Lessons from the Pros: 4 Photographers Divulge their Best Pieces of Advice

February 15, 2018

Photo courtesy of Foto Care

Victoria Will hosts a Foto Care workshop. "Keep making personal work," the portrait photographer advises. "Only by shooting as often as you can will a distinct voice come through in your work."

You set the scene. You visualize the shot. You grab your camera. You make an image. Photography can, at times, feel as though it’s an independent art form controlled fully by the person behind the lens. But where does inspiration come from? How do photographers grow and master their craft? It’s through the photo community that emerging talents can learn the skills they need to become confident, independent shooters. Perhaps no one knows that better than the pros at New York City-based Foto Care. To celebrate the community, Foto Care collaborates with dozens of accomplished shooters around the globe, hosting in-person workshops and classes year-round. Take your work to the next level by incorporating these tips by four renowned photographers who have presented at Foto Care events.

Be authentic

Victoria Will (middle)
Portrait Photographer
“I think it’s really important as an emerging photographer to remember your voice,” says Will. The portrait shooter encourages photographers not to tailor their work to fit the esthetics of certain brands or clients. “That is a huge mistake,” she advises. “The market shifts so quickly that you can only be true to yourself and make work that has your point of view. Only then will a client view your portfolio and be confident in what they will get — which hopefully is a fresh, singular perspective that only you can provide.”

But just how can photographers keep their work authentic? “Keep making personal work,” Will advises. “Only by shooting as often as you can will a distinct voice come through in your work.”

Focus on your network

Ali Rajabi
Fine Art Photographer
When it comes to growing your career as a photographer, Ali Rajabi knows it’s not all about artistic talent. “It is about making powerful connections,” the fine-art shooter says. “This is crucial because, at the end, you have to show your work either in a publication, in a gallery or in any major media—or, even if you have your own selling and promotion system, you need an audience—so growing your network should be your priority.” Plus, with modern-day networking tools like social media, he says, “everything is much more accessible for photographers” than it was even 15 years ago when Rajabi was growing his own career.

Slow down and ask questions

Xyza Cruz Bacani
“Stay curious,” says Bacani, a 27-year-old photojournalist and one of the 2017 PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch. “One of the mistakes I made [when I was starting my career] was trying to do everything all at once. I’m always in a hurry.” But learning to slow down and to focus on each task individually helped Bacani grow more passionate about her work, and helped avoid burnout. “Susan Meiselas once told me to slow down and keep in touch with the people I photograph through the years. The relationships I develop with the people I photograph in my documentary works give me a deeper insight into their lives and gives me more intimate access.”

When traveling, be mindful about packing

Ira Block
Photojournalist & Travel Photographer
“When I am headed out to a remote country, it is always a challenge to decide what to bring,” says National Geographic photographer Ira Block. “I have an essential kit I take everywhere, and then add things on to that kit.” His kit includes multiple Sony bodies, standard zoom lenses like the 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm and, often, several fixed lenses like the 28mm f/2 or 85mm f/1.8.

From there, Block bases his additional gear on the unique needs of the shoot. “In Mongolia, for example, I wanted to make portraits of the Eagle hunters. Usually, I bring Profoto battery-operated strobes, some stands and some modifiers. On this trip, however, I had some students with me and thought it would be easier to shoot with continuous lights. I bought two 1×1 lite panels and some reflectors to accomplish this.” The panels packed into one case and the stands fit in a duffel bag, Block recalls. He borrowed white sheets from a hotel to use as a backdrop, a savvy move to save space and hassle when shooting on location. 

—Sponsored by Foto Care. Click here to view a list of upcoming live events taught by leading photographers in their fields.