Lara Jade started her own business when she was seventeen. Now she shoots for some of the world’s largest brands and has a massive following online. We talk about her background and technique and Lara gives a few tips to aspiring photographers.
Andreas: For those who don’t know you, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Lara Jade: Of course! I’m Lara Jade, I’m a fashion, portrait & advertising photographer from England and currently living in New York City.
How did you get interested in photography and how did you get your first paid assignment?
I started photography at the age of fourteen, experimenting with self-portraiture and fine art photography to hone my skills. Being the daughter of two creatives (my mother was a make-up artist for Mary Quant back in the day, and although my dad never had a creative career, he was always building models and encouraging me to draw and paint when I was younger) it seemed only necessary that I would fit into the art world somewhere. Art seemed exciting to me, but I could never find the right medium, nothing seemed to ‘fit’, that is, until I found photography.
What equipment do you work with? Are you still using the Canon 5D?
I believe that equipment is only a tool in the process of making great imagery. Photography requires a great eye and an understanding of what you want to achieve, before technical skill is taken into account.
I currently use the Canon 5D mkII (previously the Canon 5d Mk I and Canon 350D) because it has the flexibility I need in creating photography. The lenses I use depend on the task at hand, but the Canon 85mm 1.2 almost never leaves my camera body. I also use the 50mm 1.4, 24-70mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8 lenses.
In regards to lighting – I try and go natural as much as possible and reference back to the older masters with their own lighting skills. In the studio, I try and manipulate daylight by using soft lighting – by the use of soft boxes and continuous lighting. On location, I rarely use accessories unless required on a job.
Now you’re shooting for magazines like ELLE and big clients like Lavazza, Sony Music and the BBC, but I read that earlier in your career you sometimes missed out on jobs because the clients thought you were too young even though you had the talent.
What tips do you have for young photographers who have a hard time breaking into the industry?
It’s only natural for clients to be wary of a teenager shooting campaigns and being trusted with large budgets – so I can fully understand why some of my original meetings during my teenage years didn’t lead to anything. However, I realized that time is a great thing – and and with time I became a better photographer and developed a better understanding of how to work with other professionals; looking back, I am glad that I wasn’t put in such a respected position early on.
If you’re a photographer just starting out, then my biggest piece of advice to you is not to rush, there’s plenty of time in the world to get work. The first few years of your career are incredibly important – focus on building your portfolio, finding your style and finding yourself.
Once you have a portfolio you’re (half) happy with and you’re confident in your technique, then this will be the time to start approaching photography as a business and reaching out to clients you want to work for. Your confidence will show in the connection (whether on e-mail or in person) and will be a big help in the client deciding whether you are right for the job!
Deviantart and Flickr have played an important part in getting your work recognized. Do you feel those sites still have the impact they used to or have you shifted focus to other sites?
In the early days, I used social media partly because I had no other way of getting my work out into the industry and partly because I enjoyed being part of online communities! Since DeviantART and Flickr were very community-driven, it helped me understand my style very early on and what I wanted to achieve.
Today, I still use social media because I feel like it’s part of my journey; although I don’t rely on it solely to share my portfolio or to get work, I still enjoy sharing and browsing through the online photography communities. The only downfall is that in today’s industry there are so many photography and art communities that it is so much to keep track of!
You have over 60,000 fans on Facebook and over 18,000 followers on Twitter. What are the secrets to your massive success on the social networks?
A lot of people ask me how I managed to get such a strong following online and all I can say is that there is no secret. I’ve spent over six years advertising my work and raising my profile within the online photography communities and I’ve managed to achieve a recognizable style by constantly keeping myself inspired and keeping an open mind to new work, opportunities and jobs.
Do you have a social media strategy or are you just posting things as you go along?
I don’t have a set-in-stone strategy, but I try and keep all of my accounts updated as often as I can. I do sometimes remind myself that I am my own PR and it’s hard to keep track of everything!
What balance between promotion and personality have you found works best online?
It’s important to show your personality (without sharing your whole life online!) and how that inspires your work and how you approach your career. Clients love seeing what goes on behind-the-scenes and how you relate to your work – online and in person – because it gives a whole new light to your work.
Have you gotten any jobs as a direct result of being visible on Facebook and Twitter?
I’m going to be honest – clients don’t necessarily browse through photography communities trying to find the right photographer for a job, especially in the current economy. However, I have received several opportunities that have led to meetings and then jobs further on down the line. Social media is a fantastic way of keeping everything in a loop – you need to put as much effort in offline as you do online – networking, meetings, phone calls etc.
Your shots often have really amazing styling and lighting. Any tips for aspiring fashion photographers?
I try and work closely with my styling team and model – they know exactly what theme I am working towards on the day and I am with them – every step of the way on the styling process. A fashion shoot is a collaboration; we are all there to achieve the same goal. My advice would be to find a creative team that you enjoy working with and get familiar with your contacts – great agency and styling contacts are really going to bring your work to the next level.
Do you work with a large team?
When I first started photography, I preferred shooting with just me and the model; I still do today. However, fashion photography requires a team and hands on deck from all sides of the industry – I always work with a make-up artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist and an assistant – and often more people depending on the shoot. Whenever I shoot personal work, I like to reference back to my roots and limit the amount of people on set to get the best out of the shoot.
What is your process for a new shoot? Do you plan a lot in advance or make things up once you get to the location?
My shoot processes are all dependent on the task at hand. If I’m shooting a job, then obviously there will be a lot of prep work involved (more so than usual), which could be anything from 2 weeks to 2 months in advance. For a personal shoot, this could be 2-3 weeks in advance because I don’t require detailed meetings or castings. In both cases, things are likely to change last minute so you always need to be prepared if the opportunity arises – make a plan B or be in close contact with your client and team.
Are you still doing self portraits?
I enjoyed the process of self-portraits early on my career because it enabled me to share my ideas and hone my skills. Unfortunately I rarely have the chance to do them with my current schedule, but, I’d like to do something incredibly unique, which would take some planning, however, with that said, I would love to do create a few more this year!
If you could go back in time and tell yourself something that would have made the start of your career as a photographer easier, what would it be?
To listen to the best and to shoot more!
People seem to really enjoy your photography workshops, is teaching something that comes naturally to you or how did you find the confidence to start doing workshops?
The workshops are incredibly fun and very inspiring for me. If you’d have told me early last year I was going to be teaching workshops for a living I would have laughed – I was always that quiet girl that would never want to speak in school presentations – but last year I had the honour of teaching in several locations worldwide and speaking on behalf of Canon for their Pro Solutions event in London.
I really enjoy the process of teaching because there’s so much I like to share. My intensive fashion photography classes range from 1-2 days depending on the location and it’s great to spend time with like-minded people and hearing their journeys too!
You’ve recently launched a tutorial DVD. Could you tell us a bit about how you came up with that idea and what people can expect to learn from the DVD?
Of course! The collaboration is between me and the fantastic Mr. Joey L and the working title is “LJ VS JL: Photographer Shoot Off”. The concept is comical – we are two rival photographers in a ‘shoot out’ trying to figure out who is the better photographer through a series of set shoot themes and ideas. Although fun, we made sure that there’s something everyone can learn from – it’s packed full of shoot inspiration, lighting ideas, and Photoshop tutorials and it shows exactly how Joey and I go through the process of our shoots from start to finish.
The DVD has taken almost two years to create as we filmed it on-and-off between our schedules and trips, so it’s amazing to finally see it as a finished product! You can find more information at www.larajadevsjoeyl.com
Any other new projects in the works?
I don’t think I could ever say no to this one as I’m always working on something! I just completed a fashion photography educational guide through UK publisher ILEX, which will be released sometime this year. I haven’t got a set date just yet, but I’m excited to finally see it on the shelves!
If you could set up a photo shoot with anyone you wanted anywhere in the world, who would you choose and why?
I’d love to be able to visit some iconic landscapes and shoot new projects. I have Iceland, India and Australia on the cards for next year, so we’ll see how that one pans out!
In regards to who I’d love to have the opportunity to photograph, that would have to be fashion models Sasha Pivovarova, Lily Cole, Abbey Lee Kershaw or Jessica Stam. I also would not pass up the opportunity to photograph the amazing Andrej Pejic again!