This is the business of photography and I'm going to be talking about my career and the business decisions that I have made. I can't tell you that it's all gonna work for you just how I did it. But the point of it is, is to sort of inspire you to step outside the box and to take advantage of things that happened to you and are going to happen to you and that might happen to you. And to realize that unless you believe in yourself, unless you have confidence in what you're capable of, you're not giving yourself the chance to do your best work. And, that's often what it is, you know. As a photographer, you might think that you have your subject, you're shooting them, they're not giving you, they're not delivering. It's a two way thing. Photography is about both sides of the equation. So, today, I'm gonna be talking about branding, I'm gonna talk about marketing, I'm talking about my career, and, obviously, there's a lot in there. There's a lot to branding, there's a lot to how I marketed ...
myself and the decisions that I've made. And this class is for everyone, by the way, this class is for people of all different levels of photography and it's for people who also just want to be inspired about the business. I didn't start my career taking pictures like this. This is really where, after sort of 20 years in the business, where you sort of end up. And some of these photographs you'll remember from America's Next Top Model. Others are from magazine shoots that I've done. Shooting Taylor Swift. All kinds of sort of interesting and big shoots that I've done in my career. And, I started off sort of humbly as a student at school shooting my friends. Just like every one of you really, probably. Looking for people to photograph, asking people to pose for me. And my career didn't take off for years. Often times, you see someone, you're like, oh, they were an overnight success. They got this lucky break, they got this thing, that just happened to them, that will never happen to me. Well, I'm gonna be talking about how I actually worked for many many years, day in, day out testing, shooting, honing my eye, working it out. And it wasn't just that somehow, I got this huge opportunities and huge sets thrown at me and all these things happened. Obviously, when I got on Top Model, things sort of changed. But, I took risks in my career. And that's one of the things I'm gonna be talking about, is taking the risk. I mean in a way and it sounds funny, but being here right now is a sort of a risk for me. I'm not a teacher, this is not something I've done before. Why do I think that I should do it? Why do I think that I'm worthy of doing it? Part of that, and I know, I see you've just wrinkled your brow right there, and I say it because you have to trust in yourself to be able to do these things. You have to trust yourself that you can get up and that you can talk to someone and teach them. It's one thing, me being on a TV show like America's Next Top Model and having that moment in the moment, someone catching me and me doing what I do. It's another thing to turn around and say, "Okay, let me try and explain to you what I've done." And we all know, we've all been to school, we've all had good teachers and teachers that aren't so great or teachers that, for some reason, you gel with and you listen to them and you understand what they're doing and you understand what they're saying and you get educated from it. So, my point is, is that this in a way is another example of me personally taking a risk and saying, "Okay, I'm gonna put myself out there," because I believe in teaching and I believe in giving back. And I really do think that if at this stage in my career, if I can help anyone, if I could offer any of you guys some advice on how I do it, and if that works for you, then that's a great thing, I've done something, I'll feel good about it. And here, obviously, in this shoot, as you can see, we took some risks. And this is a very famous shot that I took for America's Next Top Model. It's one of my favorite shoots ever. And every time I look at this I always feel sorry for the bull because I hate bull fighting and I'm very anti-bull fighting. And so, this is a shot that I've always been torn about because I don't want to glamorize something like this. So, I've actually used it since this shoot and I've talked about it in that way and to say look, I love this picture, but I'm not proud about, in a way, what it represents. But, that's also life, we do things like this. And the funny thing is we actually freed this bull because we were able to use it for this shoot, they weren't able to use it for a bull fight, so we managed to save the bull and buy the bull and have it freed. And that was my only, at the time, I'm like, "Thank God. "Can we have more bulls, please." Story telling. Story telling is the largest part of photography for me. I'm constantly talking about the narrative. On America's Next Top Model, you heard us talk about personality all the time. It's so important to have personality. But, as a photographer, you're looking to pull that personality out so that the picture tells a story. And when you see a picture like this, the idea, for me, it's like, well what's happening? Where does your mind go? What do you see? There's a girl on the bed lying down. What is she drunk, is she passed out? Who's, what's the woman pointing at. Why is she pointing at? And what's the other lady, cleaning the dress? There's sort of multiple stories going on in this particular image. Obviously, this image is easier to tell a story and because of the things that are happening, but you also want to tell stories like that just when you look at someone's eyes. What are they thinking? What's happening? What's their emotion? Those are, sort of, ideas and concepts. If you could build those into your pictures, for me, that's what made my pictures come alive, I think. That's what I look for when I'm editing, and that's what I'm trying to push for as I'm shooting. And you've gotta be ready to challenge yourself. Okay, if you don't challenge yourself, if you don't do things that you haven't done before, push yourself to the limit. And do things that make you uncomfortable. Do things that raise the bar for yourself every time. I haven't done this before, let's do it. This particular shoot, if you remember it or not, I don't know, but this is also a Top Model shoot. We dropped adu-va-tine into the water, this was shot in the middle of the day. Like I said, let's bring in dry ice, let's pour it in. The models ducked half their face into the water, is that gonna be, you know, are we gonna be able to tell a story with just the eyes coming out and then how do we build that? You know, I look at this picture and there's such power in this girl's eyes. that your imagination runs riot. And what could she be thinking? Is she-- And that's the point, everyone will have a different idea, everyone might have a different sort of narrative to this picture. You don't have to say that this is the only story. Everyone's able to make their own mind up, what the story is. But, what you want is for people to look at a picture and have a story, not just sort of blank. I talk about being aware of pop culture. One of the big things in my career is I've always tried to sort of tune in to what's happening. As a photographer you can sort of, in a way, sometimes sit on the sidelines a little bit and shoot what's happening. But, I feel like, it's even better, if possible, to be a part of it yourself. And when I was starting off as a photographer I used to go to clubs and I used to go and see bands and I would go to openings and I still do as much of that as I can, but a large part of it is to really be a part of what's happening in the world. To be, not just a voyeur, but to be actively involved with what's happening. And this was a shot that we shot in Brazil and when I was in Brazil, and I just use this picture to represent this moment, partly because when I was there in Brazil, I didn't wanna just, you know, visit the tourist attractions or just visit the beach or just be a tourist. I wanted to meet Brazilians. And we were going out with them, hanging out with them, going to people's homes for dinner, going to parties, and really almost becoming a Brazilian while I'm there, so that I get a real feel for it. So, that when I start to take pictures, when I do things with people there, I feel that somehow, I'm not just voyeuristically taking a picture, but I'm in the party, I'm a part of the scene, I'm there. And that's kind of the way I shoot too. And it's not everyone's style, again, I'm gonna say things that you might say, "Well, that's not what I do. "That's not how I work." But, what I'm gonna be doing today is talking about how I do things, 'cause that's how I get the pictures I get, is that I'm very actively a part of the picture. Inspire. You need to inspire yourself. And it's, obviously, you'd love to inspire other people, but inspiration, what I'm talking about here, is being inspired yourself. And I think that's one of the number one questions I get asked by people, actually. People ask, "Well how'd you get inspired? "What made you think of doing this shoot?" You know, or, "That shoot, or, "Oh, this morning, "I don't know what to shoot, "I'm not quite sure how to deal with this person. "This person doesn't really inspire me." You've got to look for inspiration everywhere. And I, the moment I wake up, I literally, I don't know why this is, but I'm excited to open the curtain. I'm, what's outside-- No, I know what the view is, you know. I'm like, but, what's happening now? Ooh, it's, you know, rainy day, it's a cloudy day. And I, what emotion does that make me feel. And by the way, you know, you can see emotion in a landscape picture. Are the clouds angry looking, is it soft and airy, the light with the clouds and the rain coming down. Is it romantic, or is it miserable. These are all adjectives you normally describe a person with. But you can also describe almost any landscape, any sunset, any weather system with adjectives like that. And, as I'm shooting, I'm thinking those things. I literally will look at a landscape or something and say, "This is making me feel that way." As if, I'm using the force, almost, to push the emotion into the picture and into my subject. And, as I'm talking to them and dealing with them, and it's that chemistry that one has with people, it's much easier really, 'cause you have that chemistry. But, I like to even do it when I'm shooting anybody and anything. Call me crazy but that's the way I work. And it's partly that passion there that I have for what I'm doing. In this particular shot, one of the inspirations for it, was the fact that this fashion designer created their entire collection, this is a guy called Michael Cinco and a Filipino designer and it was all made out of recycled materials. So, everything, there was accessories that were all forks and spoons and knives. The material itself was recycled, sort of, plastics and what have you and he made these materials. So, we went to the dump where they recycle things and we shot it in the dump. It was one of the stinkiest shoots I've ever done. Second stinkiest was here on Creative Live earlier in the week. But, you'd have to watch my other show, or class, to actually witness that, it was hilarious and very stinky. That's why I'm standing a little further back from you right now, 'cause I see some of you are like... I've shared. But, that's what this was, so the inspiration was to sort of bring that to life. Bring the recycled concept to life. So, I'm gonna be talking about developing your own style, creating a brand, my personal work, marketing and I'm gonna be talking about it from, you know, what happened in my own career. And hopefully, when you see what I did, obviously, it's my story, but there will be things that will ring true for everyone of you.
<span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Nigel Barker is an internationally renowned photographer who opened his New York studio in 1996. He served 18 seasons as photographer and judge on the hit TV show, </span><span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">America’s Next Top Model</span><span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">, which airs in over 150 countries, and hosted Oxygen Network’s modeling competition series, </span><span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">The Face</span><span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">, starring alongside Naomi Campbell. Barker’s latest hit show </span><span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Top Photographer</span><span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"> premiered to rave reviews and a second season is in the works.</span>
This is one of my favorite Creative Live classes so far. The storytelling and human interaction parts were my favorites! The ability for Nigel to get such amazing expressions in such a brief time shooting was amazing. Everything he demonstrated seemed almost effortless, and all without a shred of ego. Great class!
Nigel is a wonderfully engaging instructor. I like that he walks his students through his photoshoots. The set ups. How to interact with the models. Even though there are a couple of genres I'm most active in, I appreciate that Nigel says that you can have different photographic interests, so long as you brand yourself properly. I like taking photos of lots of things, although my outdoor photos generate the most interest. I highly recommend all of Nigel's classes.
a Creativelive Student
Passion, personal, inspiring! Nigel, thanks for amazing class and a lot of great advices.