Career as a fashion photographer
Andrew Leach is a freelance fashion photographer based in Manchester. He creates images of people for fashion magazines, public relations companies and designers. He worked as an assistant after getting his photographic degree.
What is your role as a fashion photographer?
On behalf of advertising agencies, it is my role to employ and co-ordinate the whole team of people involved in a photographic shoot.
What does your career as a fashion photographer involve?
Before starting a job, I need to choose the right team of people, which includes make-up artists, models, hairdressers and stylists. Although the stylist puts the outfits together, I also influence this. Choosing appropriate locations and organising props, which could include anything from a horse to a phone box, is also my responsibility.
I work with assistants who set up the equipment, such as lighting and cameras, and I choose the right film for the job. Then I start taking the photographs, which could take anything between one hour and three weeks. Liaising with specialist photographic laboratories is also part of my work.
What equipment do you use in your career as a fashion photographer?
I use medium format film and highresolution digital cameras. Freelance photographers need their own lighting and each year I invest a lot of money in new equipment.
What hours do you work?
I often work seven days a week, which usually involves long hours. A shoot may include working to midnight or beyond. I also go overseas about six times a year with the job.
What is the working environment like?
I work in a stimulating and creative environment, with lots of interesting and friendly people.
Who do you work with?
I work closely with my photographic assistants and with the whole team involved in a shoot. Liaising with a range of other people, including photo laboratory and prop hire staff, is also part of the work.
What personal qualities and skills do you need for a career as a fashion photographer?
You need to be determined, hard working and creative. A confident approach is essential and you also need a resilient personality in this industry. Technical skills to operate the cameras and equipment are also vital, although you will learn and develop these in the job.
What training have you done?
Although I greatly benefited from my photography degree, I learnt the most working as an assistant with an experienced photographer. My training has really involved learning on the job.
What do you enjoy about your career as a fashion photographer?
I am paid to see the world and I like being my own boss. The job is creative and involves working alongside other like-minded people outside any normal nine to five routine. There is nothing I dislike!
What are the main challenges?
Commissioning people for a job, co-ordinating the whole process and communicating with those involved can all be challenging. As a freelancer, I am running my own business and I have to pay all the people I employ in advance.
How do you see your future?
My future will definitely be in photography!
Andrew's route to his career as a fashion photographer
- A levels in art, geography and history.
- Foundation course in art and design.
- Degree in Photography.
- Assistant photographer.
- Photographer with own business.
Andrew's fashion photographer tips
- If you want to be a fashion photographer, be prepared to work long hours.
- Look at photographs all the time, especially of people.
Fashion photographer related jobs
- Graphic designer
- Multimedia designer
- Photographic stylist
- Photographic technician
- TV/film camera operator
Salary of a fashion photographer
- Most fashion photographers work on a freelance, self-employed basis.
- The starting pay is usually low and in addition they need to buy their own equipment.
- A day rate for a magazine might start at £150, rising to £600 for someone with experience.
- For other branches of fashion photography, the most experienced photographers can command over £3,000 for a day's work.
Career as a fashion photographer
- Fashion photography is a highly competitive field and you will normally need to start at the bottom as an assistant. A portfolio of your own photographic work is essential.
- Most photographers have undertaken formal training, either at college or university. A wide range of specialist courses are available, including City & Guilds, BTEC national certificates/ diplomas, HNDs and degrees
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