© Lindsay Adler, Eyes
Lindsay Adler is a professional portrait and fashion photographer based in New York City, and a member of PhotoShelter, the leader in portfolio websites, photo sales, marketing and archiving tools for photographers.
Lindsay's editorial work has appeared in numerous fashion and photography publications internationally including Noise, Bullett Magazine, Essence, Zink Magazine, Rangefinder and dozens more. We spoke to her about finding her style and understanding that rejection is not failure.
Let's talk about style: your work is bold and clean, but often graphic and complicated as well. How long did it take you to become comfortable with your own style of photography?
Some people find their style by creating an artist’s statement. Others find a style by long reflection on the work of others, or inner reflection about their own emotions and goals.
I found my own style by reflecting upon my own work and strengths. After several years of shooting fashion, I realised that my favourite images started to have similar visual elements. They had a similar colour palette, bold and clean compositions, and attention-grabbing subject matter. I wanted to have a more cohesive style so I began to analyse the strengths and features of the images I was most attached to in my portfolio. As I determined their similarities, I began to give myself assignments to further these strengths and build a portfolio around them. I’ve been shooting for 15 years, and it took me about 10 - 11 years to really start to find my style.
Have you always known the type of imagery you wanted to create?
It was a very long road to the type of photography I shoot today. I began in my teenage years shooting nature and landscapes. I appreciated the ability to capture beauty in nature. Then, I dabbled in photojournalism, because I loved the ability of photography to tell stories and record history. Eventually I started shooting portraits and eventually discovered fashion photography.
Even once I discovered my passion for envisioning beauty and bringing it to life, I didn’t know what type of beauty I wanted to create. I’ve been shooting fashion in NYC for more than 5 years now and slowly my style emerged.
You work with top-end clients, producing look books, accessory lines, hair campaigns, cosmetic campaigns, television series promos and more - talk us through the process of balancing client briefs with your own creative vision
Working with clients is always a back and forth. It isn’t a power struggle like a tug of war. We are building something together and like any building we need a strong foundation - a strong concept to build upon. Once the initial goals and brief is established, then we can start bouncing ideas off one another, analysing potential approaches, and deciding what is the best fit between the clients brand, my vision, and the target audience. Once the overall concept has been decided upon, then I can start getting even more creative. I can put my own style and twist on the images because usually that's why they hired me!
You have attributed your success to your parents never suggesting that you ‘get a real job’ and encouraging you to pursue photography - what advice do you find yourself giving most to young graduates?
As artists, our work is a reflection of ourselves. We put pieces or all of ourselves into our work. That is why rejection feels so debilitating to many of us artists. When we hear critique, criticism or rejection all we often feel like failures. At least that is how many of us feel, particularly as we start our journey as artists. I know I used to feel this way, and at times that tinge of rejection is still painful to bare.
Early on in my career I heard some brutal criticism of my work. I would regularly send my shoots to 200 magazines and not get a single acceptance of my images. In fact, I had worked professionally as a photographer for years when one editor told me that every image in my portfolio should be scrapped as garbage. Rejection felt like failure. Even more than a dozen years into my career I still get brutal critiques and have my work turned down by major companies. This rejection used to feel crippling.
One thing I have learned in my years of photography is that rejection is not failure, and the way to hurt your career the most is to let rejection hold you back from sharing your work or prevent you from producing with all your heart and soul.
I found there are many reasons I have been rejected. Perhaps my work didn't fit with that particular client. Or maybe it just wasn't the 'right time' and the company wasn't looking to work with a new photographer. Or maybe, my work actually was weak and I have a great deal of room for improvement. Negative feedback shouldn't destroy us or tear us down, but instead help us find ways to build up and be stronger.
Pay attention to where the criticism or rejection is coming from. Sometimes it is by the cruel of heart, knowing it will hurt you. Others are from experts simply trying to help you grow. Learn that rejection is just part of being an artist and a professional, and don't let it cloud your mind. Even the most successful artists in history have been rejected, often. Their resilience is why we know them today.
The more you put your work out there, the more opportunities you will be creating for yourself. Even if your work is exquisite, opportunities don't come knocking at the door. People don't beg to hire you. You have to create the demand, you have to get your work in front of more eyes to create more opportunities. The more you share your work, the more you will come across rejection, but at the same time you are creating more opportunities. You create your 'lucky break' by pushing past the pain of rejection until you find those prize opportunities that change your career. Rejection isn't failure, so don't allow rejection to force you to fail.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
I don’t necessarily have a photographic philosophy but I definitely have a life philosophy: Don’t work in order to eventually do what you love. Do what you love and really work at it.
What’s next for you? Can you tell us about a future project or shoot?
One great aspect of my life is that I always have so many diverse things going on. They keep me emotionally and creatively stimulated!
The next big project I have on the horizon is an educational tutorial video. I show photographers what it takes to put together a great fashion shoot - concept, styling, location and post processing. Then I demonstrate how these same techniques can be used for any portrait photographer to create really WOW imagery. I call this “Fashion Flair” for portrait and wedding photography. I’ve been pouring my heart and creativity into these tutorials that come out July 1st! Teaching, shooting and creativity are my passions in life - and this project combines them all.