Where do you start after getting a degree in photography?
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
With this month's read, you will get:
Industry Insights, Working class & fashion trends, Human photography, Angles & Perspectives, Importance of Poses, Finding paid jobs, Film Cameras, Budget friendly equipment,Tips on presenting your portfolio
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER 📸
Serena Brown is a 23 year old, fashion and documentary photographer in London who graduated in 2018 with a degree in B.A Photography from Falmouth University. As of today, she works with many fashion brands like Nike, Refinery29 and Converse but did she really know WHERE to start from?
When asked, she said: ‘I was definitely like, what am I gonna be doing now and how am I gonna get a job out of this degree?’
For the first six months, she was working in retail and tried to shoot whatever she could - Friends, music gigs, family members - Just to keep her momentum going. She also applied for a lot of jobs online, including plenty she wasn’t qualified for but her grit and determination helped her to get her first internship with Refinery29, Inc. as a Photo Intern. This later turned into a Creative Assistant’s role. She said that, ‘This opportunity allowed me to have my foot in the door at a very early stage, which helped me learn both the creative and business side of photography.’
Serena entered a competition hosted by Equal Lens which introduced her to what they do. She said, ‘What they do is amazing, it really is, and has brought me a lot of opportunities. It’s always nice to have that kind of support.’
How is it that the working class influence high fashion and then get left behind? The series, Back a Yard, highlights the fact that tracksuits were brought into style by the working class but the idea was later monetised by high end labels and their overflowing cash. "The impact that young working-class people have on fashion trends is often neglected when it is adopted by a brand and consequently these trends become inaccessible to those who originally inspired them.”
Working alongside designer Georgia Borenius, Serena created three bootleg high fashion tracksuits which cost about £20 a pop. The series shows how effortlessly stylish working class kids are and reclaims a look that has been demonised by hefty price tags of big brands.
WORKING AS A FASHION & DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER 👟🎞
Serena believes that creatives should post content regularly on Instagram as well as use it as a platform to share their personality. ‘People want to work with you because they can see you are a nice person to work with and that can get you a long way,’ she added.
When did you realise that photography was for you?
‘Quite recently, actually. I have always loved taking photos but I think it was never presented to me as something that could be a career or something that I could actually make money from,’ said Serena. She added, ‘When I was a kid, I was literally clicking pictures of everything and anything & when I turned 16, I started to realise that I could be creative with it and create concepts around it. With a little bit of determination and drive, I have actually managed to get paid as well, which is fantastic.’
Why do you like to photograph humans? What is it in different cultures and ethnicities that calls you to photograph them?
‘I think it's what I connect with. I have really enjoyed meeting new people, understanding new cultures and there was so much to learn from, from others. I wanted to bring people to the forefront so they can share their stories with others.’
‘Sometimes it even feels that the camera comes secondary to doing that - cause usually we just have a really long chat and then I just click a photo. But I do feel that great photos generally come from those really natural and authentic conversations that I have with people,’ she added.
Do you think it was difficult for you to get started as a woman? How did you find paid jobs at your early stage?
I have a lot of support from other women in the creative industry and definitely had some fantastic mentors - I would not be where I am today without them.
I think Instagram has been huge for me in getting jobs and I think it will be for the rest of my career. Our generation definitely understands social media and they should use this to their advantage - connecting with people. I have even had jobs from America and that only happened because of Instagram… Building relationships is the whole career, really.
Class of Covid-19 is an amazing & inspired project. Why did you choose to photograph them without any poses?
I think I just wanted them to be natural and confident. I did not want the project to be about me or my direction, so I even asked them to wear whatever they want. I do corporate posing and direction on how to pose but I usually let my subjects lead! I find it quite awkward sometimes when you have something in your mind and you tell them to do it and it doesn’t translate well on their body. I let them do things naturally and if I catch them doing something I like then I just tell them to pause.
What tips would you give on human photography?
The best tip is to communicate with your subject and empathise with them on a human level. Just having a conversation throughout about how they’re feeling, being nice to them and all those small efforts to break the ice before you actually point a camera at them can be very helpful.
How important is using different angles & perspectives in photography?
I think it’s important but it also comes down to experimenting. Every situation is different so you can’t really apply a set rule or angle at every shoot. I think having a bank of different creative ideas can help you build interesting perspectives, especially when you’re storytelling and there’s more of a narrative to it. You can think how you can include the things around the subject that can help you to influence the story and also try to bring in the location to set the mood of the image. Allowing your viewers to question, ‘Why is that object there?’ or ‘Why only that colour?’ can help you to get them involved in your story even more.
WHAT’S IN YOUR BAG? 🧳
Which camera do you carry in your bag when you go out for a shoot?
I usually shoot with a film camera and at the moment I have a Mamiya RZ67. For my digital photography, I use my Canon 5D Mark IV and I also have a Canon EOS 300. So I usually juggle between these three depending on the type of project. Along with them, I always keep extra batteries for my film camera, charger, SD cards, laptop and hard drives. I try to keep EVERYTHING just to be sure, no matter how heavy my bag is.
What’s a budget friendly equipment that you would recommend for a photographer that is under £200?
I would definitely recommend getting on Ebay and getting your hands on second hand film cameras. Maybe spending a little less than £200 so you can save some money for film too!
TIPS FOR YOUNG CREATORS 📲
- To get commissioned work
Maintaining your unique style on Instagram and reaching out to different clients and brands.
- To present their portfolio
LESS IS MORE - Having a distinct style is more important than showing a thousand things that you can do. It’s always more beneficial to have your specific style so people can know that they can come back for you for a particular project. Clients need it to be a sure shot that whatever they are asking to do is gonna look a certain way, so working on yours style and reflecting that in your portfolio.
- Personal message
‘Keep up the momentum!’
Momentum is the key for pushing any hard situation and picking yourself up after every setback because there are gonna be loads of setbacks. Keeping up the momentum drives you to a place where you can get where you want to be.
Watch out for our next addition of Creative Chats!
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