Advice from Steve Thornton, Fashion and Beauty Photographer

I met Steve Thornton the other day, when I was at the Freelance Forum here in Atlanta, with my sister. What an impressive group of individuals! I met some truly talented photographers. It was heartening to see so many shooters making a living. It reminds you that it’s possible. I highly recommend you join a photographer’s society. I will write a post at some point comparing the different groups, like PPA, WPJA, EP, ASMP, and others. Almost without fail, you will find someone at these types of gatherings who will jump at the opportunity to give you professional assistance and valuable guidance. Photographers are very fraternal.

I picked him out of the crowd. The man is like seven feet tall, and looks like this:
Steve Thornton, Fashion Photographer from Atlanta, GA
I didn’t get to talk to him until after the meeting, but he gave me some valuable insight, which I’ve summarized below:

1) Concentrate on editorials. Instead of shooting things that look like ads, shoot things that tell a story. Use the same models, and have variations on themes for settings and outfits. Getting work in magazines is the best way for photographers to get noticed, and then picked up for the ad work.

2) Shop your work out at Apparel Marts. Apparel Marts are trade shows for the apparel market. Buyers for major chains shop around from dealers and manufacturers and pick out the items that their stores will carry. Network with the manufacturers, and find out who is in charge of photography. Get work through the young manufacturers.

3) Aim for the top. Don’t be afraid to send your work into the big fashion magazines, like Vogue and W. If it’s cool, they’ll print it. So, go for it! You won’t get turned down out of hand.

4) Focus on your value to the customer. Most photographers follow up with customers with a “How do you like the images?”, the client says “They’re great!”, and that’s the end of it. You should make sure that your images are providing as high an ROI as possible. So, use this information to evaluate your work and improve it. Always keep the customer’s impression of your real financial value in mind.

5) Never be totally satisfied with your work. It’s important to stay on top of your game by always learning. If you’re not learning, you’re dead in the water. Do research. Look through magazines, pick out great images, see who is doing it, and learn how it’s done. Invent things, and re-invent yourself.

And then he shook my hand, and said he was going to bed. Thanks again, Steve. I hope you don’t mind if I post one of your shots here:


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