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On Portrait Photographers and Instagram

This may upset some people, and it’s certainly just my opinion, but all these “Instagram shoots” aren’t creative. If you take a photo of a girl on a bed with no clothes on, you are not an artist. So, to the Instafamous of the world, I challenge, nay, I implore you, challenge yourselves. Do it differently. I am no better, but I am making it my mission to help re-shape the genre. We are better than nudity for the sake of nudity.

“Hey let’s shoot!” If you are an aspiring fashion or beauty photographer (or an aspiring creep) you’ve probably sent this message on Instagram. Don’t be offended; I’ve said it too. But what’s the end game? Do you want to work as a fashion or beauty photographer, or are you just looking for likes and followers?

When I first started taking photographs, I had a few friends and acquaintances who were making names for themselves as photographers, and they were all taking photos of beautiful women. I understood that Instagram (mine) was an important tool, and as I saw their followers rise, I thought to myself, “I could do that.” I’ve always enjoyed photographing my fellow human beings, so I started asking around. My local watering hole in Sherman Oaks, CA provided me with a plethora of aspiring actors, models, and dancers, all of whom wanted new photographs for their “portfolios” (Instagram). That may sound a bit cynical, but whether you like it or not, more and more people are using Instagram as a portfolio (it is free after all).

My first few sets included some creative portraiture, a fitness shoot, and a few shoots of just girls in different poses around an apartment. No one got paid; I was just learning and refining my technique and style. The models showed their friends, and in some cases their agencies, and I began to get more and more work; and by work, I don’t mean paid gigs, I mean free practice.

Now admit it, you’ve all gotten this.

I’m not sure how it is in other cities, but in Los Angeles, everyone seems to want TFP, or Trade For Portfolio. At this point, I already had a portfolio and was tired of working for free. I set a pretty modest rate for myself and immediately found myself not taking photos. Cool LA. You need to realize that everyone does it. And when you start charging and moving up the ranks, some of these companies realize that they can’t use you for free anymore so they go to the next person. Now you need to find companies that will appreciate what you do and pay you for it.

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