Guest Post: HOW I LEARNT TO TAKE THE PERFECT PHOTOGRAPH
“Professional photography can be an extremely exciting and rewarding job, but it involves a lot of initial sacrifice and will power. Keep this in mind and start walking your path” – Rossella Vanon, International Fashion & Beauty Photographer
It’s the 25th of March almost ten years ago and I’m home in Italy celebrating my 18th birthday with my family. In pleasant Italian-style we are all gathered around the table, a big cake in the middle, candles on top, chatters and laughter all around. Out of the corner of my eye I catch my aunt secretly reaching for her handbag and slowly pulling out her old film camera to take a few pictures of us all joyfully around the table. I try to hide; she moves closer and takes a shot. I moan and complain; she says “Just one more”.
Funnily enough, this is how photography sneaked into my life. Little did I know that walking closer to subjects with a camera in my hands was going to be my favourite thing to do and “just one more” will be my most popular sentence ten years on.
Growing up made me realise that what I knew about photography was false. I always thought of ‘photographing’ as a verb and its products as beautiful images to print and hang on a wall. It’s only later, when I finally ended up with a camera in my hand rather than pointing at me, that I finally understood that ‘photographing’ was actually the password to enter a magical world, a parallel reality made of big dreams, colourful games, fantastic characters and delightful illusions.
I fell in love with it there and then. I realised my camera was a medium to create and tell stories with never ending possibilities, and I just couldn’t get enough. When I was nineteen I borrowed my dad’s compact Sony camera for the holidays and I have never been without a camera since. I moved on to the Canon 350D two years later, after saving up for several months during my first year of University, finally entering the world of apertures and interchangeable lenses. I carried it around with me wherever I went, taking pictures of absolutely everything, experimenting, tip toeing into a whole new world I knew very little about.
When I moved to London five and a half years ago, all of the creative impulses I always had grew stronger and stronger by the hour; I felt the need to make more music, to sing louder, to write more, to photograph everything. This city topped up and enhanced the flavour of my creativity like icing on a cake; it was what I had been missing to feel complete at that certain time in my life. With time my passion grew stronger and stronger and so did my knowledge of photography, after all the books read and studied in my little free time after my classes at University.
At first there was a lot of experimentation – I didn’t go straight into fashion. I started by photographing nature, my innate love, wandering around parks and forests all day long looking for the perfect landscape or the smallest detail on the stigma of a flower. When I started feeling more comfortable with my camera, I started shooting portraits too; first of friends, then of models scouted on the streets or on creative networking sites. It was only after a full year of experimentation that my portraits gradually started shifting into fashion, slowly adding elements such as make-up, hair styling and wardrobe styling. I met many of these talented and creative people through networking sites, and we teamed up to create more and more detailed images, and they have all been an extremely important presence in my career, life, and in helping me perfect my photographic skills and vision.
About three years ago I decided it was time. I set up my own website, upgraded my gear to a Canon 5D MarkII, and started my journey with a lot of uncertainty and expectations. Fashion photography was my path – my taste and my vision were telling me so. So off I went.
With time I learnt that to be the best at what I do. It’s important to be clear about what you are doing, and after the first experimentation phase, narrow down style and subjects more and more until the path and your direction in the industry become one- Defined and Unique. This is the hardest thing to see at first and the most precious to learn. It is the best advice I could give to someone wanting to make it in the photography industry and the best advice I could give to myself back then, and even now.
As I started narrowing down, and looking at my images with an external eye to understand which elements were objectively defining my photographic style, to be able to enhance them and refine them as much as possible. Many people can help you with this personal search: editors, agents, clients, friends, colleagues. I took in every single comment, critique, praise and rejection (And I received a lot of all).
It’s been an amazing journey and an intense experience that made me realise I was only scratching the surface with what I knew about fashion photography, and that taught me as much about it as about life, people and egos. I’ve had the pleasure of working for magazines such as Hunger TV, Glassbook, Cielo, Fiercive, Factice, Papercut, Society Marbella and many more, published in countries such as Japan, Spain, Italy, UK and US; and for clients such as Ottoman Hands jewellery, London Guy’s Hospital, The London Beauty Institute, NYX cosmetics, Romero Bryan designs and many more.
I won the Professional Photographer of the Year (PPOTY) and the Early Entry Art Takes Times Square Awards last year, and getting three Honourable Mentions in the International Photography Awards (IPA) this year. Every day starts with checking my emails and this defines how my days and the months ahead will be dictated. It’s a constant adrenalin rush that I wouldn’t change for the world.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and small in such a big, powerful industry, so it’s an important step in your development as a professional photographer. It’s not as simple a career as people may think and feeling that thing at the bottom of your stomach reminds you of the need to express your creative vision and makes you want to do better every day, and show the people who thought you couldn’t make it what you’re actually made of. Professional photography can be an extremely exciting and rewarding job, but it involves a lot of initial sacrifice and will power. Keep this in mind and start walking your path. Never let a ‘no’ be the end of your road and you will end up in a beautiful, colourful place you’ve never been before but always dreamed of.
By Rossella Vanon
For more information on Rossella’s Work, please visit the following pages:
All images published are owned and copyrighted by Rossella Vanon