Lara Jade’s 20 Steps to Success As a Professional Photographer


Lara Jade photographs a model during CreativeLive's Create the Incredible. Photo courtesy Eric Krebs.
Photo courtesy Eric Krebs.

Fashion and fine art photographer Lara Jade has overcome through numerous obstacles and challenges on her way to creating a what many of us would consider a dream career. Recently, during her 3-Day CreativeLive /a>course, Lara shared some of her secrets for turning your hobby into a full-time, rewarding job. Here are 20 steps for making your dream your life’s work:

1. Send emails constantly.
Stop thinking that people will do things for you. Be proactive.  Email is an easy way in our modern tech world to introduce yourself to industry leaders. Also, consider that businesses have turnover, and you’ll need to re-introduce yourself to the new decision makers.

Lara Jade pauses to answer questions during creativeLIVE’s Create the Incredible. Photo courtesy Eric Krebs.

2. Follow up with a phone call.
Be persistent, not pushy. You’ll ensure you haven’t been relegated to a junk mail folder when you pick up the phone and speak to someone, but be sensitive about keeping your call short and respecting their time, because you want them to pick up the phone the next time you call.

3. Research, research, research.
Research to see what your peers are doing and, more importantly, what they are doing better than you. Look outside the box, not at just what seems relevant and in front of you.

4. Challenge yourself.
Evolve. Let failure turn into success. Use all failures to move you forward. It will prepare you for future challenges you will be asked to go up against and you will have an idea of what works and to NOT be testing on your clients.

Lara is not the only pro to push this point. Roberto Valenzuela said it beautifully during his Location, Posing, Execution course: “Push – Fail – Learn – Evolve …. Repeat.”

5. Get personal.
Test yourself technically while allowing your passion and soul to be fully infused into your work.

6. Live with gratitude.
Be thankful for what you have, not just focused on where you are going. Surround yourself with positive people and you will find the negative slip away with ease.

7.  Invest in your self-worth.
It’s you who needs to take yourself seriously, not others. Everyone else with take your lead on how much you believe in you. Know who you can go to when you need validation, whether it be a spouse or significant other, a parent or a friend.

8. Look deeper.
We have to look deeper into what we shoot. Are you holding back? Don’t stop telling the story through your work.

9. Let go of fear.
One of the keys to challenging yourself is to get over the fear. People are put off by fear. It can be one of the most impactful things to hold you back and keep you from discovering your great potential. Go confidently.

10. Don’t compete.
You know what you’re worth. While it’s important to know what your peers are doing, you don’t need to compare yourself to everyone else. You don’t need to try and validate that you are better than someone else.  Be the best you.

Sue Bryce and Lara Jade pose for a portrait. Photo courtesy  Nikki Closser.
Sue Bryce and Lara Jade pose for a portrait. Photo courtesy Nikki Closser.

11. Be open to collaboration.
It takes a team to make magic happen. Hair, make-up, models, gaffers – let experts in these fields be part of creating and complimenting your original vision. Build using them. Build WITH them.

12. Keep educating yourself.
There is always more to learn. As much as you may think you know it all, you don’t. What can you learn that doesn’t seem obvious? Learn new techniques to reduce the time you spend on the less passionate tasks.

13. Share and engage.
Share what inspires you via social media. Share your process and engage in conversation with your peers and photographers you admire — don’t just put things out there without being ready to respond. You may find sources of ideas you would not have otherwise discovered.

14. Network!
It only takes one person to recommend you to someone else — and that will introduce you to opportunities you may not have otherwise discovered.

15. Stay inspired.
Think outside the box about what inspires you may lead to unexpected creations. Look to the sky, look to the ground. Look all around you.

Matthew Jordan Smith put this eloquently in his first creativeLIVE Beauty + Fashion course, and I paraphrase: Study other disciplines. If you are a wedding photography, look at beauty images, look at fashion. If you are a fashion photographer, don’t look at other fashion photographers – they are already doing it. Look at wedding images and beauty.

16. Be honest.
If you’re not honest with people, it will always track you down – Not just in words, but in actions.

17. Have something to look forward to.
If you surround yourself with ‘to do lists,’ make sure at the end of the list is something for you to look forward to. It shouldn’t just motivate, but reward you for your hard work.

Lara Jade chats with host Russ Andres during Create the Incredible. Photo courtesy Eric Krebs.
Photo courtesy Eric Krebs.

18. Let other people help you.
Retouchers, assistants… don’t feel guilty when people offer help, and not just when it’s their job, but others too.  Critiquing, mentoring, there is always something to learn. Even if you think a critique is wrong, maybe it is, but maybe you could explain or demonstrate it better. Be open to it.

19. Shoot for love, not money.
The surest way to avoid resenting what you do is to shoot for love. Obviously you need to make money, but if it doesn’t pay well and there isn’t a true love for the daily grind, you’ll end up resenting it.

20. Be both an artist and a business person.
No explanation required.

Tobin Smith FOLLOW >

Tobin Smith is a professional photographer and longtime creativeLIVE student. He lives and works with his wife and two kids in Vancouver, BC.