Whenever anyone finds out that I am a fashion photographer I get a stereotypical list of responses. If it’s someone younger, it’s often ‘hey can I come to your set and watch?’ *internally screaming NO!* or ‘what’s it like being a photographer?’. If I’m meeting someone older, it’s usually ‘so you do weddings?’ *internally screaming a louder more exasperated NO!!*. Although these are common questions by far the most I hear is ‘so what is a typical day as a fashion photographer?’.
I know many people are taken aback when they find out my job is in the arts. Those who are used to 9-5 jobs are genuinely curious on how a day in the arts compares. There is also the rarer breed who are looking to do what I do, most of the time a younger student who wants to understand what kind of day is normal. I would like to explain for both types, because my ‘typical day’ often shocks both. I work hard. A lot harder than most people think. I am not saying this to brag or to over exaggerate, it’s the hard reality. A job in the arts is maintained by good business practices.
So to begin, a ‘typical day’ isn’t really typical. Most often I do not do the same thing day in and day out. There can be several days in a row where I’m stuck behind a desk though. These are days when I’m in the most nose to the grindstone mentality. Between shoots I still have to keep my business alive, so there’s planning, organizing, lots of paperwork and hundreds of emails. I can’t say these are my favourite days but they allow me to do what I love. These days are a necessary evil. So what do these look like?
Well last week would be a good example. It’s what I like to call the “full” work day. It’s the kind of day that just doesn’t end.
5:00 am… yes a.m. and yes 5. – It’s early and I am already up, and most likely half way done a massive mug of coffee. By massive I mean massive. I am the proud owner of several 1L mugs. I like to think admitting I drink too much coffee via mug size and accepting I would refill a regular mug several times is an exercise in efficiency. I just don’t have to take refill breaks.
My office chair is calling my name at this point and I reluctantly sit down and start my computer.
The first place I go is my email. I like to get a head start the night before but if I can’t there’s usually quite a few. I quick skim over pick out those that are very urgent and go from there.
6:00 am – There is a stack of papers sitting on my desk staring at me with a menacing grin. I need to get them out of my way. Mostly taxes, and a few other forms. I finish them and get them ready for the mail. Who doesn’t love licking envelopes with their morning coffee.
8:00 am – An email request for a production comes in. It’s for a beauty client looking to advertise a line of lashes…. After I figure out exotic pet requirements and legal ramifications for having a large snake in a commercial space, I finish my quote and go back to my paperwork.
9:30 am – A fellow photographer sends me some tech gossip. The new Fuji Behemoth, after a bit of reading and research I set up a time to test it out in studio over the next few weeks.
12:00 pm – 7 hours in motivation is beginning to wane. It’s time to go to the gym for a destress, and to say I didn’t spend the whole day sitting in an office chair.
1:30 pm – Fedex came woo, it’s like Christmas Day. Only it’s a gift from me… and its work related. I got a few computer parts, a quick installation later things are running smoother and faster.
2:00 pm – An urgent post production request came in. Everything else gets sidelined, the client is flying out the next day and everything needs to be done in 48 hours. Let the editing begin.
7:00 pm – Done editing. 5 hours isn’t a bad turn around. At this point I have not eaten and been sitting at my desk for about 12 hours. It might be time for some food and a quick break. This is something that happens quite often, I get so wrapped up in my work that the only thing I worry about it checking off the next thing on my to do list. I’m so bad for this that on shoot days I warn my assistants ahead of time to remind me to drink or eat or I’ll wait until everything is done.
7:30 pm – While I was editing some quote requests came in for fashion productions. Everyone else has left their offices but I want to make sure all requests are ready for the next morning.
9:30 pm – I have to be on set in two days so I run through my equipment, test everything and make sure it’s ready for the day. I always check at least two days in advance so if something has died I can replace, repair or rent a substitute. It is tedious, repetitive work but you never want to be caught off-guard.
10:30 pm – I have a lecture at Humber College next week for some fashion students. I need to update my presentation. With a photoshoot coming up I won’t have time in the next few days. This is my last window of opportunity so I have to take advantage of it and just review it the night before.
1:00 am – There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is my bedside lamp. Just a few more emails to get ready, I will have a wicked head start on tomorrow. After a couple emails curiosity gets the best of me and I take a quick peek at the proofs from a creative I did a few days ago.
5:00 am – Well, I made my selects for that creative and quickly retouched a few of the photos. You know the old adage curiosity killed the cat. Yeahh. I can attest to this. This is when I realize what time it is. Hopefully I can get some sleep before the next round of calls starts to come in.
So that’s it, 24 working hours, a rare ‘typical day’ for a fashion photographer. This certainly isn’t the glamorous lifestyle that most imagine a Toronto photographer would have. At the end of the day my studio is a business, there is no escaping the clerical requirements. Any photographer hopeful should know a few business classes can go a long way in constructing a studio that works in the long run. So if that’s the passion you would like to peruse, get a nice big mug and some serious determination. You’ll thank me later. 😉