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On Top of the Plateau

An introduction to the "Generation Hustle" blog series, which intends to be an all-encompassing look at what many young, talented photographers of this generation are struggling with in this economic climate and age of technology.

I’m in my pajamas with a takeout coffee cup next to me and Crouton, my cat, is perched on a pillow right next to me intently licking his toes. I’ve sent out hundreds of personalized emails to potential clients and subjected myself to a many a cold call on this fine morning. The nibbles come, and jobs do happen, but great success still evades me. Perhaps I will not change out of my pajamas today.

I’ve fought the good fight for more than a few years now. I’ve had some quality advertising gigs in the entertainment, beauty, and fashion industries, met hundreds of top-level creatives, and done some fabulous editorials for local and national magazines. I am a former magazine photo editor for both Movieline and The Hollywood Reporter and have great connections. Yet here I sit, on this plateau. Oh, and you’re here with me? What’s up?

The “Good Ol’ Days”

Many successful commercial photographers will tell you that this career takes patience and conviction. But, in this current climate of digital over-saturation and poor economics a lot of extremely talented photographers find themselves right where I am: caught between being a struggling young photographer getting their name out there and a regularly working, agency represented professional.

Fall 1

© Corina Marie Howell

Based on my time as a photo editor, it seems to me that ten years ago, if one had the equipment, knew how to operate it, and had some sort of an eye one could make a solid living shooting commercial imagery. Now however, the pool of talent is much too big for the small economic window currently open. How does one deal?

“I’m busy, but not with the clients that I want,” said my friend and fellow photographer, Elisabeth Caren. Word. My calendar, like many, is full of things like e-commerce shoots, spec PR shoots, low-budget editorials, and marathon marketing sessions. But gigs that I find both creatively satisfying and pay the bills happen just a few times a year. It happens, but not with the frequency or gravity that it happens for my role models of the photo-generation before me.

The Not-so-Big Break

My first big advertising job was for Bare Escentuals cosmetics. I will never forget the creative director who hired me: Nate Pence. Bless his heart. It took two years of consistent marketing efforts, or “courting,” for him to finally feel like I was the right choice.

Primer 1

© Corina Marie Howell

Afterwards I felt like I had finally reached the top of my mountain; for sure big things were in my near future. I had new marketing material and a big name client to attach to my name, but life went pretty much back to normal. I understand now that success is much more incremental that I had previously thought. Rome indeed was not built in a day.

The Game Plan

As photographers, we often work in situations that isolate us from our peers; pin us “against” each other in a “battle” to stand out from the crowd. But I think more than often, we forget we can learn from each other. I intend this blog series to be a unifier of sorts for us. In the face of a tight economy and an army of SLR amateurs, it’s nice to know you’re not alone and you have a friend.

So what do you have to look forward to here? Among other things, I plan to talk the importance of networks, the juggling of revenue streams, how to get/if you need an agent, how to stand out from the pack, and most importantly, how to maintain your sanity through the ups and downs.

And PS: I can see you. Take off your pajamas and put on some real clothes.

About Generation Hustle

The Generation Hustle series is an original series constructed from the mind of commercial photographer Corina Marie Howell on Agency Access’ The Lab. Generation Hustle brings a voice to the generation of young, talented, professional photographers, and what they are struggling with in today’s ever-changing economic and technological climates. Its hope is to ignite a spark within young pros to be active in their community and show each other that they are in this together.

About Corina

Corina is a commercial photographer specializing in portrait, beauty, and advertising working out of Los Angeles. She loves people (and working with them!) and enjoys making everyone looks their most beautiful. Her clients include Bare Escentuals cosmetics, Sephora, Bodyography cosmetics, Yammer, Armada Music, several local designers such as JBrand Jeans, Meghan LA and Bianca Nero, and publications such as Cosmopolitan, 944, Clear, Los Angeles Confidential, Hydrogen, and numerous others. When Corina's not working, you can find her dancing in her downtown loft with her cat, Crouton. Corina Marie Photography

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