The second annual FUJIFILM Festival is upon us! Taking place in Venice, CA, the three-day event gives attendees the opportunity to fuel their passion for photography and learn from some of the best photographers in the business.
On the eve of the Festival we got the leaders from the five workshops taking place during the Festival weekend together for a round table discussion. Videographer Andrew Primavera, wedding, commercial and lifestyle portrait photographer Michelle Turner, documentary and street photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani, landscape and travel photographer Elia Locardi and dance photographer Omar Z. Robles covered a wide range of topics from what they were looking forward to at the Festival through to what keeps them inspired. Read on for a fascinating insight into the minds of the FUJIFILM Festival workshops leaders and stay tuned for regular updates over the Festival weekend!
What are you looking forward to at this year’s FUJIFILM Festival?
Omar Z. Robles: It’s really exciting. Fujifilm doesn’t just sell cameras, it sells a community, which is something I’ve tried hard to promote since I became an X-Photographer.
Elia Locardi: I’d agree. These Festivals give us the chance to interact with the community directly. The Festival puts all the people who have a passion together, not only in the workshop environments, but in the breakfasts, the networking sessions and more; it’s a cool community weekend event.
Michelle Turner: I’m really passionate about the gear – I feel it’s revolutionized my business and my workflow, I love talking about it and sharing it with other people. It’s a really exciting time for the brand itself and I find it fun to watch people discover something that I’ve already realized, which is that FUJIFILM gear is just amazing and if you give it a chance it really can change the way you do things.
Andrew Primavera: In the last few years Fujifilm has made a really big splash in the video world, I’m excited to talk to consumers – may be someone who doesn’t have a strong video background, but wants to dabble – and be able to demystify the more technical aspects. I think Fujifilm is at the forefront of mirrorless video systems and it’s great to contextualize why that is.
Why did you start shooting with Fujifilm?
OZR: For me it was first and foremost about portability. When I was shooting street with a DSLR and zoom lens, it was too heavy so I turned to the X100S and I realized that the output was as good as my full frame camera. The rest is history.
MT: It is about output, but it’s also about the experience of shooting with the equipment. When I first bought a FUJIFILM camera I realized how much I’d been missing the tactile experience of changing the aperture on the lens, having the dials up top and having an EVF was a game-changer in terms of my workflow; being able to preview effects in the viewfinder cut my post processing down dramatically.
EL: I started with the X-E1, but I thought they were on to something and it turned out I was right! I felt that if I handed someone my old DSLR and asked them to take a photo, they wouldn’t know what to do, but the Fujifilm cameras made sense. From a design standpoint they’re really thinking about usability and the technology has caught up.
Where do you find inspiration?
Xyza Cruz Bacani: I get inspired when I start caring about the issues I’m photographing. Lately, I’ve been reporting about climate change. so the weather inspires me. For my street work, I’m inspired by the nearest points to where I’m staying – I believe that the best stories you can get are the ones in your backyard.
MT: All over the place – paintings, music, looking at shadows, looking at other people’s work. There is beauty all around us and I’m inspired by that.
OZR: I’d agree with that. Inspiration is everywhere. I watched West Side Story on the plane on the way here and it made me think about new things I could bring to my work from seeing the movie. As creatives, we’re always trying gather information.
EL: I embrace the random. I travel and have fixed points of interest on the map, but I tend to learn more from all the places in between; the people I meet, the places I go. I also revisit the same places a lot. I expect that the first time I go somewhere, I’m not going to get something that I want, but after I dig into a location, I learn more about it.
AP: It is everywhere. Much of my work comes from conversations or stories that we hear verbally, which inspires me to find out what’s going on. We recently did some work on the street basketball scene in Brooklyn and that started from hearing local players talking about it, but by going and seeing it for ourselves we learned so much more.
How has social media affected your career?
OZR: Social media gave me a voice. I got my first job after writing a blog post about my grandfather’s funeral, which my family had asked me to photograph. Since then I’ve been opening doors with social media, especially Instagram, it’s now my primary form of marketing.
EL: I love social media. Instagram Stories is the most effective for me. If I have a workshop that has spaces, if I post it to Stories, I guarantee that I’ll get an instant response. It’s a weird thing that Stories is the most powerful medium I have when all I’m doing is creating some shaky footage, it gets a higher engagement than a photo I may have spent three years trying to capture!
XCB: I was discovered on Facebook, so that’s how powerful social media is. With my kind of work, though, exclusivity is really important to publishers, so once you’ve posted an image on Facebook, no one will touch the story. Instagram Stories, though, have made me human.
MT: A lot of my commercial clients still come from word of mouth, although as an educator, I do get some clients from social media. I use it to let people know what I’m doing, but it doesn’t drive my career. When I started, I put pictures of my kids on Instagram so my mother could see them growing up, but that’s shifted now back to Facebook and I’m more cautious on Instagram.
So if you want to get started as a professional, you must have a social media presence?
EL: I’d favor a website with good SEO. Social media will open doors, but it will never seal the deal for you.
OZR: It’s easier for people to see you work on social media, certainly on Instagram it’s more accessible, but it’s changing a lot. A few years ago, you could build a community within a year or so, but now it’s taking longer. It’s getting confusing because of people buying followers.
MT: I feel like social media legitimizes your business in a way your website doesn’t. The first thing I do – it doesn’t matter what I’m looking for – is see what a company’s social media stream is doing. If they haven’t posted within a year, that’s an automatic red flag for me. I post because it shows people that I’m working and have had years of working behind me – I’m not just a website that I’ve curated ten shots from the past ten years.
OZR: We live in an era where people want something new all the time. If a client looks at a website one day after another they’re going to see the same thing, but through social media – if you’re doing it right – then you’re posting consistently and people will want to come and see it.
XCB: For me a website consolidates everything. It’s where editors can see what you’re trying to say as a photographer; it makes their life easier. A website says you’re serious, you’re here.
What about the rookie mistakes photographers make?
EL: People will buy $10,000 worth of gear, but then they’ll say that a workshop is too expensive. It’s a pitfall to think that a new camera is so good that it’s going to solve all your problems. We see so many photographs so people think it’s so easy and they’re not prepared to put in the work. Everything takes time.
MT: From a business perspective, don’t over promise and under deliver, always do it the other way around. People used to say ‘Fake it, until you make it’ but that phrase absolutely kills me. Make sure you can deliver and the only way you can do that is learn as much as you can and practice over and over again. You never stop learning.
XCB: Always protect your copyright – you’re not just hurting yourself, you’re hurting the industry you want to be part of. People think working for free gives good exposure, but companies who don’t pay you the first time, won’t pay the second time, they’ll just find someone else who is free.
Is it getting harder to sell your work?
OZR: I still get approached by brands – big brands – who ask me to work for free. You should know what your value is, it’s best not to work than to work for nothing.
XCB: There’s a power in saying ‘No’ as sometimes by saying that, it can make the client want you more. I sometimes say ‘No’ and then cross my fingers for them to come back with a better deal!
MT: With the number of people who are giving away work, there are times when I’ll say ‘No’ to a project and the brand will come back to me later because they had someone do it who didn’t do what they wanted. Then they really value experience; sometimes it can be a waiting game.
EL: Sometimes you do have to make a tough decision, though. You may not be getting quite what you want, but it may be that your work is going to be printed somewhere special and then you have to make a choice.
AP: In video, it’s getting harder to explain why you need all the third party kit, why you need to go through six different people each one doing different jobs; editing, color correcting, cleaning up sound. It’s a balance between finding a brand that’s going to give you creative opportunities and one that also understands what’s going into your work.
What does it take to make it as a photographer in 2018?
AP: I owe my entire career to social media. It was how I learned those platforms, techniques and skills and the only way I’ve been able to get exposure and opportunities has been not just to post it up, but from a qualitative point of view, getting someone to watch it. Use those platforms to hone your skills and get feedback.
MT: As an artist, learn light and shoot as much as you can. As a business person, don’t be afraid of the ‘No’, not only saying it to turn work down, but also don’t be afraid to receiving a ‘No’ back – put yourself out there, pitch, make connections, network and know that people will say ‘No’. You’re not going to be the right photographer for every single job that’s out there.
EL: Shoot as much as you can, but only share your best work. It’s all about quality over quantity. Make sure your message is on point with social media – pull people in with great imagery and engaging words.
OZR: Go out everyday and shoot as much as you can. You’re always going to think your work is great but you should take your time to learn what is good.
XCB: When someone picks up a camera it means there is passion inside them. But if you want to be a photographer, passion is not enough, you need a love for creating images.
To keep informed of future FUJIFILM events, stay tuned to the Events page.