We all know how saturated the streetwear photography industry has become in recent years. The growth in social media and lens quality on mobile phones has created a world of ‘self titled’ photographers. If you still think you can go out and buy the latest reasonably priced DSLR camera and suddenly start shooting for Supreme then you’re in for massive let down! So if you do want to be the next Jurgen Teller or Vicky Grout you’re going to have to really put yourself out there, put in the hours and really master your photography skills. You’re also going to need to grow your portfolio into something truly amazing and make a lot of sacrifices along the way.
Whether you have been shooting for a while or have just decided to take up streetwear photography as a career you’re going to need the right kit. For the very beginner an entry level DSLR camera will do the job and these can purchased from most electrical stores. Over time you will outgrow the entry level kit as you learn how to take more control over your images. However you really don’t need the most expensive camera to get your name known. Streetwear photography is taken on the streets generally using still models with buildings as backdrops, learning on a relatively cheap camera (when compared to the top end stuff) will actually allow you to learn your craft better without relying too much on the camera itself. However, it is all about the lenses, and we all know how expensive these can be! A good quality lens is a streetwear photographers best friend.
Ok so you’ve bought the equipment and probably don’t have much money left. The next thing you’re going to need to do is build up a portfolio and this can be the tricky part. Just shooting random things isn’t really going to get you noticed with the amount of instagram influencers already clocking up the likes on their feeds. You’re going to need access to samples from streetwear brands, PR agencies and models to shoot the latest streetwear trends. Before you can actually start shooting for money you’re going to have build up a portfolio of test shoots so unless you know someone with the latest Supreme x The North Face jacket or an actual fashion model you’re going to have reach out to agencies which might be based 100 miles away from where you live.
As with anything it’s not what you know but who you know and the same applies to streetwear photography. It’s all well and good having the best camera set up money can buy (and we know how expensive that is!) and a good portfolio, but without actually knowing anyone in the streetwear industry it’s pretty pointless. You need to get in touch with marketing contacts for brands, retailers, modelling agencies, streetwear photographers that already have a name for themselves and people who can put you in touch with potential clients. Due to the sheer volumes of budding streetwear photographers out there at the moment don’t be let down if people don’t come back to you, be persistent and show your eagerness. Don’t turn down unpaid work either, a lot of photographers at the start will turn this down, if it’s working for a good client and gets your name out there jump on the opportunity. Sometimes you have to be prepared to work for nothing to reach your goals and if the client is shouting about your pictures on social media and their website for example the exposure is definitely worth it, paid or unpaid.
Once you have made a few contacts you might start getting some invites to launches and events. This is a great opportunity to get your name out there so get some business cards printed and mingle with the right people. Tell them about your work, what makes you unique from everyone else and your personal style that you wish to pursue as a photographer. You could even take your camera with you to take some picture and then send them to whoever hosted the event to see if they will share on instagram and tag you in the shots. Every little bit of exposure is good, don’t outweigh creativity over your business head. A fine balance between the two sets the top photographers above the rest.
The best streetwear photographers out there are also very business minded, it’s how they present themselves, the overall package, their portfolio and contacts they have built over years of hard work, unpaid shoots and sacrifices. Going out on your own is going to be extremely difficult at the start to be able to rely on constant money from invoices from shoots. We would recommend building up your craft working for a retailer or brand whether that’s just shooting product for their website. You might get the opportunity to work with models also shooting out on the streets for them. Just remember like anything else in life that you want you’re going to have to make sacrifices. If you really want to make it as one of the best streetwear photographers it’s not going to be easy, the odds are already stacked against you so it really comes down to how much you actually want it and how much you are willing to sacrifice.