Brittany Wages is a lifestyle, fashion and portrait photographer and fellow SCAD Atlanta alumna. I have been following her work since she graduated in 2014. After seeing her again at the APA Assistant Training Workshop, I reached out to her to see if she would be interested in sharing her journey thus far as someone that’s not far removed from roaming the halls at art school. We sat down at Alon’s Bakery in Highlands, after an early morning test shoot with Spin Style, to chat about gaining photo experience post-college and what we didn’t learn in art school.
What type of work do you shoot? What is your style?
I’m primarily lifestyle focused with a little portrait and fashion thrown in there. I like to shoot people in general. As far as my style, it’s hard to put into words. I would say pretty natural feeling. Not to over made-up, over produced, over-lit. Lot’s of natural light. Lots of movement. It depends on who I collaborate with. My boyfriend and I work on a lot of stuff together. He’s in a band so he pushed some of my work in a wierder direction. But like today when we were shooting it was very clean, soft, J.Crew (in reference to a test shoot I assisted her on early that day). It depends on the outlet but generally I go for something that’s clean and natural.
What camera do you shoot with and why?
I shoot with the Canon 5D Mark III. I grew up on Canon cameras because my mom shot a lot when I was a kid, so I grew up using her Rebel. So I just graduated through the Canon ranks slowly.
How has your career grown since graduating from our alma mater, SCAD Atlanta? How do you go about getting client work?
I’ve been assisting a lot. When I was still in school I did a lot of internships. Mostly production assisting through studios I was working with. Since the beginning of 2016 it’s turned more towards photo assisting which has been great. As a production assistant you’re roaming around and getting coffee but as a photo assistant you actually get to see what’s happening. It’s been good to do both. It’s been great in terms of making money and learning in general. I’ve started to shoot a lot and put out more serious marketing stuff. I’m sending out promos and emailing things to people and getting meetings set up with people so hopefully in the next year or two I can start moving into shooting primarily. I do both printed and emailed promos. Some people who have access to Agency Access or Workbook can send an email blast to 8,000 people but mine was like 50 people that I researched and then narrowed down to my top 10 that I really wanted to get a meeting with and I sent them a set of prints. I did that last year and I’m getting ready to do that again this year.
I see you’ve done quite a bit of work with Spin Style. Tell me about what Spin Style is and what asset they are to photographers. How has working with them helped you to create work?
Spin Style is an artist agency. They represent hair and makeup, wardrobe and prop styling. Darcie Adler, the founder, started as as a photographer and has now been doing interior styling and art direction and also has now moved into this artist management role. Her and Molly [Webb] kicked off this whole agency. They get such talented people to work with. They know great people to recommend even if they aren’t on their roster, they know great people to recommend. They know great people to put together. Darcie is really great about encouraging people to do stuff and make things. They are pro creating things here in Atlanta. They started happening about the time I graduated. Darcie and Liz von Hoene were good friends and doing shoots at Big Studio (now closed) where I was interning and so I sort of got involved and started collaborating with them as much as possible. It’s been great for building my portfolio with creative talent of that caliber. I remember have to style my own shoots in school. To go from begging people to come help me out to having this group of people that’s always willing to work on something together, to collaborate and to grow each other but still be on top of their game and know what they’re doing.
You’ve done work for local magazines Eide and Atlanta Magazine, as well as online publications. How do you reach out to magazines to pitch an editorial? What is the process from pitching to being published?
My contact with Atlanta Magazine isn’t their editorial department, it's their third-party advertising department. They are a SCAD alumni. His name is Mark Ziemer. I met him at Out-to-Launch [SCAD’s reverse career fair] and he said that Atlanta Magazine was looking for photographers and at the time it was to shoot people for their Top Doctors issue. They have a set of doctors get new headshots for the space they buy in the magazine. So they have a group of photographers come in and do that. So I’ve been doing that with them every year since then.
Then with Eide Magazine I sent emails around to a lot of people I knew who had been shooting with them and then I reached out and got a meeting with them. They had some portait stuff coming up that we book immediately.
Honestly I’ve been shooting a lot of events, which has grown this year more than ever. It’s something I haven’t put a lot of marketing into. I was shooting events with Yelp the last 6 years and then people have found me through Yelp. It’s really random. Apparently people are booking photographers for corporate and trade show events through Yelp. All of April that’s all I did was shoot conference gigs. It pays very nicely. I did an education organization conference gig and the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference. It’s a 15,000 person, yearly conference and expo. It was 5 days and at the Georgia World Congress Center. I shot a trade show for New Balance. I learned a lot about education. It was a weird month and then I went back to assisting.
What tips do you have for photographers that want to earn a living doing freelance work?
Shoot. I don’t shoot nearly often enough. I’m really beating myself up about it. Shoot as much as you possibly can. I really do recommend assisting. I’m not even of the mindset where you should go assist for the next 10 years and then become a photographer but it’s still been huge as far as a learning experience. If you want to go be an advertising photographer then go get the chance to be on that set.
At the last APA workshop that was about marketing yourself and business, they had a guy who worked as rep in the industry and he talked about being relentless about sending out promos to agency people at the level of getting ad jobs not at the level of local small jobs. I’m thinking that’s where I want to go so I’m paying attention to this and I’ve been doing these things. Researching people and stalking them on LinkedIn, which is a great tip. That’s where you’ll find a lot of people’s contact information. Like the Garden and Gun photo editor is this person. Here is their email address. And I’m looking around and there weren’t that many other people, especially that I knew, that were where we are. A couple of years out of school trying to break into things. And I’m thinking is no one at my level sending promos to agencies? Is no one getting portfolio meetings? Am I doing that part too early? It doesn’t matter. To a certain degree it doesn’t matter. There’s going to be someone better than you shooting and someone worse than you shooting who’s getting booked on things. Honestly if you have the right team at a certain point you can produce that too. It hit me that maybe I’m doing okay if I’m already doing this marketing stuff. It’s all about relationships. The earlier you start putting things out there and getting those meetings. Even if you’re work isn’t quite ready for them yet. If you keep staying in touch, it’s going to get there. Don’t send them shit obviously. Send them stuff that makes sense to them. When I did my mailer and promos I sent one email with two shots and a link to my website. That kind of things. The mailing things that I sent were nice envelope with a set of postcards sized prints. It was about 5 for each person, but it was personalized. The set I sent to Garden and Gun was totally different than what I sent to Nylon because I had work in my book that fit both. Garden and Gun doesn’t care about my band stuff. They might want to see a pretty portrait of a middle aged person. Doing your research is important. If you’re waiting for your portfolio to be ready then you’re never going to do it. Just start doing it. Start getting out there and building those relationships wherever you can.
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