How To Become a Professional Photographer Without Assisting

April 6, 2017

By David Walker

© Geordie Wood

Geordie Wood shot Natalie Portman, for DuJour magazine. As a photo editor, Wood learned how pre-production decisions influence the outcome of a shoot.

Working as a photo assistant may be the most common pathway to a career as a photographer, but it isn’t the only one. Many photographers have built the foundations of their careers on the experience they’ve gained as producers, reps, art directors and other jobs.

“I tell students they shouldn’t be too single-minded” about making a living as a photographer right out of school, says fine-art and editorial photographer Sara Macel, who previously had a successful career as a producer at Art Department. Before that, she worked as a studio assistant and editorial assistant. “You should be working on your own career and your own shoots,” she says, “but find what’s most useful in any job you do to help you build that career.”

We interviewed Macel, Grace Chon and Geordie Wood about their unconventional paths to careers as photographers. You can read the lessons they shared here. You can also read our online exclusive interview with Stephanie Gonot about how working for a rep helped her become a photographer.

The Career Roads Less Traveled

Grace Chon, former Art Director

Geordie Wood, former Photo Director

Sara Macel, former Producer

Stephanie Gonot, former Rep