Photographers’ Salaries at Risk?

Posted on: March 31st, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

The NY Times recently published an article about how hard it is to make a living as a photographer. It’s essentially a tour guide through the largest blows to the photography industry over the past several years:

1. The surge in quality stock photography and microstock. According to the article: “In 2005, Getty Images licensed 1.4 million preshot commercial photos. Last year, it licensed 22 million.”

2. Cheap and readily available digital photography equipment resulted in a lower barrier to enter the industry. This created more competition and made it easier for clients to pay less for assignment photography.

3. The decline of the print media industry means less money for editorial assignments and less demand for print ads. According to the Times: “In 2000, the magazines measured by Publishers Information Bureau, a trade group, had 286,932 ad pages. In 2009, there were 169,218 — a decline of 41 percent. ”

There is no denying the facts, on paper things have gotten harder for photographers over the last few years. Editorial and commercial photographers are completely dependent on the media and advertising business; businesses that are struggling right now. To use a familiar analogy we’re like a school of fish in a pond and we need the water to survive. The turmoil in our industry has started to dry up the pond while at the same time more fish are added each day. That’s not a good scenario for the fish.

Some of the weaker fish might have to find new ponds to swim in (i.e. find a new career) and some of them may evolve (i.e. move to motion or other visual industries) BUT hope should not be lost, even if the pond doesn’t grow there will always be a large audience for still photography. It’s a unique medium and a fantastic way to tell stories, sell products and change people’s perception about the world. It’s not going to disappear.

PLUS there are some welcome rainclouds on the horizon.

First off, new ways of consuming media like the iPad and future incarnations of similar technologies have a good chance at pumping new life into media and advertising. Second, this is still the Wild West of online media. Newspapers and magazines have time to figure out a way to make up for revenues lost from the decline of print. Lastly, and most importantly, talent and business savvy will always prevail. Whatever pond you’re in, large or small, there will always be a pond and there will always be room for the best. Hopefully that’s you.

Sneak Peek: Photoshop CS5

Posted on: March 29th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

Photoshop CS5 is launching on April 12th and if you haven’t already seen the video calmly presenting the  new features (as I was falling off my chair) then you need to take a look right now. The most impressive feature is called Content Aware Fill but as far as I’m concerned though they could have simply called it Magic.

Design Shack has a detailed rundown of the many other features in CS5 if you want to find out more.Thanks Devon Banks for the heads up.

Massimo Vitali Interview

Posted on: March 24th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

The blog has been a little dry over the last few days so to whet your appetite I’ve found a great interview with photographer Massimo Vitali over on Joerg Colberg’s Conscientious blog.

Massimo Vitali InterviewI’m always  intrigued by the career paths of photographers and was interested to find out on Vitali’s website that he started out as a photojournalist in 1979 and went on to become a director of photography in fiction and advertising films about ten years later. He’s only been creating the fine art photography that most people associate him with for about half his career.

My favorite piece of the interview is this insight by Vitali: “I think photography, even when it became part of contemporary art, never ceased, to some extent, to be a social commentary. Photography is like a river with a thousand streams that never converge. They go in the same direction, flowing alongside but separately.”

Top Ads of 2009

Posted on: March 15th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

AdAge SlideshowOver 16,000 print ads from 2009 were recently shown to a selection of young men and women by the research company MRI Starch Communications. The group was asked to rate which ads caught their attention. The results: eleven ad categories with a couple of top picks in each.

The good news is the ads were photography heavy; lots of visuals to help communicate the brand message. Surprising, however, was the pedestrian feel of the photography in some of these ads (not to knock anyone who worked on these, they’re clearly effective according to this research, but photographically they’re not ground breaking). This was a contest of eyeballs, not creativity, but as photographers and creatives we are exposed to so much fantastic work and it’s frustrating to not see any of that in this selection.

To see the 20+ attention grabbing images check out this AdAge piece. You might not be creatively inspired but at least you’ll know what opens peoples’ wallets.

The Move to Motion

Posted on: March 9th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

Shooting motion has become the new it topic in the last two years. It used to be ‘film versus digital’ and now it’s ‘stills versus motion.’ Opinions about where the still and motion industries are headed and if/how/why still photographers should learn to shoot motion run the gamut. One thing’s for sure though, there are a lot of questions. I wanted to get some answers.

Liane Thomas is an executive producer at the Toronto based commercial production company Sons & Daughters. They represent nine very talented directors (including F STOP’s very own Mark Zibert who shoots both stills and motion) who shoot top-notch television commercials and online projects. I recently interviewed Thomas about topics I thought still photographers would want to know about motion: what equipment is used, what the fees are, how to transition from stills to motion, what strengths still photographers offer and what skills they need to learn.

A few fantastic commercials from the Sons & Daughters’ portfolio along with our detailed interview follow below. Please note that frequently when still shooters make the move to commercial motion they take on the title of Director; hence the constant talk of what Directors think and do.

Seckler: How has the your industry changed in the last couple of years?

Thomas:  Our business is strictly commercials, we do a ton of advertising so the shift has been towards the digital age and doing more online stuff. We’ve been forced to look at new technology and new camera equipment. We shoot less and less on 35mm film. We are really into the Red and the Phantom and all these new cameras, this new technology. Although the 30 second format hasn’t changed that much, a lot of the technology has.

Seckler: Does a director’s fee go down substantially if they’re working on an online project versus a television spot?

Thomas: One of my directors put it like this  “they are commercials with no money”. I think the industry is in transition right now and I feel that everybody is trying to figure it out. I think that there has been a lot of misconceptions in what shooting for the internet is really all about and what it really costs. And I think our job is to help educate our clients about how to do it and do it well. Anybody can strap a camera on their head and go do some YouTube type thing but I think that’s quite limited in terms of watchability and in terms of communication. I think there’s so much more you can do and I think as long as we work closely with our clients and the agencies we can grow that medium into something that is actually quite interesting and exciting.

Seckler: Are directors less interested in doing online work because there’s less money?

Thomas: No they sometimes are more interested because creatively you have so much more freedom. You don’t have the rules and restrictions of the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission) there are a lot of rules and regulations in North America television.

Seckler: So directors are okay with the movement towards online productions?

Thomas: Totally. I think we’d all like to figure out a positive business model around it because realistically we can’t do what we do for nothing because no one would be open anymore. I think we are all hoping for a model that works and I think it is a matter of time. We are all transitioning into this new world and it’s about education and working closely with people and people seeing positive results and people wanting to put more funding towards doing it.

Seckler: Can you give me an idea of what directors would get in fees for doing a television spot versus an online piece.

Thomas: It depends on the budget that comes to us. Canadian directors are usually somewhere between ten and fifteen thousand dollars a day Canadian [for television spots]. We are doing some higher priced online stuff right now and the director is getting his fee. We like to align the right type of guy to the new media stuff so he is going to get his full rate. There are a lot of great guys that have lower fees and they are more appropriate to do the online rough and tumbly type stuff.

Seckler: HDDSLR (High Definition Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras are all the craze right now, do any of your directors use them?

Thomas: We own a Canon 7D and we use the Red a lot and a lot of our guys love using the Phantom. So those are kind of the predominate cameras we are floating around but there is some new stuff coming out, it is ever changing. We look with both visual and performance based directors so all of them have different needs and different interests. Obviously it is more of the visual guys that tend to want to work through new technology and test out what’s going on out there. The performance comedy guys are really more into the performance and the actors.

Seckler: With cameras like the 7D coming out, which are so affordable and available to the masses, how has that impacted the industry?

Thomas: It is allowing them to think about new ways to shoot. It is exciting. It is just another option to us. I think creatively if the 7D or the new cameras are relevant then we will apply them. But we are not changing the way we do business because of these new cameras.

Seckler: So ad agencies aren’t saying ‘well you’re able to use this cheaper equipment, why don’t we bring down your fees now?’

Thomas: No it’s amazing. What it has done is open up new creative opportunities.

Seckler: That’s fantastic, what kind of creative opportunities?

Thomas: For example there was a really interesting spot that we quoted which was sort of from an interesting perspective, taking a bunch of stills on a road trip. Often times when we want to use something other than film cameras, clients get a little nervous because they aren’t used to it. But creatively this job lent itself beautifully to the Canon 5D Mark II and we pitched it and they loved the idea and we got to use that camera. So it’s allowing us to create a different look for a creative spot if it needs it.

Seckler: Have you seen many people the move from still photography to motion?

Thomas: I have worked with a few successful ones, one of them of course being Mark Zibert I have also spoken with quite a few others who I think have a ton of potential but haven’t quite made the leap yet. I find it is a very exciting transition.

Seckler: Tell me about making the leap.

Thomas: This business, and I am sure it is the same in the stills industry, is a lot about who you know, not always about what you know. I think knowing people in the advertising agencies, which a lot of these still photographers know, is the first step. A lot of these photographers are suppliers to agencies for their stills work so they form a great relationship, there’s a trust there and they work quite closely together. What tends to happen is there might be a commercial that might have a stills component and the creative has enough confidence to say ‘I would like to give you a shot.’ Usually they are going to be called upon for a spot that has a more visual stylistic spread. A stills photographer brings a very unique visual perspective which sometimes a motion guy doesn’t. A motion guy often thinks about pacing, thinks about performance, thinks about other things, while a stills guy is really a lot about framing, lighting, techniques, lenses. They come to the party with a really strong visual language that sometimes the other motion guys don’t have.[For still photographers who] come from more editorial and art backgrounds, it is sometimes harder for them to know the language of advertising. I have met with some great artistic photographers and the transition is way harder because it is much more of a challenge for them to understand the needs of advertising. They might have an amazing look but they don’t know how to sell that product at the end of the day.

Seckler: What advice do you have for still photographers who specialize in non-commercial genres?

Thomas: Go take an acting class. In moving pictures you’ve got to know how to move your talent. You have actors, people, and oftentimes, the number one thing I find is you have to know how to work with actors. I think [non-commercial still photographers] do get some experience with that but when you are creating moving pictures, you have to carry an emotion, a conversation, you have to know how to motivate your actors to give you the performance that  you need.

If you take an acting class you are going to better understand what you need to do to get your actor to perform. Even if it’s just a spot with a girl walking down the beach…she’s not just a prop anymore she’s a person, you have to carry the commercial with what she’s doing and what she’s thinking, and saying. It’s this element that still photographers don’t have a ton of experience with. I am not saying when they are doing a stills spot they are not talking to their subjects and motivating them but it’s sustaining that.

Seckler: What suggestions do you have for still photographers who want to build a commercial reel?

Thomas: When you look through a lens you have a point of view. Carry that point of view into motion, that is what people are going to want you for. If you already have a strong portfolio in stills, chances are you’re getting hired a lot and that’s a perfect calling card for these other people that will hire you.

Seckler: How did the directors that you represent start out?

Thomas: One guy came from being a very successful editor, another was a creative art director, another guy was a very successful stills photographer for advertising agencies, another guys’ mother was in the agency [world] and he was a treatment writer. You have to work in the business I guess.

Seckler: So what do these directors do on their first one or two projects that gets them repeat business and ultimately helps them become a successful director?

Thomas: They have a distinct point of view. They can work within the limitations and expectations of the client. They understand the art of advertising. We want to make something that looks really neat or has a different perspective to it, but at the end of the day we still understand we are making a thirty second spot. They want someone who will bring a unique perspective to their project, bring their script to life but understand they are still working within the [commercial] framework that has been established for many many years.

Seckler: As online media is consumed at an ever-growing pace where do you see motion content going in the next few years?

Thomas: I like to think it is going to be the good old television that’s going to dominate, because that’s my main business. I think quality is going to go up. I don’t think the homemade type of video is going to sustain people’s interest forever. I think people will always look for something that is going to stimulate them. I think with the onset of 3D TV the bar will be set quite high in terms of things looking good. [In the online world] things will improve tremendously. Things are going to start looking better and streaming better, and sounding better. I think we will be bombarded by visual stimulation all the time, the phone, billboards, who knows.

For stills photographers this is your time. You guys know how to make things look good. It is about coming to the table with a different perspective on visual style.

PDN’s 30 Announced

Posted on: March 5th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

The thirty coveted spots that many emerging photographers dream of occupying have been filled.

PDN’s 30 have been announced!

Congrats to the chosen few:

Levi Brown
Alejandro Cartagena
Scott Conarroe
Sumit Dayal
Clémence de Limburg
Gratiane de Moustier
Danfung Dennis
Lauren Dukoff
Matt Eich
Matthieu Gafsou
Marcelo Gomes
Deborah Hamon
Estelle Hanania
Ben Hoffmann
Sohrab Hura
Wayne Lawrence
Brent Lewin
Eman Mohammed
Adrian Mueller
Nick Onken
Alex Prager
Thomas Prior
Ben Roberts
Anna Skladmann
Andy Spyra
Gabriele Stabile
Peter van Agtmael
Elizabeth Weinberg
Yang Yi
Reed Young

Jim Fiscus Interview

Posted on: March 2nd, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

Photographer Jim Fiscus is famous. But he’s not famous for doing interviews.Jim Fiscus Interview on Stockland Martel Blog

So when I came across a fresh Fiscus interview on the Stockland Martel blog I naturally became very excited. Stockland Martel is inviting students from it’s represented photographers’ alma maters to interview them for their blog. It’s a fun idea and the results in this interview are definitely worth a read.

My favorite part of the interview was his answer to the question “What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?”

Fiscus replied “Learn business skills. Outwork your competitors. Take risks, and be willing to fail. Have fun. Don’t take a camera on vacation. Make sure you have goals. More importantly, pause to feel good when you have achieved a goal. It’s easy to keep resetting the goals and living in the future.”

If you’re hungry for more here’s another Jim Fiscus interview previously published in Communication Arts.

 

 

 

 

Saverio Truglia

Posted on: March 1st, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

Written by Zack Seckler
Edited by Joann Jovinelly
Featured image Yellow Bird and the Snake

Clients ranging from McDonalds to Rolling Stone seek out Chicago based photographer Saverio Truglia for his distinctive brand of ironic and often dark sense of humour. His signature images include a cow standing in a grocery store aisle stocked with ground beef and an open casket funeral displaying only the fashionable shoes of the deceased. Truglia’s imaginative humour along with a penchant for creative problem solving have been fruitful, winning him many awards and a long list of repeat clients.

His problem solving skills are particularly apparent in our featured image of an innocent young girl lying in her bedroom next to an ominous looking snake. The image, a self-promotional work created for marketing purposes, is deceiving. It appears to be a well-executed location shoot but was actually shot in Truglia’s studio following a week of production. One could imagine doing this for a deep-pocketed commercial client but Truglia pulled it off on a shoestring budget of only $1500.

In our interview Truglia starts out by revealing all the details of creating the featured image; covering everything from production to lighting. We then learn all about his marketing strategies, his creative process and his advice for young photographers.

Seckler: Please explain how you came up with the idea for our featured image – your self-assigned image titled Yellow Bird and the Snake?Behind-the-scenes on Saverio Truglia’s shoot

Truglia: I had been working on a series of pictures about kids. I wanted to make a picture about a young girl on the verge of adolescence and toying with something dangerous. I had an idea of a girl on the floor of a bedroom with a snake. The inspiration for the details came from different places. I was inspired by the idea of recreating a tiny kid’s room in an attic with slanted walls. The photo was taken on a set that I designed and built.

Seckler: This image involves many expensive elements: custom-built set, set design, exotic wildlife, talent, etc. and you were paying for it all out-of-pocket. How did you bring this together on a limited budget?

Truglia: I started by painting with a really big brush, trying to put the bigger pieces together, like the set and talent. I’ll often look for talent on Flickr by searching with keywords to get ideBehind-the-scenes on Saverio Truglia’s shootas. I found a series of self-portraits of a young girl who photographed herself in abandoned spaces like old warehouses and broken down apartments, looking innocent and all sprawled out on the floor. I sent the images to Angela Finney, a prop and wardrobe stylist I work with in Chicago. I explained that they represented the kind of spaces I wanted to recreate, especially the lighting, and we discussed it. Meanwhile, I kept going back to the girl’s Flickr page, thinking, ‘Wow, photographing this girl would be great. She’s probably in her early twenties, but she looks like she’s twelve, and I can direct her into something that’s a little sexual without it being totally inappropriate.’ I learned that she lived in Chicago and wrote to ask if she would consider being in my photo. She said she’d do it.

The set was built in my own studio. I made some drawings for my set builder. He combined those ideas with wall pieces that I owned and wall pieces that he fabricated to make the diagonals. It was assembled in one day. Angela, my stylist, brought a window that she had owned and we addBehind-the-scenes on Saverio Truglia’s shooted it. Styling the set took three days. We thought about who the girl was and what her hobbies were, how old she was, what time of day it was, and the overall color pallet.

[Next] I needed a snake, so I found the Chicago Herpetological Society, which is a group that handles reptiles. The next day I got an email that included seven or eight photos of snakes. I requested several, a yellow albino snake and two different Pythons. I didn’t know how the girl was going to deal with the snakes. I had told her she was going to be photographed with a snake, but I didn’t provide details. Fortunately, she was comfortable.

Seckler: Tell me about the lighting…

Truglia: My plan was to make a warm sunlit room, so I chose to use as few lights as possible.  When you’re shooting in the sun there’s only one sun. You often don’t need more than one light. I used a pair of Speedotron 2400 Ws packs powering a quad tube head with an 11” reflector and a layer of ½ Atlantic frost, set 11’ feet from the subject and 11’ high. This served as my sun.  I pointed it through the window to cast a patch of light on the floor and project natural shadows around the room. We used several 4’ x 8’ white bounce cards off set Behind-the-scenes on Saverio Truglia’s shootto reflect this light back onto set and open the shadows as a small room would.  The only other lights were one coming from camera right bouncing into a white v-flat.  This light was another Speedotron 2400 Ws pack and a single 202 VF head and standard 7” reflector. A Speedotron 1200 pack with a 20” x 24” Photoflex soft box was outside the window illuminating the fake tree and a small white flat. There was a tiny Morris slave light gelled pink in the clip lamp you see above the aquarium illuminating the alligator. This was the little guy’s “heat lamp”.

The exposures were 1/125 @ f8 on a Canon 1Ds Mark III using a Canon EF35mm f 1.4L USM lens. The only significant plate I used was a nice bright patch of sunlight from a clean plate exposed a stop brighter than my main plate.  Retouching was relatively simple and consisted of manipulating color and I did it myself. Since we built the set so specifically there was nothing I wanted to dramatically alter in post.

I shot 300 or 400 frames [during the shoot]. The snake kept changing positions. Eventually it stayed still and I could reposition it safely. Snakes are like lumps of meat—you can pose them however you want.

Seckler: In the end how much did this all cost?An image from Saverio Truglia’s portfolio

Truglia: [The budget for this shoot] was about $1,500, which included building the set, paying a donation to the Chicago Herpetological Society, buying lunch, plus a little honorarium I gave to the talent It takes a lot of begging, borrowing and stealing to bring everything together.

Seckler: Was the photo meant to be self-promotional or something that you wanted to do creatively?

Truglia: It was self-promotional. Usually, even if I do something great for a client, there is always a lot of lag time before I can use it. When I take photographs, I like to think that I set out to make pictures that haven’t been made before, which is the ongoing exercise. I wanted to recreate, in a technical sense, a simple lighting situation that wasn’t going to hem me in creatively.

I also think about what I’m telling the market. What do my images reveal about me as a photographer? In this case, I wanted to make a picture that didn’t look like the lighting was laboured; I didn’t want it to look artificial. I guess it’s a response to a lot of the work I see in the world—I unconsciously made a decision to go against that.

Seckler: You created this self-promotional image been successful for you?

Truglia: I shot it in the spring of 2009 and used it in a promotional poster. It has become one of the images to which people, even non-professionals, most refer. I think something about animals and children resonates with most people.An image from Saverio Truglia’s portfolio

Seckler: Where do you market your work?

Truglia: Even when I’m not shooting there’s always some promotional effort going on in the background. It could in the places where I pay to advertise, such as At-Edge.com, workbook.com, and wonderfulmachine.com.

Seckler:  How valuable is that paid advertising for you?

Truglia: That’s the million-dollar question that I cannot answer. Art directors who want to work with you won’t tell you how they found you. If you’re chosen to work with somebody it’s probably because they saw your images or heard or read your name repeatedly—multiple references to you or your work that happened in unison. Maybe they’ve read your name in a blog or maybe they saw your image in Archive. Eventually those media references reach a critical mass. Getting hired is never from one reference. No one has ever told me they hired me because they saw my image in At-Edge. If a photographer is chosen because his or her work appeared in one place, art directors still won’t trust you. They need to see your work in lots of spaces.

Seckler: Why do you think that is?

Truglia: The market is saturated with talented photographers. Art directors want to work with people who are most committed to their craft. I don’t think that photographs occur to art directors any differently than Pepsi occurs to a consumer. Why do you think MacDonald’s needs to continue to advertise? They need to keep on advertising or their sales would drop off sharply. As a photographer, you have to be everywhere. Whenever possible, you have to be on art directors’ minds, which is probably the greatest challenge. There are just so many good photographers.

Seckler: What else do you do to promote your work, aside from advertising?An image from Saverio Truglia’s portfolio

Truglia: There’s my website, which changes every couple of years. The website I’m currently using is two-years-old. It will be completely replaced by May 2010; I’m already working on a new one with a different design, look and feel from the current site.

I meet a lot of young photographers who are active in Chicago, including in the art and trade schools and the trade groups, like the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and the Advertising Photographers of America (APA). I always tell them this business is about photography. It’s about being an artist, but it’s a battle of perception—trying to win the battle of perception. There are a lot of talented photographers who go unnoticed because they didn’t win that battle of perception, which has everything to do with marketing—how your work shows up or how often it is seen. It has everything to do with your Facebook postings. You have to build your profile. We all have a public face that must be maintained.

Seckler: How do you use Facebook to market your work?

Truglia: Facebook is just a supplementary place for marketing. I use Facebook as a business tool. I communicate with friends, but I keep those conversations offline. If you read my wall posts, they all have something to do with my business. Sometimes I use Facebook more than I use my actual blog, which is yet another outlet for marketing, such as posting videos or behind-the-scenes photos.

Seckler: Do you do any other direct self-promotion?An image from Saverio Truglia’s portfolio

Truglia: Books are still important, though I think they are less relevant today. I made five copies of my last book. For a short while there they were all circulating, but nowadays I can’t remember the last job I got where they called in my book. Repeat clients don’t need it. Book requests sometimes come from new clients who want to be involved in choosing a photographer.

Seckler: When did you notice that people stopped calling in your books?

Truglia: It stopped two years ago, shortly after I made some bound books. Now I don’t invest a lot of time and money into revamping bound books. I keep one book up to date; if I make a new picture I will print it and put it in there. Bound books are useful only for a limited time.

Seckler: What I love most about your photography are your clever, unique ideas. Can you describe your creative process?

Truglia: Usually, when I get the inclination to make an image for a personal project or a get a layout or concept from a creative, I try and disconnect my brain and my heart so for a moment so I am free. I push the concept as far as I can go with it—even into the realm of the absurd. I learned how valuable it is to push your ideas beyond practical reality so that when you come back and settle on something it’s already out of your safety zone. I consider where am I most comfortable making a picture, how comfortable I am while directing that talent, how am I explaining the concept to people. Some people don’t pitch risky ideas because they won’t actually go through with them. I push myself to the point where I am uncomfortable with the whole undertaking.An image from Saverio Truglia’s portfolio

Seckler: A situation where you know you’re challenging yourself…

Truglia: Yes. I like to challenge myself. For example, I shot this cover of a magazine last week and I had to replicate a Playboy cover. In the end I wanted to create a picture of a pin-up girl holding a stack of books. It was a story about a librarian who collects Playboys. We were doing this conceptual picture of a bookish girl, which they ended up not using because the headline changed. But the situation put me in a place of discomfort—like the Snake picture was a little uncomfortable—because I didn’t know what the snake was going to do. For that reason it was like a logistical discomfort. I knew I had to give up some control and that’s when good stuff happens. I prefer situations where I can potentially lose control.

Seckler: How did you get started as a photographer? How did you break in?

Truglia: I went to college at Mass Art in Boston from 1990 to 1994 where I studied photography. I originally became interested in photography by an exhibit, Polaroid 20 x 24 Portraits. Up until that point I was a graphic design major. I immediately changed my major to photography. In 1995, I moved to Chicago because I had friends living here. I was 23, and I started working at an art gallery photographing art. Years later, I worked at another art gallery, a very blue chip gallery, where I photographed Picasso’s and such. That exposure launched my first business—photographing artists’ sculpture and paintings. Although I was earning money, the work was tedious.An image from Saverio Truglia’s portfolio

I almost gave up photography completely until I reinvestigated what I was photographing in college. I had always made portraits, so I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I had been experimenting all along with a Polaroid. I always had a camera with me, but I never took it seriously. I threw together portfolios, made postcards and sent them out, and a couple of them hit. My career started in 1999 when I started doing editorial work. By 2004, I landed my first advertising job.

Seckler: What were those first four years like? I think people always wonder about those “in-between” years…

Truglia: Fortunately I didn’t assist anybody, because if had I, I’d probably would have given up on photography. I would have realized early on how hard the job was and would have been dissuaded from pursuing it. I had to figure out everything I needed to learn from first-hand experience. I spent a lot of time with Vanity Fair looking through the eyes of Annie Leibovitz, trying to figure out how she might have lit something.

Seckler: So you did a lot of self-teaching?An image from Saverio Truglia’s portfolio

Truglia: I bought a digital camera and started using it exclusively. You can teach yourself much faster with a digital because you have an immediate response to your technique. Digital photography has made me a better photographer, because what used to be a risk—like moving a light somewhere or bouncing it off something—was no longer risky.

Seckler: You started out in fine arts and ended up doing largely commercial work. Are you still interested in fine art photography?

Truglia: I don’t participate in that world. If I make a picture for myself it’s always a picture that I think could hang in a gallery, like the picture of the snake. That’s the sort of image I would make if I were to remove the commercial aim from my work. That image interests me as an artist. My personal work would not be a radical departure from my commercial portfolio. I try and have my photography be all one thing, a reflection of who I am.