of it too.
How important is collaboration for creative work?
Important. Collaboration is like making a good meal. Having one ingredient isn’t very palatable. Mix in a few diverse ingredients and you’ve got something.
There are some amazing collaborations out there. I want to start doing some more once I get more confident.
What is the best advice you could give aspiring photographers?
I don’t profess to be an expert by any means, but I have some observations.
Stop reading this. Go and take some photos. Seriously, get!
Make mistakes. Learn from them. Learn from other peoples mistakes so you don’t have to.
I eventually took a couple of decent photos back in the day and thought that my ‘career’ had reached its peak. I didn’t have to go out and do anything more. Livin’ the dream! That’s the worst. Not going out and experimenting and trying ideas you might have is a waste.
As you can tell, a big thing for me was entitlement and expectancy. Waiting around for someone to approach me and offer a job or a collaboration or whatever. Didn’t happen. You’ve got to get out there and make shit happen. And give.
It’s a constant battle between thinking you’re shit and good. And as long as you think you’re shit, there’s room for improvement. But make sure you compare yourself to yourself (and no one else) a month ago, a year ago, etc. Odds are, if you’ve been going out doing stuff instead of being lazy, there should be some improvement. If not, perhaps you’re just shit. Jokes… Maybe you should try something new: new locations, style, gear, etc just to see the world differently. Our friend Einstein did say that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
Go and assist. You learn from those who can do.
Master the gear you’ve got. I only shoot with a $100 50mm lens and am still figuring out how to get the most out of it. The best camera is the one that’s on you.
If you don’t meditate, get on that! It’s one thing that’ll change your life. But, just like taking one photo, doing it once won’t do anything. And like the gym or eating food (and taking photos), it’s a continual process that you must perpetually do. There’s an overabundance of scientific benefits that need no mention. I talk to all the models about it. Surprisingly, a lot of them do it in some form. If they can, you can!
Above all, it’s about giving into the grind. You’re a culmination of the small things you do every day. Skill eventually surpasses talent. Let the process of doing (without expectation or result) take over and you will be rewarded.
Tune in next Tuesday for Part 3, and follow Liam on instagram @liamcameron1.