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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Biggest Shoot Of Your Life

For a young professional, building your book is a daunting task. Here’s how Rachel Whaley, a 21-year-old, California-based professional, planned and executed a high-concept, multiday spec shoot.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

There are many differences between the way a professional photographer works and the way an amateur works, but the biggest of them can be callously summed up by money because quality costs money. Professional talent costs money, location scouting costs money, crew and stylists cost money. It takes a considerable sum to finance a professional shoot, but Rachel Whaley recently pulled off a large-scale fashion shoot without spending much and without cutting corners on quality. Here's how she did it.

Whaley had long dreamed about shooting fashion in the desert. At 21, just a year out of school, she had been good about giving herself assignments to build her portfolio and garner interest. In April 2011, she decided to make the leap and attempt the large-scale desert shoot she had been dreaming of.

"It's definitely always my intention to go above and beyond what I did on my last shoot," says Whaley. "What was special about this shoot was I had to get a whole crew of people up to the Salton Sea, which is three hours away. I had to work with a fashion designer—he was on the TV show Project Runway—and I was also working with a stylist. It was really exciting because I've always wanted to do a photo shoot in the desert, but I wanted to wait until it was something that I was really passionate about."

Passion is a big part of Whaley's work. In fact, it may be her biggest asset. It was a passion for photography that led her to study at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., and a passion to get out and start her career that led her to leave early. Once she felt she had enough training to perform like a pro, she couldn't wait to begin. So she didn't wait.

"Even when I was at Art Center," Whaley says, "I was already in the mind state that I was a professional. I feel like they trained me to think and work like a professional. Even though I'm so young and people might view me as a student, I'm still a professional and I know what I'm doing. I'm never doing my work as a student. In school, most people are trying to figure out what they're doing and not as secure about their vision and about their personal style. I'm very lucky in the sense that I went into school and decided that fashion was the route that I was going to take. So I just took it, and I'm going—I'm running."

Knowing what you want to do is a crucial first step. It provides direction, a goal—whether you're building a single shoot or a career. With the goal set, it's all about determining the best path to get you there.

For Whaley's career, that path started at Art Center and accelerated when she left to become a professional freelancer. She began giving herself assignments to build her portfolio, and when it came time for the ambitious desert shoot, it was just another of these personal projects on a larger scale.


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