We enjoyed our interview with Megan Parks so much, that we were keen to chat to more professional photographers, and find out what inspires their creativity. Kendra Martin is a young fashion photographer based in Portland, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, USA. She shared with us some of her tips for making it in the world of fashion photography.
PortraitPro: What inspires you to do what you do?
Kendra Martin: The challenge of trying something different every time I shoot is really what keeps me inspired and keeps my mind engaged when I am working. I love the creative process and getting to create things I have never seen done the same way before.
PortraitPro: What is the most interesting thing you can tell us about your work?
Kendra Martin: I try to use a different lighting setup for every shoot I do. It is a way to challenge myself and experiment with different looks.
PortraitPro: What advice would you give to any aspiring fashion and beauty photographers looking to enter the industry?
Kendra Martin: I would say, don’t be afraid to break the rules. Fashion photography is all about breaking rules and who can break them the best. There is no one lighting setup, style or technique that fits every client; figure out who you are first, and then market yourself to those that will appreciate the style you have to offer. I think the best thing I have learned and continue to learn is that it’s OK to not fit everyone’s style. If you enter the market to be a jack of all trades you will find that you are a master of nothing.
PortraitPro: How much unpaid experience did you need to do before people wanted to hire you?
Kendra Martin: I started out my business shooting the typical senior portraits and family portraits before I found that fashion editorial and beauty work was really my passion. Fashion is different to get your foot in the door because it’s not something a friend or a family member can recommend you for. I did probably 1-2 years of collaboration work before I was able to establish my name in the market and have consistent, paid work coming in the door.
PortraitPro: What tips would you give on getting your work noticed by the sort of people who are willing to pay for it?
Kendra Martin: If you don’t actively pursue paid work you will be stuck simply collaborating for your full career. You have to actively seek out new clients, actively market yourself and keep your portfolio up to date and relevant to the audience you are looking to work for. When I was first starting I made it a goal to send at least one email per day to a prospective client, reaching out and showing the work I was capable of doing. You will get so many non-responses and no’s that you will want to give up, but all it takes is one yes to get your foot in the door. Having a very well made website portfolio is a big must as well. The first thing clients want to see is your website, so it needs to be clean and up to date. Utilizing all sorts of social media can help you get in front of peers and clients as well. When it comes to social media marketing you want to make sure your voice is consistent throughout all of your channels, as well as very professional.
PortraitPro: Can you tell us about the day-to-day life of a fashion and beauty photographer? How much time do you spend in photo editing?
Kendra Martin: I think the day to day life is a lot less glamorous than it is made out to be, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. A lot of my time is spent online, researching, staying up to date with the latest trends in fashion and beauty. A large amount of planning and research goes into creating a fashion editorial. I will typically plan these 1 to 3 months in advance to ensure I have all of the creative aspects covered. Once I have a concept in mind I will work on getting my creative team put together. This includes the model, wardrobe stylist or designer, makeup artist, hair stylist as well as assistants. When you are first starting out you will find some websites to be very helpful in connecting you with talent in your area, but once you are established you can go through agencies and other networks to find what you are looking for. I spend probably 3-4 days a week in my studio, or on location shooting, and then 7 days a week retouching/resizing images and doing research.
PortraitPro: What would you say was the most challenging part of being a fashion photographer?
Kendra Martin: The most challenging part I think is how much competition you have in the fashion industry. It seems as if there is a new “fashion photographer” that pops up every day. You constantly have to work at staying relevant and up to date.
PortraitPro: What would you say is the best part?
Kendra Martin: The best part for me is how fulfilling it feels to see your work published in print or on a client’s website. Nothing compares to seeing an idea you thought of being created and then used and seen by people all over the world.
PortraitPro: What is your dream shoot? Have you done it yet, or is there something you would still love to do?
Kendra Martin: I think I have shot 3 of my dream shoots so far and they came out wonderful, just like I imagined, but I of course have a huge list of other dream shoots to do in the future. I am currently obsessing over doing some high fashion looks in the desert with long flowing dresses and also some new men’s looks since I haven’t shot nearly as many male models as females. Look for those coming soon!
PortraitPro: At such a young age you have already built a strong client list. How have you managed to get where you are so early on in your career?
Kendra Martin: I set a lot of goals for myself and I keep them in front of me constantly as a way to see where I need to go next. As I mentioned earlier I do actively pursue work and new clients and just keep myself busy with a lot of work even if it isn’t always the “fun” stuff.
PortraitPro: Do you consider yourself to be successful? If so what do you think is the reason for your success?
Kendra Martin: I think success is relative to each individual. For me I consider an achieving of my goals to be a success. I can’t expect success to look the same for me as a photographer who has been in the industry 10 years more than I have. I have achieved nearly every goal I have set before myself to this point so I would consider that to be a success but to say I am overall successful I think would be a mistake. The pursuit of the next level of success is what keeps me motivated and inspired to do more and work harder than I currently am.
PortraitPro: How do you market yourself? What strategies work best for you in obtaining paid work?
Kendra Martin: Having good new work to display is the backbone of any photographer’s marketing strategy, I think. I do a variety of things to market myself. I am active in many different social media channels such as: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram and Blogger; and as odd as it sounds I have actually booked work from probably 4 of these different channels. I make sure that my website and all of my social media are tagged properly so I show up in search at the top of the list. I have played with different paid advertising campaigns as well. I try to participate in local events and art shows to network with other great creatives. And finally I think my most valuable form of marketing is word of mouth so in everything I do I try to maintain the highest level of professionalism online and in person even when I am dealing with challenging situations.
PortraitPro: How do you balance doing work that pays with doing work that inspires and excites you?
Kendra Martin: This is a hard balance and I don’t think I have fully figured out the balance yet. I will always put paid work first and make sure that I am serving my clients to the best of my abilities. I always try to come to every session inspired and excited even if I am not shooting my first choice of looks I will always try to infuse a little bit of my own style into the shots, after all they hired me because they like my style. I think whether you are doing paid work or personal work it is important to know yourself and know when you are getting burned out and when you need to have a little more fun.
PortraitPro: Where can we see more of your work?
We’ve enjoyed our chat with Kendra this week, and we’ll be watching for more of her fantastic portrait editing work in the future. We’re looking forward to more interesting conversations with some of our favorite professional photographers coming up soon.