When not on location, what does a fashion photographer actually get up to?

For anyone who doesn’t work in the arts, the life of a photographer in London seems like a romanticised dream of whimsically wandering from shoot to shoot with very little work in-between. The reality is very different. There’s rarely any time for whimsy because in fact we’re constantly working to make sure that we have another shoot booked in! From marketing to meetings and analysing trends, a fashion photographer always needs to be one step ahead to ensure he/she is successful.

Today I thought I would take you through my daily/weekly/monthly tasks so you can better understand how you can become successful in this business, and the process I go through before I even pick up a camera!

What does a Photographer in London do on a Typical Day / Week?

Marketing yourself as a Photographer
In any field these days you need to have some idea of how to market yourself. Be it a writer starting their own blog, a painter sharing their work on Instagram or a dog trainer sharing tips on Tik Tok (check out SouthendDogTraining he’s amazing!) Whatever your talent/vocation is, it will remain a hobby unless you take the time and put the energy into getting your work out there. I would say at least 25% of my time is spent digitally marketing myself as a photographer in London via my social media channels and website. For me this is a good amount of time to spend as any more and I’ll start to feel more like a salesman than a photographer! Keeping a harmonious balance is key.

Social media has been an amazing tool for me. It’s not only inspired me and pushed me but it has also helped me to connect with people from all across the world, both personally and professionally. Your Instagram feed is, up to a point, an extension of your working portfolio. Professionally, it allows future clients to see more of your work while also giving them an insight into you as a person – which is key when deciding whether to work with someone or not. So I keep my feed friendly, share behind the scenes pics from my shoots plus little inspirational moments that capture me during my daily life. If you’re a lover of social media and a carefully curated morning selfie is just part of your daily routine, then planning is less vital. But if you’re new to the game or social media doesn’t come naturally, try and schedule your posts to ensure you have regular visibility across all the major channels. I’ll usually put aside half a day during the week to select/schedule/write my posts. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to scheduling tools there’s a great article here comparing the best ones.

I use planoly to schedule and plan my grid layout:

In the good ‘ol days clients didn’t see your full Portfolio until it was presented to them in person, these days however a booker will want to browse your portfolio from the quiet solitude of their office. For most photographers in London this means having your website not just up to date but also looking good. Before I launched my site I decided that it needed to be fundamentally functional while framing my work without distraction. This is a fast-paced business & you normally get just seconds of attention from a client, so adding lots of crazy fonts & dazzling backgrounds will not help you, let your work do the talking & subtly match your site’s style to your medium. Keeping my site simple also means I can easily update it with my freshest work and re-organise when needed. Alongside the updating of my portfolio I also make sure to spend a good amount of time each week working on the SEO & keywords for my site. If my future clients are not already aware of the fabulous ‘Tory Smith Photography, the best fashion photographer in London’ they need to be able to find me! I’m not an SEO expert, I’m a photographer, but the area is so interesting and therefore when I’m not implementing what I already know, I’m reading up on what more I can do going forward. I encourage you to do the same as there is so much information out there! As part of my SEO schedule I regularly post on my blog (well, I will be!), it’s a vital way for me to show Google that I am actively using and updating my site & thus encouraging them to push me up the search engine charts. To be honest though, the blog isn’t purely for marketing because I love to do it and when I have the time it’s a real pleasure sharing what I actually get up to and my tips for budding photographers. In order to keep consistency I set aside time each week or month to plan my posts, this stops me from sitting down at a blank screen thinking ‘What the hell do I write about?!’. If you only take one thing away from any of this, it’s that planning is key! Plan time to plan that planning you need to plan for!

Planning Photo shoots

More planning you say? Yes! In order to be a successful fashion photographer in London you need to plan ahead. When you’re putting together your first photo shoot it can seem pretty daunting, so its best if you can break it down into manageable chunks. Concept, location, equipment, models. If you’re working for a big brand or media outlet you may find that some of these tasks are taken out of your hands and that you just need to work with them during the process, then turn up shoot & edit. The amount you will be required to do really depends on the client, but it’s important to make a good, reliable contact in lighting as you’ll often be required to sort that part out. A good portion of my days and months however, are spent planning all the above, as I’m lucky enough to have a lot of creative control over what I shoot. My clients and I will often set up a series of meetings throughout the process of the photo shoot where we will scout locations, cast models and go over mood boards for the shoot. Each one of these tasks are vital to the process and if they’re not done in cohesion with the team, they can make or break the photo shoot for your client. I always try to be as involved as much as possible from the outset to ensure that we are all on the same wavelength.

Here is an example some inspirational images taken from my moodboard for recent shoot ‘Salt Water’

My photoshoot:

As a commercial photographer I manage to still find time to put together my own photo shoots. There is no greater thrill for me than taking my own initial idea and making it a reality, that pure creative freedom is so exhilarating. Trust me! Recently I put together a shoot in Lisbon from scratch for Lucy’s magazine. When scouting for locations we found this amazing old flat decorated from floor to ceiling in the most stunning murals and I knew instantly I had to shoot there! Once we found the location we then set about finding the perfect model and sourcing the dresses. The whole process took around 3-4 weeks as I was still organising shoots for my other clients. Multitasking – that’s my other top tip! Once the photo shoot was completed I then went about editing the pictures for the magazine and marketing it to the world (see above)! Putting together my own shoots not only brings me the greatest joy, but it is also another way for me to show versatility on my portfolio. Important if you want to maximise your chances of being hired as a fashion photographer.

Here are my images from this shoot:

It sounds cliché, but the fashion world is always changing and to stay one step ahead of the game as a fashion photographer in London, you need to know your trends. Even if you’ve decided that ‘I will not follow the trends, I will set the trends!’, you will still need to at least research the trends because 9 times out of 10 your amazing new idea was probably featured on the cover of i-D magazine last month! Whether you want to ride the wave of trends or start a new one, you need to know what’s going on in order for you to make your own version or flip it on its head. I spend a good portion of my day browsing the latest issues of the types of magazines that would feature my work, whilst also keeping a keen eye on what the world of Instagram is doing. It’s important to make sure this is not a passive activity though. Sure, it’s lovely to leaf through the latest copy of Elle on a Sunday afternoon, but remember this is research. Cut stuff out, screen grab the things you like and create mood boards on specific trends you want and need to follow. You’re going to have to go full classic serial killer if you want to keep track of every detail that’s important to your art.

I sincerely hope that this was useful to you and I have helped you understand just what a fashion photographer in London gets up to on an average day. Let me know your thoughts and feel free to get in touch!