A Fast Way to Learn How to Be an Advertising Photographer

March 30, 2018

By Holly Stuart Hughes

© Christa Renee

An editorial job, shot by Christa Renee, provided Sami Drasin early experience as a producer.

In our March feature on breaking into advertising photography, Sami Drasin says that sounding confident during her creative calls with clients helped her land her first advertising jobs. She tells PDN that she learned a lot about how to communicate with clients while working as a studio manager for photographer Christa Renee. “I would hear her have conference calls, talk to her rep and try to win the job,” Drasin recalls.

Renee says that whenever she mentors students or aspiring photographers, “I always tell everyone not to assist. Find a photographer you respect and be their studio manager for a year.” After college, Renee worked as a studio manager for Catherine Ledner, and later worked for a few months in Stephanie Rausser’s studio. “I learned more than I ever learned in school and more than I ever would have learned on set,” she says. “I think that’s why I started shooting so early.”

When Drasin came to her studio, Renee pushed her to try studio managing. “It’s a hard job. It’s kind of thankless. You’re not on set doing fun things, you’re in a hole on a computer,” Renee says. The tradeoff was that Drasin learned business practices and met people who could help her career. “She was talking to creatives and producers every day and emailing them as herself,” Renee says.

© Christa Renee

Sami Drasin at work in a hotel room during the time she was Renee’s studio manager. © Christa Renee

As a studio manager, Drasin was involved in all the behind-the-scenes work essential to an advertising photographer’s business. “She got to listen in on and be involved in conference calls, which you don’t get to see as an assistant. That conference call training alone is worth doing a year as a studio manager,” says Renee. “Photographers are kidding themselves if they don’t think they have to be good on the phone. It’s a sales pitch. That’s not something you learn in school or on a set.”

Renee says she doesn’t hide anything from her studio manager, who holds “a position of trust.” Within six months of joining the studio, Drasin proved capable of producing small jobs.

Now that Drasin has launched her own career as an advertising photographer, Renee says, “I have been up against Sami on jobs and I’m hoping that I taught her how to run a successful business, so she doesn’t go out there and work for free.” She adds this note to fellow photographers: “You want to foster the new generation, because it’s a small world.”

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