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excerpts from the experts Professional Photography and Industry Influencers Share their Secrets to Success

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Her studious note-taking while assisting Annie Leibovitz and other photographers combined with her smart Instagram strategy have paid off for the 26-year-old photographer. By David Walker

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Photo Š Katie Levine


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Photo © Katie Levine

ABOVE: Katie Levine’s photography career started to take off after PAPER magazine’s chief creative officer Drew Elliott saw her portraits of Lucky Blue Smith on Instagram. Levine was hired by V magazine to shoot video of Smith, but also got a chance to shoot some portraits “because he and I got along so well,” she says.

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Katie Levine’s big break as a professional her to photograph some of RuPaul’s drag photographer came last year after Lucky queen legends. Blue Smith, a model with more than 3 million Behind Levine’s sudden emergence is Instagram followers, posted a portrait by a lot of dogged work. “I wouldn’t say I’m Levine on his Instagram feed. V magazine the most talented person, but I definitely had hired Levine in September 2016 to think I work a lot harder than most people,” shoot some video of Smith, but she got a says Levine. chance to shoot portraits, too, “because he While studying photography at Columand I got along so well,” she says. bia College Chicago in 2012, she met a PAPER magazine’s chief creative officer, former Vogue magazine intern at a music Drew Elliott, saw the portrait Smith posted. festival. The connection led Levine to her Elliott remembers it as “what I consider the own editorial internship at Vogue in 2013. best photograph of him ever taken, by a “I really didn’t know much about fashion, but photographer I had never heard of.” He it was my foot in the door,” she says. Within invited Levine for a meeting and put her days, though, she was ostracized at Vogue right to work shooting fashion stories and for mispronouncing Manolo Blahnik’s name. celebrity portraits for PAPER. Levine’s “vibe “I didn’t know my shit,” she says. “So I went and approach” puts subjects at ease, says on and wrote down every designElliott, and her style “is fresh, modern, and er’s name for five hours a day, six days in always has a hint of action. At PAPER we a row, and never mispronounced a name call this ‘in the middle of things’ photogra- again.” phy, and Katie is moving this forward.” After the internship, Levine returned Elliott, who is also the creative consul- to Chicago to complete her degree. Then tant for VH1’s reality TV series America’s through her Vogue connections, she landed Next Top Model, also hired Levine this past an internship at Annie Leibovitz’s studio. February to appear on the show and photo- That turned into a job as a production assisgraph some aspiring models. And he hired tant driving equipment vans around New


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York City. What Levine really wanted was to be a photo assistant, so she tried to outwork everyone else to get noticed. One of Leibovitz’s assistants told her, “You lift until your face is blue,” and offered her an internship on the photo team. She observed everything on set and recorded it in her journal after work. She diagramed the lighting set-ups, and sketched equipment she wasn’t familiar with. “I looked up all Annie’s equipment, got all of the manuals, and I read them. There was no way I wasn’t going to know something,” Levine says. After a year with Leibovitz, she began assisting other photographers, taking notes on their lighting and techniques, too. Levine also spent three months as a studio manager for a high-profile celebrity photographer, and got fired. “I realized you can’t get along with everybody. People have different styles. But I learned a lot about running a studio,” she says. Meanwhile, she was constantly honing her own style by shooting portraits at her Staten Island apartment of friends, neigh4 | PDN

bors and acquaintances. She also called modeling agencies, offering to do test shoots with models. “I was reaching out, being super friendly, taking any opportunity [and treating] every job like my dream job,” she explains. “I always try to just make genuine connections with people, and treat them like family. I want people to come into my home for a portrait session and feel good. I’m more concerned with how I’m treating people than the hustle of it all.” But she hustles, too. She built her brand and portfolio on Instagram (@katie_levine_). “My following [about 9,000] might not be substantial, but I’m concerned about quality. I don’t buy followers. It’s totally organic,” she says. She started by following people whose music and work she liked, commented often, and read everything she could find about Instagram strategy for photographers. “You learn certain timing techniques, certain posting techniques, certain hashtags,” she says. She now spends about 15 hours each week managing her feed. “If you start to get a fan base, you have to talk to them all the

ABOVE: Katie Levine in her Brooklyn studio.


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time,” she says. “The friendlier you are with Instagram, the better it is for you.” Levine started getting private portrait commissions from some of her followers, including aspiring actors, models and musicians. She also got work from retailers such as Richmond Hood. The culture magazine V, for whom she photographed Lucky Blue Smith, also found her on Instagram. Since the assignments from PAPER and other clients started coming in, Levine has been more selective about shooting private portraits. She wants to photograph people not just because they want a portrait, but because they want a portrait “taken by Katie Levine,” she says. “If I’m going to take a private portrait, it’s going to be something that’s worth my time, and usually somebody I respect as well.”

She’s been honing her brand in other ways, too. For instance, in anticipation of her guest appearance on America’s Next Top Model, she re-designed her website, and edited her Instagram down to a few hundred images. Most are portraits of actors and musicians, models, and Instagram influencers—talented people with whom she identifies, who have a lot of followers, and can therefore bring more attention to Levine’s feed. One of her challenges has been learning the skills she needs to run her business. “I’m reading a lot about how to get shit done, and a lot of entrepreneur books to get motivated,” she says. Levine also keeps a written business plan, which she updates every six months. “I ask myself: What have I accomplished? What are my new goals? I write down [new] goals, then marketing and business strategies, people I want to reach out to, budgeting and expenses, and travel [plans] to places I can do more outreach.” Her parting advice to aspiring photographers, she says, is “write down what you learn. Take it all in. Open your eyes, not your mouth, and recognize you have this opportunity to learn from people who have more experience than you. And just shoot all the time, read all the time, be on Instagram, but also be genuine.”

Photo © Katie Levine

BELOW: Levine honed her style shooting portraits of friends, neighbors and aspiring actors, models and musicians, and she says, “I treat every job like my dream job.” Here, Chance the Rapper.


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Notes to my Younger Self

Past PDN’s 30 reflect on some lessons they’ve learned the hard way

Photo © Harry Eelman

THIS PAGE: Danielle Levitt, center, with crew and talent on set. Levitt says once she stopped being overly selfcritical, she improved the atmosphere on her sets, felt more connected to her subjects and made better portraits.

starting out.

Danielle L ev it t I could’ve put less judgment on myself with meaningless ideas of what progress should look like in a career. I was really hard on myself. I felt like I wasn’t making work that was good enough. I never assisted and I didn’t go to school, so I had to learn on the job. But everyone goes through this learning and I’m thankful that I know now that it was OK to make bad work or struggle.

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I’m not sure it was conscious at the beginning, but there was a point that my work turned a corner, and that had everything to do with letting go of that nervousness and that hyper-critical point of view. I found when I felt and expressed confidence, when I was out of my head, I was inherently more relaxed and, by extension, much more connected and in it with my subjects. My sets became fun, inclusive and celebratory. I thoroughly enjoy myself [on set], and I really like people to enjoy themselves as well. I simply like the way that it looks in the pictures, and so that continues to feed the cycle of pride.

Em ilian o Gran ado The most important thing is to try to figure out what kind of photographer you want to be and want to be seen as. With that

in mind, do everything possible to follow that trajectory and not get distracted with tangential aesthetics or endeavors—chasing visual trends, or shooting more commercial stuff, or shooting portraits if you’re really a still-life person. Identify your strengths and interests, and really focus on those.

Mis t y Keas ler Always consume photography. Make sure you stay immersed in art that you love. It will make your work better. Understand that photography is a fairly cyclical profession. There are times you’ll be pursued and really hot and times when it’s quiet (and more than a little scary). A career in photography isn’t much different than a career in any of the arts and if it’s just something that you have to do one way or another you’ll find a way to make it happen.


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Photo © Felix Kunze

The continuing success and creativity of photographers featured in PDN’s 30 issues through the years makes us proud. We asked some past PDN’s 30 about the lessons they’ve learned and what they wish they had known when they were

Take every assignment you physically are able to do and treat it as though it’s personal work (in terms of approach and passion). Always make personal work. Always have something you’re thinking about making or taking steps to make. When it’s quiet pursue the personal work and throw yourself into it. Personal work and long term projects have enriched my life in ways that are surprising and complex—they have allowed me rich experiences and to make larger statements about cultures or the world. This can be stabilizing as an artist since some assignments can be tough on you and the work can have such a short life span. Avoid jealous people.

Photo © Felix Kunze

Tom as van H o utr y ve One piece of advice would be to read the biographies of accomplished photographers before you set out. For example, I just read the biography of Edward Curtis—Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, by Timothy Egan— and I was shocked by how many of the things he did are still relevant to contemporary photographers. The way he funded his projects was [by] pre-selling books, like modern-day crowdfunding, and he got the patronage of J.P. Morgan, who was at the time the wealthiest person in the U.S. Then he fell into a trap, which many photographers did: He never put in a margin for himself. He just invested everything into the production of the work [and] ended up completely broke at the end of his life. I would have loved to have read this information when I was establishing myself as a freelancer. I think a lot of young photographers think: If you get your name out there, and work really hard and publish for free, eventually it will all circle back and pay off. And in the case of Curtis, it didn’t. He set this pattern very early in his career of not asking for enough to sustain himself, and only asking for enough to sustain the project, and that ended up plaguing him for his whole life. Publishers and funders are going to try to [pay you] the minimum amount of money…. So I assume I’ll have to educate [publishers and clients]: This is my livelihood. I’m not supported by other things. This is not a charity operation. And then I ask those who expect me to work for extremely little or for free: Who else in the project is giving away their labor for free? Is your print shop

doing it? Are your PR people doing it? Is your accounting department doing it? Then you say, OK, I’m willing to take a hit on my [fee] if everybody else takes a hit on theirs, but until then, put me on the same pay scale. And that also means sometimes just saying No.

Way n e L aw ren c e For the most part being included in the 30 has helped to open a lot of doors for me personally and I hope it has at least inspired other photographers with a similar viewpoint to keep pushing in spite of the obvious challenges we face. When I started out, almost 20 years ago now, I remember an article PDN did about diversity in the industry, and it is a little disheartening that we’re still having the same conversation now. When my Orchard Beach work was published three years after PDN’s 30, I didn’t anticipate that I’d be pigeonholed because of the subject matter that I focus on primarily. For a long time I would only get calls from editors when they had a story that focused on the black community or in situations where people were struggling. Not that I have a problem with that type of work but I guess I expected more. Photography for me has always been about finding clarity within the work and I felt that my way of communicating visually would translate to more diverse assignments regardless of subject matter. It’s definitely gotten better with time but the industry’s aversion to risk taking was and still is very disappointing. Knowing what I know, I can’t help but wonder how that body of work that I sacrificed so much to create would’ve been received had it been done by a white photographer. I don’t know that doing anything differently would have made much of a difference. I’ve always done the work that I felt inspired to do and I’m thankful for that.

Ziya h Gaf ic I really wish someone told me being a photographer doesn’t get any easier with age. I wish I’d known that so much doesn’t depend on you: There are so many variables that are beyond your control. Photography has a very long incubation period. Sometimes it takes decades before your work and personality get appreciated. [The] notion that so much is out of your hands brings a certain calmness and perhaps even devil-may-care attitude which is

essential for creative thinking and it may release creative energy subdued by [the] anxiety of the keeping things under control. Making meaningful imagery is unfortunately not enough. You have to become a cultural operator, someone who moves between different areas of culture using his visual storytelling skills and experience, from providing content to lecturing. Sometimes it is more important what you do with your imagery than how good it is. Photography in particular and visual communication in general is an essential element in any culture. Thus we have to consider that our images may be relevant outside of usual venues where they are shown, that offers other sources of support. Traditionally those would be the media. However, the shelf life of images in the media is largely very short given the relentless rhythm of the new media. Images should have their other life, be it as a means of advocacy or continuation in a book form. Try to savor that gut-wrenching feeling of first assignments, that feeling of palpable insecurity close to being in love. Very quickly it will drown in routine. If life is not a sprint but a marathon, then photography is a triathlon.

J os ep h S y wen k y j If I could travel back in time to advise my younger self when I was just starting out as a photographer I would offer three pieces of advice:


Early in my career I was a bit of an idealist. It was not until commercial clients searched me out and began offering jobs that I began to take commercial work seriously as an option. I would advise my younger self to pursue commercial work early on.


I would advocate taking a stronger stance when dealing with publications that take too long to pay me for my work. It is beyond frustrating to shoot an assignment for a noted publication and to be put in a position of waiting and arguing for six months to a year to be compensated.


I am not an extremely active social media user. I would tell my younger self to hop on that bandwagon at the beginning 
and embrace certain aspects of social media to promote projects more effectively.


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UP FOR A CHALLENGE Photographers divulge one of their biggest lighting obstacles and the trick up their sleeve that saved the shot. As told to Libby Peterson


Photo © Felix Kunze

Occasion: Portrait for Elinchrom Location: Near Langisjór, Iceland

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My hiking group of 19 included a model, who I coerced into being photographed in a classic Icelandic wool blanket. In a mountain’s shadow, I wanted to kick back some light. I had an ELB 400 pack and a Rotalux Deep Octabox, but I did not have a way to bring light stands because we were so remote. I didn’t have a grip either, but I did have Manfrotto’s Off-Road Walking Pole, and a friend’s willingness to strain to hold the light up high where I needed it.

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A MII A N D A N DY K AU T H O F S U NS HIN E & R EIG N Occasion: Wedding Location: Home in Arizona

When it comes to a wedding reception— and the dancing in particular—you’ll never see us with flashes on our cameras and lights on stands. Our style is fast and furious, and we like to put the light where we want it, at a moment’s notice. More often than not, we’ll have a softbox or speed light on a telescopic rod of some sort (we favor the Impact QuickStik). But in the case of this very dark party happening outdoors, we opted for a two-

person, handheld off-camera flash setup, with Amii on the camera and Andy on the Nikon SB-910, with a MagMod MagGrid and MagSphere. Always prepared to adjust our usual, we keep a MagGrip on our speed lights at all times, because, well, you never know. In the case of this particular photograph, Andy is holding the light at camera left, directing it at the bride, and Amii decided to throw a bit of an artistic curve with some shutter drag.

Photo © Sunshine & Reign Photography

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DA RY N A B A RY K IN A Occasion: Client’s hair extension line Location: Studio in Jacksonville, FL The client was looking for something more editorial and trendy, and our theme was metallic and vivid colors, something you would see in a music video. My team and I built a set incorporating a lot of gold and complementary colors. The first time I saw the wardrobe was on set—a white, form-fitting sequined gown. I wanted to do a long exposure and turn those sequins into fireflies. I was planning to use modeling lights to expose the dress, but all available sources were in use and the only one I could use was my key light. I ticked my ISO to 100, adjusted my aperture to f/9 and set my shutter speed to 1.3 seconds, but the light only exposed half of the model’s body and skirt. It just wasn’t getting the effect I needed. I looked around and couldn’t find a single LED light, fluorescent tube—nothing. Then it came to me: we could use our phone’s flashlights to expose the bottom of the dress! I grabbed three assistants and had them sit on the floor right next to me, pointing their phones toward the model’s dress. It totally worked, and the client, who was on set supervising the shoot, was completely thrilled with what a simple flashlight could do. This shot was done in my studio, but when I travel for assignments, I always bring a fresh roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil. It is extremely handy in helping manipulate and direct light. I can convert an octa into a smaller source by blocking off sides of the modifier, use the foil to make a snoot or to flag off lighting spill, and in 2 minutes, I can have a small portable reflector to pick up shadows in isolated areas. It is pretty much a magic wand. For beauty shots where I need to capture hair in motion, speed is essential. That’s when I turn to my Profoto B2’s freeze mode, which allows me to get the shot ten times faster, and gives me more time for experimentation.

Photo © Daryna Barykina


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M ELIS SA SCH EE T Z Occasion: Editorial test shot Location: Studio in NYC

CATA LIN A K U LCZ A R Occasion: Portrait for Brooklyn Academy of Music Location: Home in upstate New York On the second floor of musician Stephin Merrit’s home is his recording studio, where you can find every imaginable instrument—percussions, string and wind instruments, electronic pads and synths. Once I shot the expected “musician-inhis-studio” portraits, I noticed a very small bathroom with a low ceiling. It was full of drums, literally. You had to weave your way between the drums to get to the toilet. But I was up for the challenge— being 5’2” works in my favor when shooting in small spaces. I was shooting in Stephen’s bathtub, facing a wall of mirrors. My assistant and I eventually found the correct formula for my height to crouch in the tub as several hand towels hid some of the mirrors that would have caught my reflection, and where exactly Stephen’s gaze was relative to my camera. I typically use large softboxes to light my subjects, but this bathroom would not fit my softbox or an umbrella. There was hardly any head space for my subject, let alone light modifiers. We tried shooting with one strobe in the bathroom, aimed straight up to the ceiling, but with all the mirrors, the stand kept showing in the images. My assistant ended up holding an Alien Bees B800 head with a reflector pointing straight up at the ceiling at the very entrance to the bathroom. Success! Photo © Catalina Kulczar

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I had an eight-page editorial all planned out that included beauty and fashion images against a seamless. There were some electrical issues with the studio that day that required me to cut back on wattage use. I wouldn’t be able to light the background evenly as well as light the model like I wanted to, so I quickly switched gears and worked with what I could. My main light for the model was an Elinchrom strobe with a beauty dish and a reflector for bounce. For the background, I ended up using a bare strobe as a side and backlight with an intentional glare. All of the images took on a whimsical, cinematic feel that I was very happy with. There are a lot of moving parts and people on a shoot, but sometimes I have the most fun when things don’t necessarily go my way and I am challenged to resolve a problem quickly. Always be able to switch gears quickly and become friends with stress instead of working against it.

Photo © Melissa Scheetz


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M A R LIES H A R T M A N N Occasion: Wedding Location: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA This couple chose to have their cocktail hour and dinner all in the same space, an incredibly luxurious and striking room. They had given each guest a bell that they could ring that would signal the couple to kiss. As I saw the couple lean in to kiss, I noticed the opportunity to capture this portrait of them while also capturing the elegance of the room. We tried bouncing the flash first, which

altered the color tones and flattened the image, and then tried flashing the couple directly, which killed the intimate and candid nature of the shot. After that, I decided to have my assistant crouch down in front of the sweetheart table with my Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT, equipped with a MagMod grid and a ¼ cto gel, pointing it up at them, while I crouched down on

the open balcony behind the couple. By using a rim light, I could still feature the bride and groom while also keeping the moment intimate, create separation between the couple and the space, and not overpower the leading lines on the ceiling or diminish the room’s opulence. This portrait ended up being the couple’s favorite shot from the whole day!

Photo © Marlies Hartmann


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By Mickey H. Osterreicher, ESQ.

s the name implies, “Street Photog- photographing a minor for which a model raphy” usually is done in a public release is required, only their parent or legal place such as a street, sidewalk guardian can grant such permission. or park involving candid images of people The issue of street photography versus going about their daily lives. This type model releases was brought into sharper of photography is permitted in the U.S. focus a few years ago when DKNY offered under the legal premise established by the to license such images for display in their Supreme Court that there is no reasonable retail store windows. The photographer and expectation of privacy in a public place. It is the company could not agree on a price, why we may be photographed or recorded but the photographer also had no model many times a day by surveillance equip- releases, which is usually the case in street ment, police bodycams and anyone else photography. Unfortunately for DKNY, one with a camera. In France, by contrast, the of its stores in Bangkok used the images law is different and obtaining permission “inadvertently.” The photographer discovered to photograph someone in public is the that, then used social media to call attention general rule. But here in the U.S. the rules to the incident. DKNY made a quick and distinguish public from private, with the very public settlement. An important point greatest expectation of privacy in one’s is this: Had the photographer licensed the home (although that too may vary from images without the appropriate releases, state to state). he too may have been legally liable to the While street photography itself may not subjects in his pictures. be a crime or create a cause for a civil action, The use of a person’s likeness for what a photographer does with those commercial purposes without consent images may create legal consequences in (i.e., without a model release) if they could reasonably be identified is called misapseveral other areas. One of those is when a photograph is used commercially, such as propriation. Other legal claims that may for advertising or trade purposes. It is one come into play in the use of photographs thing for a visual journalist to take some- include defamation, false light, and right one’s photo in a public place and use it for of publicity. A chilling example of false light editorial purposes to illustrate a story or occurred when a model’s photo was used to matter of public interest. It is quite another illustrate a poster regarding HIV awareness. to use that same image on a box of cereal, Even though the photographer and photo agency presumably had a model release, or to promote another product or service. In the first instance no permission or the use of the model’s photo created the model release is usually needed, but for false impression that she was HIV positive, the commercial uses, model releases which would be considered highly offensive are essential. to a reasonable person. The lesson is that it Model releases are contractual agreements can be risky to license a photograph to illusand photographers must be very careful to trate a sensitive or controversial subject, include all the terms and conditions neces- even if you have a model release. sary to provide them with the rights to use The right of publicity, which protects and license the image. a celebrity’s commercial interest in the A photographer should also obtain signed exploitation of his or her likeness, is a releases from any recognizable person in developing field of law and varies from the photograph, not just the main subject. state to state. For those whose photograIt is also important to remember that when phy involves taking and using such images

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it is important to be aware of the current statutes. Although not often encountered as part of street photography, the intended (commercial) use of the images might also require permission from property owners-in the form of property releases-for such use. Property can be real estate, buildings and land but it can also be pets, cars, artwork, intellectual property (e.g. copyrighted works) or anything that is not a person. Whether you need a property release depends upon the specific use of an image, and how visible and identifiable someone’s property is in that image. Discuss the risks of a particular use with your attorney, and whenever you seek a property release, it is extremely important to ensure that the person giving permission possesses the rights they are granting. Aside from the legal considerations, photographers should also be mindful that many people are highly suspicious of anyone with a camera, especially when children are being photographed. And while the candid spontaneity of a street scene may be ruined by seeking permission of a subject or their parent, being sensitive to those considerations may go a long way in avoiding an uncomfortable confrontation or questioning by authorities. Because so many of the laws mentioned above vary from state to state and the use of images is almost limitless, photographers should consult with their own attorney regarding the need for and precise language of their releases (model and property) and be familiar with some industry standards such as the NPPA Code of Ethics.

Photo © Cathaleen Curtiss


Mickey H. Osterreicher serves as the general counsel to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). He has been a visual journalist in both print and broadcast for more than 40 years.


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Photo © Brad Ogbonna

How Photo Editors Use Instagram

THIS PAGE: Bloomberg Businessweek’s Aeriel Brown first spotted Brad Ogbonna’s work on Instagram, and was reminded of him when he popped up again on The FADER’s Instagram. She hired him for a job photographing lawyer Douglas Wigdor for a story in Bloomberg Businessweek.


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When PDN asked photo editors how Instagram helps them discover photographers, many mentioned the phrase “rabbit hole”: Browsing posts by a photographer leads them to the photographers they follow and to the photographers who follow them and on and on. Some said Instagram has introduced them to new approaches or storytelling styles, while others search more purposefully to find photographers in specific locations or to track down images of certain subjects. In describing their methods, many offered advice for photographers eager for their work to get noticed and licensed.


Deputy Photo Director Bloomberg Businessweek

“It’s not enough to just post photos. You definitely have to add hashtags. You have to tell a little story about the images. And, you have to follow editors you like and like their photos too (and comment occasionally),” says Brown. “In general, I find that the photographers I really like and the editors I really respect are usually looking at and interacting with other photographers I tend to like.” In addition to following photographers and magazines, she also follows “a lot of stylists, set designers, makeup artist and hair stylists” and through them has discovered photographers. One of the “loads of photographers” she’s found while browsing is Brad Ogbonna. “When a shoot came up a few weeks later, I was reminded of him again because his work had popped up on The Fader’s Instagram earlier. Because he was fresh in my mind, I proposed him for a shoot with Douglas Wigdor—a lawyer 16 | PDN

who is representing a group of people in a suit against Fox for racial discrimination.” Sacha Maric “is another very clear example of someone who I found on Instagram—when he was still living in Denmark—and ended up working with quite a bit.” Other Instagram discoveries include KangHee Kim, Yael Malka and Sergiy Barchuk. “My general mode of operating when I see someone on Instagram is to look at their feed first and then follow it up by looking at their website. I definitely don’t think that the two are interchangeable: Even if you have a great feed, you still need a website (preferably one that lists where you are located).”

says Keegin, who adds that Instagram is “currently the only way I spot new photographers” and “a great way to stay up to date on photographers’ projects and new work.” Among the photographers she has found through Instagram are Tyler Mitchell, Renell Medrano, Maya Fuhr, Elizabeth Wirija and Campbell Addy. “Post images you love. Don’t overthink it. If it excites you, it will find an audience,” she says. Her other piece of advice: “No dumb filters.”


“I regularly search hashtags and geotags for my work as a picture researcher and photo editor, and I do pay attention to Instagram’s suggestions for who to follow,” Coppelman says. Through browsing, she began following Arash Rad, a street photographer in Iran. Though Coppelman hasn’t yet hired Rad, she says, “I’ll definitely consider him when something comes up for Iran.”

Photo Director The Fader

”With photographers starting out, I don’t think a professional website tells me much. I can often get a better sense of how a photographer thinks by scrolling through her mass of Instagram posts,”


Photo Editor and Art Researcher Harper’s and Oxford American


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Photo © Prajit Ravindran

ABOVE: A social media post from the Utah Office of Tourism (@visitutah), which features Ravindran’s image.

LEFT: Prajit Ravindran came to the attention of Sandra Salvas at the Utah Office of Tourism because he was “consistently tagging us in his images,” she says. Impressed by his dark-sky photos, she has featured his work in the office’s own Instagram posts and filmed a profile of him.

SANDRA SALVAST Photo Editor Utah Office of Tourism

Salvas found dark-sky photographer Prajit Ravindran with the handle @irockutah because “he was consistently tagging us in his images,” and showed that he was visiting “some of the most remote parts

of the state to capture the stars.” She explains, “Utah is home of quite a few certified Dark Sky Parks, so star gazing is a big push for us. And from an image standpoint, it performs really well on

social media. We ended up filming a profile on him in one of our state parks and I continue to use his images throughout our site and social platforms.”


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KATHRYN COOK-PELLEGRIN Photo Editor International Committee of the Red Cross

LEFT: Photo editor Kathryn Cook-Pellegrin hired Robin Hammond for an upcoming collaboration with the ICRC about the strength of women in war. CookPellegrin says Hammond’s style “clearly fits [the] Insta format.”]

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tell, or a way of storytelling we wanted to tap into.” She says she needs photographers who capture a sense of place and provide context. “Yes, the ICRC focuses on assisting victims of war and violence. And we need images that show this. But those kinds of images make even more sense when they’re contex-

tualized and when you can show an audience what life is like on a daily basis for the larger community or region.” She cites Fati Abubakar, who is based in Nigeria, and Yagazie Emezi, a Nigeria-born photographer who did a portrait project on women and body image in Liberia, as examples of Instagram discoveries she hopes to work with soon.

Photo © Robin Hammond

Cook-Pellegrin follows Native (@nativphotograph), Everyday Africa (@everydayafrica), Women Photograph (@womenphotograph), Blink (@blinkdotla) and other feeds, and uses geotags and hashtags “to know where people are and what they’re working on.” She says Instagram helps her look for photographers and also stories that “we would like to


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Photo © Shawn T heodore

LEFT: Shawn Theodore’s “Africaine, No. 2,” 2017. Theodore came to the attention of photo editors including Leonor Mamanna for his bold, graphic images.

LEONOR MAMANNA Senior Photo Editor Bloomberg Pursuits

“I love the idea of discovering new talent directly on Instagram,” says Mamanna, who says she discovered Ashley Armitage and Shawn Theodore through Instagram. “Anything that shows me more of who you are as a photographer is always going to be a good thing. I love seeing a photographer’s personal esthetic mixed in with their assignments. I feel like it gives me a more fleshed-out impression

of their overall talent and vision.” She saves images for future reference using the Instagram “collections” feature. In addition to following photographers she’s worked with or hopes to work with, she follows magazines, museums and galleries, including Refinery29, The Photographers Gallery and the Studio Museum of Harlem. But, she notes, “I am quick to unfollow.

I will often unfollow if people post too much, although with the algorithm, I suspect that people who post a lot aren’t always cluttering the feed.” She also culls the list of feeds she follows when it gets to 800: “800 is a completely arbitrary number that I’ve decided upon, but as soon as I get close, I go through my list and if people haven’t posted at all or they pop up on the ‘Explore’ page anyway, I’ll unfollow.” PDN

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W H AT N I K E W A N T S FROM PHOTOGR APHERS Interview by Holly Stuart Hughes

Benjamin Lennox photographed a recent Nike Style Guide that focused on outerwear.

© Peter Ash Lee

Photo by Benjamin Lennox/Courtesy of Nike

Suzanne Donaldson is the senior director for creative production of Nike’s Global Brand Image depar tment. She moved to Nike to create its first global ar t buying depar tment, and has built a production team to commission imagery for Nike’s various sport categories. When PDN last interviewed Donaldson, she was executive photo director of Glamour. She has also worked at SELF, Oprah, Lucky, Real Simple and Vanity Fair. She has consulted for Wieden + Kennedy and held creative positions at Arnell Group, the gallery Luhring Augustine and the studio of Robert Mapplethorpe. In an interview conducted via email, we asked her about the photography she’s commissioned, and how her experience in the fine-art, advertising and editorial worlds influences her work with photographers. 20 | PDN

PDN: How long have you been in your current role at Nike, and what are your responsibilities? S.D.: I came on board with Nike a year ago in a newly developed role as the Senior Director of Creative Production for Global Brand Image. Within our team we leverage relationships with the photo and art community to deliver inspiring creative to the global design team and manage productions to make sure we are delivering pinnacle creative assets. PDN: Nike is a big company with a storied reputation for outstanding photography. Does the Nike name add any pressure or expectation about the caliber or type of photography you want to show? S.D.: The brand most certainly has a point of view about the caliber of partners we collaborate with. As far as how to describe the type of work, I think it’s most important to understand what each sport category is trying to achieve through imagery. Our

subjects are strong, competitive, innovative and inspired. The work needs to be bold and aspirational and relate to the sport we are presenting. PDN: Can you talk about some recent projects you’ve done that you’re proud of? S.D.: I was incredibly proud to be part of the FE/NOM Flyknit Bra campaign that was recently shot by Cass Bird. As the project was being briefed, I had a strong opinion that the story would be strong if the campaign was shot by a woman who understood the bra’s features in a direct and personal way. Mia Kang, our model/boxer, and Cass had a great rapport on set and the images speak for themselves. PDN: Are you working on video or motion? Do you think photographers should learn to make video—or direct? S.D.: I honestly think it takes a team. Our shoots are so fast-paced and we capture a large amount of content. In my opinion,


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PDN: How often are you and your team looking for new talent? Or are you relying on photographers Nike has relationships with? S.D.: We are looking for new talent daily. As far as relationships, they are very important to us and if someone has done an outstanding job, they’ll be considered for future brand campaigns. The bulk of our images capture movement, so this is a must. Photographers such as Nick Knight, Tyrone LeBon, Christopher Anderson, Carlos Serrao and Benjamin Lennox are often considered. That being said, we are always open to new talent. PDN: If you’re looking for new talent: Where? Any favorite sources? Is Instagram as important to you as you once told PDN it was? S.D.: I live for Instagram. I personally have two accounts, so you can only imagine how much I am on it. Part of our weekly production meeting is devoted to spending time perusing feeds. We often start with a photographer we love, then follow who he or she follows and next thing you know you have new considerations of people to meet with. We do get many mailers, many of which we do pay attention to in addition to meeting with folks who pass through Portland.

Christopher Anderson photographed Eliud Kipchoge during Nike’s Breaking2 project, the challenge to run a marathon in under two hours. For the assignment, Donaldson chose Anderson, a documentary-style photographer, because she knew he would “explore many variations,” she says.

PDN: And how do you evaluate their work? What skills or qualities are you particularly looking for—or are you drawn to? S.D.: I look for curiosity in their work—a surprising point of view, energy, inquiry all play into the way I view their work. We love a play with color or speed so anything that is not considered “traditional” sports photography. I mainly look at fashion work that has a bit of movement and youth culture in it. PDN: How do you think the experience you’ve had as a producer, and in the fine-art and editorial worlds, influences how you evaluate or collaborate with photographers? S.D.: I think every experience you have informs the next. I’ve learned several elements that help in my day to day. Having worked for Robert Mapplethorpe, I understand the importance of the quality of light when photographing bodies. Having worked [at] Glamour with photographers such as Norman Jean Roy [to shoot] an Olympic athlete portfolio, or watching Pamela Hanson interact so beautifully with her subjects, only informs how I would choose a photographer for a given situation. If it’s capturing an elite running athlete like Eliud Kipchoge for the Breaking2 attempt

Photo by Cass Bird/Courtesy of Nike

it’s nice to have a DP and a second shooter or behind-the-scenes [video team] on set to allow the photographer to fully focus on our primary need, which is still imagery. In general, I think it only helps if you can do both but one should complement the other.

Cass Bird photographed a campaign for Nike’s FE/NOM Flyknit Bra, which featured soccer player Sydney Leroux Dwyer, pictured, as well as model and MMA fighter Mia Kang. Donaldson thought the brand would benefit “if the campaign was shot by a woman who understood the bra’s features in a direct and personal way,” she says.

[the challenge to run a marathon in under two hours], I would tend to [choose] a documentary-style photographer like a Chris Anderson, who I know will explore many variations. PDN: How has your collaboration with photographers changed in the course of your career? S.D.: I studied photography myself and felt more compelled [by] … discovering new talent than shooting myself. Early on, I understood that I wasn’t keen on working with one or several photographers, and feel most adept at assessing a situation, and working with creatives to come up with a common goal, which is to produce and make the best possible work given any situation. I have been lucky enough to have worked in the art world, editorial and advertising arenas and each one informs the other. I truly found my dream job where I can utilize all the skills I have built to help usher a brand into the future. PDN: What do you wish photographers understood better about your job or Nike’s needs? S.D.: This is a great question. I think oftentimes photographers or agents do not spend enough time researching the brand that they are going out to for work. Have you seen our latest campaign or looked at the brand’s website or social media accounts lately? If so, especially if you know I am at Nike, why are you sending me a picture of a cheeseburger?

Photo by Christopher Anderson/Courtesy of Nike


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9/26/18 6:12 AM

Profile for Photo+

Excerpts from the Experts, Fall 2018  

PDN and Tamron present, a guide for up-and-coming photographers. Professional Photography and Industry Influencers Share their Secrets to Su...

Excerpts from the Experts, Fall 2018  

PDN and Tamron present, a guide for up-and-coming photographers. Professional Photography and Industry Influencers Share their Secrets to Su...