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Owning Your Own Style

Lesson 6 from: Becoming a Travel Photographer

Laura Grier

Owning Your Own Style

Lesson 6 from: Becoming a Travel Photographer

Laura Grier

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Lesson Info

6. Owning Your Own Style


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How to Break Into Travel & Destination Wedding Photography


How Are You Perceived as a Photographer?


Brand Yourself Before Others Brand You


Activity: What Are Your Photography Goals?


Owning Your Own Style


Preparing for a Photoshoot


The Importance of Research


Lesson Info

Owning Your Own Style

we're gonna dive right into owning your own style and facing your fears and daring to be different. This shoot that I'm gonna get to in a second is sort of the child that was born out of this whole thing. When I first started photography, I went to school in Syracuse University for photojournalism for a four year technical program, and I learned how to use every kind of camera I like, learned all the way is to take pictures. And then I graduated. They gave me my diploma and they're like, good luck, you know, and sent me on my way. And I was so broke. I didn't even own a camera. I had been using all that camera equipment at Syracuse for the whole four years. I was there. So here I was of the degree degree, no camera and really no real understanding how to start a business like they didn't teach that in college. I wish there now they're teaching business of photography classes, but the time this is pre digital. I was shooting on film and this is pre blog's. So about two years into my car...

eer was on, the digital boom happened and all these like new young people were coming out and starting blog's I'm like, What's blood, you know, And I just I remember being not understanding and being really frustrated because what I knew was a photographer was. My editing was I shoot it, I take the film and I sent it to a lab and I get it back and my editing is throwing out. The four by six is I didn't like that was that was all you had to do for editing. And, um, I was really upset. When did it'll happen? Like Oh my God, I've just spent four years learning this craft. That's like becoming a dinosaur. It's being replaced by something new, and I was really fearful of all these people that were just starting to pick up digital cameras and that we're all of a sudden, my competition. And so that was something that I'll probably talk about throughout here is is there's always something new. There's always something scary that you don't necessarily want to try, but that you gotta be able to roll with the punches and evolve with the times. And as a photographer, I you know, I learned I went to school for four years. But that's not where my learning ends. I'm constantly learning new programs on the computer, doing new APS or trying new tips and new things and techniques and taking courses, and it never really ends. Which is one of the cool things I love about photography is that isn't always evolving constant, amazing learning, field of learning. But at the time when I was 22 I was terrified of digital and was terrified of starting this whole online. Like I had to teach myself how to edit and use photo shopping, all this stuff. And, you know, I finally made it over that hump and got a digital camera. And and and then all of a sudden, uh, I was shooting weddings. And then the vintage craze happened. I don't have any years ago date myself, but you know, like in the wedding industry, where, like all the faded images and people like cutting people's heads off in like Mason jars and there's just like everything is like faded, and they made it look like a tilt shift camera at the time. I and I always have been very inspired by David Lost appellate on, if you know that photographer. But he's very poppy, colorful stuff. He's known for a lot of his work that he did with celebrities and Pamela Anderson and stuff, but he would build these elaborate sets and paint them these crazy hopping colors and stuff. And he didn't really use photo shop. He just did everything on his own and vibrant color, and he really inspired my work to be very vibrant with my color. So when Digital came out, you know, at first I didn't like it. But then I loved it cause I could then really enhance my colors, and I kind of grew into my own style when digital happen. So when I finally got over that fear and I started embracing it, I started really embracing, having vibrant color. And then right when all that happens is one vintage happens and, like de saturated color, was popular. So I'm like a dinosaur Eddie and, like 23 like, you know, like I like I finally embraced this new technology, right, and I had a conversation yet again. Another life lesson with a friend of mine, Harmony Walton, who owns the bridal bar. And she's been sort of a like a business coach and unofficial business coach for me. I think everybody should have. This is a good tip. I think everybody should create a board of directors. Think of yourself as your own company. You're the CEO. You need your own board of directors around. You pick people that you really value their opinion and that have different careers that are not all photographers have someone that of your friends or people, you know and like assigned the mother board of directors and asked her advice frequently when you can. I think that's been a really great thing for me. I have a few people in my life that I consider like my board of directors of of me, because I I go through self doubt and fear of failure all the time. And so I basically, like, just want to say that every time of hit a wall of, like fear failure. I usually use that as a motivation to try something new and break out of that, and that's the only way that you're going to be able to move board. And it's something that we all face. I face it even today like they'll be times when, like, my road is not that good. Or how do I get that travel job? You know, there that fear failure is always gonna be an issue. So what happened here was I sat down one day for lunch with harmony and I said, Oh, my God, should I start putting all these filters on my pictures and make them de saturated and, like, you know, make them all vintage e And she's like, No, like, you should absolutely not let like trends come and go Don't bend with the trends She said, You know, own your own style like this is your style and you should celebrate it. And you're now gonna just stand out more because everyone else is doing something totally different. And one day that's gonna fade away. No problem, Tannen and and then you're gonna be left standing, and you're gonna be consistent. And to be honest, that is the most important lesson I could probably say from this is other than finding your voice is to be consistent, because if I bent with the trends every time they happened, when someone hired me, they're like, well, which Laura my gonna get today I'm gonna Vintage Laura are like saturated color. Laura are you know, it's so good to just make sure that no matter what, across the board, when I shoot weddings, when I shoot travel, when I shoot kids always in this vibrant style that I dio and I've become known for it and I've gotten jobs because of it. So, uh, deciding what your style is is really important going back before I dive into this particular shoot, I didn't know how to describe my style. Like I said, I knew I was attracted to color. But when someone would ask me back in the day, what is your style? I didn't really have that catch phrase. I didn't really know how to describe myself until I talked to friends and said, How would you describe it like a vibrant, energetic and, um, adventurous. And in the moment and, you know, I would say You're works like it stands alone. It's like an art piece. So I kind of took those words and describe myself in that way because I didn't really know how I viewed my work at the time, and it's only evolved like I don't know about you. You look at your old working like, uh, you know, it's always changing every year, so it's like, always evolving. But at this particular time, I'm talking Harmony said, Own your own style. And what could I dio to maybe put my style on the map and make me relevant right now? Vintages popular? Why not do a vintage shoot? But in my own style, you know, why not create a really cool shoot for a magazine to show them that vintage doesn't necessarily mean faded? It just means, um it just means older and of the past, right? But it doesn't mean it has to be faded or couldn't be Technicolor, whatever it is. So I decided. Okay, I'm gonna dio vintage shoot in my own style. But I need to do this right, Like I wanted to be in a magazine. And at the time, I wasn't, like, frequently published in magazines. It was kind of the beginning of my career. I was like, How do I get this in a magazine? So I thought, Well, I should get vendors attached to it that have bigger following a more clout than ideo. Um and get people involved in the project, so then it will get published. So at the time I was starting out and there was a few wedding coordinators that I really wanted to work with. One of them was Kristin Banta, and she's amazing if you don't know her name, Google her because she's a super out of the box. Uh, like rock and roll kind of wedding coordinator. She just stuff where you know, we'll have, like, Edward Scissorhands themed wedding and like, crazy stuff like and she does really, really high end weddings. And I always wanted to work with her, but I was just some, like, she's not gonna hire me a 23 for her super high end clients, I thought had like it in with her and instead of, you know, approaching her like, Can you do this for me? And can you refer me? I thought, How cool to be to approach her with a project. Yes, I would love to work with the U I like a huge fan of your work. Would you do this project with me? So I always think that it's really good idea. Just was a tip for you guys when you want to approach a magazine or a vendor, you never worked with their anybody. A hotel Always do it in a way of what can I offer you instead of what can you do for me? And like I said, even went back with the hotels. If you don't want them to turn you away, offer them your photos or offer them press, there's something blogged about them. You know, if you're coming from a place where you're offering your services, people will want to help you more and want to work with you. So I thought, Okay, I'm gonna stock Kristin Banta. I'm gonna find out how to get her attached to my to my project. And at the time, I didn't really know what my project was. I just knew that I wanted Teoh to shoot a vengeance. You. Then I had another ah ha moment. I was at an art show and somebody handed out a flyer to me and it said on the flyer it had a picture of like a Airstream trailer and it said, the Hicksville Trailer Palace. What is this place? And I went on the website and it's a funky motel in the middle of the desert near Joshua Tree that is all Airstream trailers, a different themes. Ones like horror movies and ones, you know, like Frontier. And they have a teepee and all this stuff, and you don't know the address of a yet the book Airstream Trailer there. And then somebody will call you. It's like a super spy thing. They'll call you and tell you how to get there, and there's like, No, it's you almost get lost getting out there. And you're like, Where am I going like the beginning of a bad horror movie or something? But I saw this place and I just knew you went up being there and seeing the pictures like This is where it we also have to do is shoot here. We have to do that like a fifties style Airstream trailer. And so I knew the location, and I knew the idea as I wanted to approach Kristen, and I knew that Kristen on board I could get a magazine on board. So I went Teoh a conference where she was speaking, and I kind of the stalked her when she got the state. I ran up to her. It was like, Kristen, I look a huge fan of, like, you know, blah, blah, blah. And I really want to tell you about a project. I'm doing a love for you to be involved. And so she stops. And she's like, OK, tell me my co crabs, you have 20 seconds. Okay? Hear me out. I wanted to have institute, but what? We don't lose it. Yeah, it's not the typical vintage I wanted to be, like, super out there. Technicolor Poppy, like this is the location. I want to do it at the Hicksville Trailer Palace and show her pictures. And she's like, Okay, I'll do it. But the groom has to be a mannequin. Like what? And I forgot that I'm dealing with creative genius. Crist. Amanda. I was like, she's like, Okay, it's gonna be a post apocalyptic scene. She's gonna be like this fifties. Brighter grooms a mannequin. And she just started her wheel started going. I'm like this woman's genius. And so she's like, Let's let's have lunch Next week, we'll talk about it. So she shows up at lunch with a team of like, six girls sketch pads. They had already researched and pulled like fifties props and stuff and ideas based on my photos. They, like, sketched out scenes. She had a whole narrative written out. She's like, Okay, it's gonna be the bride is gonna be like wanting to have the perfect wedding day but like the world is pretty ended and she's in this weird, crazy place in the desert, and she's like setting the perfect table and doing all this stuff. And at the end she realizes it's a sham that grooms really a mannequin. She like burns or apron and protests and like she has this crazy story and I'm like, This is awesome, Yeah, let's do it. And so we ended up pitching the whole thing, like sketches on the story and everything to Modell Weddings magazine and a couple other magazines. And they loved it. The reason they loved it is because it was like totally out there and weird, like nothing they've ever done. But they love their because there was a story. They loved it because it was relevant at the time. A relevant topic, which is vintage magazines and blog's love. When you tie an idea back to like a trend, something that's trending. And they also loved it because we were offering a behind the scenes video and I'll get into that in a second. But, uh, it was just, you know, Kristen also had a name for herself. They love that Kristen was involved. Kristen was also on a show on Bravo as a wedding coordinator. And so she she had a little bit of clout. So I was able to attach a magazine to it before even doing the shoot. And and that's something that I learned, really, that that was the first time I learned to do this. I didn't really know at the time I would shoot a wedding and be like this wedding was really awesome. I'm gonna pitch it around to hopefully get it published, and sometimes that works. But what I find is that if you pitch a magazine beforehand and tell them your idea, usually they'll be like, Well, we can't really accept it until we see the images. But we love the idea. We're definitely understand. We're holding a spot for you in the October issue like you'll usually get a response like that if you if they say No. Then you're already on the radar there. You've already reached out to this magazine. They know you. They checked out your work. So then the next time when you pitch them, you're not like, just some stranger. They'll usually look at your pitch first above other people because you've already had it started a dialogue with them, So it's really important to pre pitch magazines and blocks. So going into that, the next step was Okay, so I got Kristen and I got all these vendors donating their time for free. But then when I started doing the logistics of the shoot, it was not for free. We had to rent out the Hicksville Trailer Palace. That was, like $2500. Then we had to pay for the truck to bring all the stuff out the gas, catering the food for the day for like, the malls and everyone, Um I mean, the list goes on all of a sudden, we added it up and it was like $4500. And I'm like, in my twenties. I don't have that kind of money for a crazy hair brained idea. And then on top of that I can't ask people to donate towards that that are already donating their time and energy and Kristen like, to the shoot and ask him to pay on top of that. So I was like, Oh, my gosh, I'm gonna eat this cost. Like I already set up this whole shooting, got everyone on board and, like, where am I gonna get money? So that's when Kickstarter came in. And this is when Kickstarter had to kind of just started. And, um, everyone's like you should get your money and Kickstarter forget your project on Kickstarter. And so I went on and I created a little video like, This is what my projects about. But the way Kickstarter works is that you have to offer something to the people that donate, like you can't just say donate, and then that's it to some crazy idea. And so I thought, Well, what I'm gonna offer it's really just gonna be a photos in a magazine like how do I offer something? So I thought, Well, I need to create like a video like a DVD that I can give to people, and then I thought, and that can also offer that their names will be published in the matter. Like all the contributors names would be published in magazines. And I worked it out with the magazine like, could we do this? It's the only way it can raise money and they're like, That's fine. So I was like, OK, I need to do a video and this is the first time I ever did it Behind the scenes video was this shoot? I think I was like 24 something when we did this shoot, I can't remember won't take myself. But it s so it was the only reason I did it was because I had to do something to give back to people I didn't even know, like how awesome and how important it is to do behind the scenes videos at the time. So Okay, so then I get a friend who's a videographer involved And can you fill in the behind the scenes of this project? I put it on Kickstarter. We raised the money, which is amazing. And then our shoot was on the way, right? So I want to kind of show some of the pictures of the So we here is one of the Airstream trailers you can see, and it's like the frontier style when this place is super kitschy and bizarre. And the other thought I went into it was that I wanted it to look very fifties and poppy. And so I researched the kind of lighting they did back then, and they used let the really bearable flash in your face kind of looks. So I I rented a ring flash, which I had never used before this year, and it really added to this kind of like flattening Technicolor. Look of it. And so there's there's a mannequin groom in the background. He sees a chilling by the pool, but we had source. All the outfits had hair, makeup models, all that stuff. This is the set that we did with the Airstream trailer. Everything was sourced like the coffee cancer from the fifties that are on the table. Apple pie like you like cherry apple cherry cake and everything was think this poppy red it was. I mean, every single thing in the scene from the broken chair in the background stuff was set up with Kristen, and I like we art directed the whole thing, so we had this really hard to get the groom to sit down. We got, um um how it was his name thing with Sancho or something, but he was not very cooperative, like we had to cut him in half. We basically to take him apart and have to, like, make him sit and do stuff. But we have this old, like fifties truck that was there, and we used it and then this Just take the cake cutting scene on. We just wanted to make it worth. She was kind of like halfway through the shoot. The model was sort of losing her mind a little bit like she will suit in real life. In the narrative, she's like having this perfect wedding and setting the table, and then she slowly realizing it's all a shame, just kind of losing her mind. And she like burns or April later on. So we were We were shooting it with the whole story. So I want to show you the behind the scenes video and then talk about how this sort of launched the whole idea of behind the scenes and the importance of it already. Guys, this kind of love when you never called it a kind of love did. Everyone were here at Hicksville, Trailer Palace. All these Airstream trailers and different themes. Buildings. I'm not really somebody's gotta do it. Okay? Waiting is not operating. You don't wanna know Home Manager. You don't work today. You don't want to know how I know you're on your own. No worker. One of the absolute, best talented photographers out there ever cake smashing in the groom's face. It's gonna be like this total like and like aggro really colorful Poppy's shot ready set. Go What I think of larder, a photographer, visionary as a human being. Incredible, inspiring marriage of Kristen and perfect together Like I feel like the hardest part of the day is over and I kind of like cake from here. I feel like some people think it's crazy that I spent all this time coordinating the shoot and getting everything together Just strange cons up to the bride and groom mannequin. But it's times like this. I just feel like I'm in My element makes me realize, and like what I'm doing in my life is right that I really enjoy it. There's something really cool about it when it's just your own idea. But they go like fire. Our last shot of the day we had pulling out the desert with old school gasoline can burning her apron in a statement of frustration Can she realized that her groom was that he was just a mannequin and on a romance, the whole idea was, Have a burner. You enjoyed our shoot. We're really, really excited. Teoh the outcome. And now the real work begins, which is editing and breaking down everything. Thanks again for contributing. You got in you in the interview where the assistance like holding a knife in a bottle of wine while she's talking. E. I was sort of like what was happening. We're all just It was a long day. We're setting up and breaking down and having wine throughout the whole process and stuff. But, um, it was such a cool experience because I got to work with Kristen and her team for the first time, and that was one of the bigger productions I had ever done at the time. It is in my twenties and and I got to have that experience and really learn a lot on it. And it was It was really nerve racking for me because I was being expected to produce something with people that I felt were above my caliber. And there we were in that whole fear thing again. Right where you're like, I'm not good enough or I don't like to do this, but you know, that started a lifelong a connection with Kristen. I worked with their sense. It was a really great way Teoh get involved with vendors that I had never known or worked with before. And it was we also got published, and the behind the scenes video was extended contents. I'll talk about that right now.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Travel Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Art, Life, and Business Discount Code
Writing & SEO Guide for Travel Magazines
Sammy's Photo School Discount Code
Novica Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews


I've been listening for, like, two hours. OMG. Like, I could, like, you know, get more from this if, like, she stopped jibbering and get to, like, you know, the topic? She sounds more like a rambling stream-of-thought teenager than a mature adult giving a succinct organized presentation. In two hours, I have, like, learned about two or three things I can, like, use. Like, Ehhhh...? It's like, bor-ing! Like, whutttt? Is she, like, 15 or what? Sheesh.

a Creativelive Student

I have to start by saying that I was lucky enough to be part of the live audience in this class! What Laura has shared this 2 days, is something that will have taken me a few years to learn. Thank you for remanding me that we create our own opportunities and we have to go for what we want instead of waiting for it to happened and will these tips your share in this class, will make it a lot easier to approach editors or potential clients to be able to conquer my goals! Thanks you very much Laura and Creative Live for making all these possible for the photo community all around the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Student Work