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Los Angeles Fitness Photographer Natalie Minh is An award-winning, internationally published photographer. Her images have appeared in global advertising campaigns and the NYC Times Square billboard, model portfolios throughout well known European and American modeling agencies, and national American television shows such as TMZ, Access Hollywood, Celebrity Rehab and E! Total Divas. Publications include Newsweek, FLEX (USA), Muscular Development, Oxygen (North America), Muscle & Fitness Hers (USA), IronMan (USA), BODY (Sweden), Ultra Fit (UK), World Physique (USA), Physique (Dubai), Marathon Muscle (USA), Inside Fitness (Canada), Muscle Insider (Canada), Status Fitness Magazine (Canada), MMA Uncaged, Glamfit Magazine, Mind Body and Soul, Glam Today, Reps Magz, Max Sports and Fitness, Fit and Firm, Extra Fit Magazine, etc.
Her areas of expertise are in the genres of fashion, beauty, glamour fitness, editorial, commercial and model portfolio development. Natalie is the Author of The Insider’s Guide to the Business of Fitness Modeling and owner of fitness multimedia company Natalie Minh Interactive. She is also a Model & Fitness USA President, 3x European physique champion, celebrity judge, fitness cover model, business consultant, and runs Natalie Minh Lifestyle Magazine, an online destination for fitness, diet, photography, modeling, music, and travel. In 2011, Natalie was awarded 2011 FMI Female Talent of the Year by Fitness Model International founders Gary Augustine Warren and legendary Fitness Model Clark Bartram. She was also named 2011 Multi-Talented Female of the Year by Joe Pavlik, Editor-in-Chief of Marathon Muscle Magazine.
Every photographer begins somewhere. What inspired you to become a photographer and when did this journey begin?
NM: In 2007, I started off as an agency fitness model, living in Europe… problem was that a fitness model market didn’t really exist like it did in the States. However, I thoroughly enjoyed shooting with all types of photographers: fashion, glamour, commercial, and learned the craft from the front of the camera.
Over time, I chose to begin my journey as a photographer so that I could execute the ideas that I had in my mind and meld my version of beauty with fitness aesthetics. I looked up the photography programs at top creative universities, bought all of the classroom books, and self-studied to master the field. In addition, I was lucky to be able to leverage my industry relationships and mentor under professional European photographers, where I learned Parisian fashion/beauty retouching, Italian glamour lighting, Belgian advertorial and commercial style. Then one day, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my photography career full time and the rest is history.
Many photographers choose a style of photography that appeals to them the most for their specialty. How did you determine your area of specialty or do you see yourself as more of a generalist?
NM: Definitely not a generalist, I couldn’t take a picture of an inanimate object if my life depended on it ☺. I gravitate most to fitness commercial photography, due to my inner desire of always wanting commercially viable images during my time as a fitness model. I also enjoy shooting fashion, commercial, beauty and editorial.
What type of photography do you enjoy shooting the most?
NM: My favorite is shooting fitness models in a fashion style. I feel that is the ultimate expression of beauty – perfect, fit bodies in glamorous locations with mind-blowing fashion. The commercial industry hasn’t really combined these two styles much yet though, hopefully we will see the fusion much more in the future.
I have been told that as an artist, it’s important to choose a style of photography that I am passionate about for my personal benefit, but that there may be a more suitable brand that I should consider in order to ensure a consistent flow of income. How important is personal work to you in a portfolio? How should a young photographer develop and show their portfolio?
NM: Yes indeed, I agree with that advice. Also too you may learn that your passion evolves over time. If you are constantly shooting your passion over and over, over time you’ll probably start to want to explore something different every once in a while just to mix things up.
It’s a beautiful thing to be able to pursue a creative career, but it will not be an easy journey. You must quickly figure out where can you make your desired income within your niche before you become a statistic.
Artists have to develop a marketing brand in order for them to grow their business. What methods of marketing have you used and what have you found to be the most effective?
NM: This is a great question. The most important thing that you can do is establish a very strong online presence and network with the market makers in your niche. For me, that meant trying to dominate on all social media platforms and have an up to date website, update everything daily or as close as you possibly can to that, complete as many online interviews as you can, submit suitable images to all of the relevant magazines, be dominant at expos, conferences, and industry gatherings alike. Collect every testimonial that you can along the way and post prominently, everywhere.
When I came to LA, I was an unknown, but within a year I was a recognized name within the city due to my relentless marketing, networking, and pursuit of excellence within my photography career.
Not every assignment will be ideal for every photographer. Have you ever turned down assignments? If so, why?
NM: Yes, I’ve turned down jobs that I didn’t want to do but this was once I got to the point where the money wasn’t a deciding factor. I’ve shot weddings to experience what it was like but it is not my passion, therefore I turn down all wedding inquiries. Also too I’ve turned down jobs based on budget. Other jobs I took because I loved the concept so much that I would do it for free. The beauty of being a creative ☺
Pricing a job is one of the biggest items in regard to developing a business model that I have struggled with. How should young or inexperienced photographers determine how to price themselves to win jobs but not undermine the pricing structure of the market?
NM: I couldn’t explain it better than this infographic.
Ensuring both the client and the artist are being held to equal standard and fairness, what contracts of forms do you consider essential in transactions with clients?
NM: I work with model releases, itemized invoices with Usage License details embedded into the Terms & Conditions, and a very well documented email trail.
First impressions are of the utmost importance. When meeting with a client, where will you meet them for the first meeting?
NM: Often I first talk to the client on the phone or video Skype, then meet them in person for the first time at the job site. I travel a lot for my photography work so pre-meetups in person are harder than usual to do. My clients have a good sense about me because I have so many testimonials, behind the scenes videos and promotional videos, and active social media account.
Regarding first impressions, make an impact. I try to come onto sets looking like I could be in front of the camera myself, either in athletic or fashion apparel. It sets the tone that I take myself seriously, I look the part and walk the walk from a 360 perspective.
Finally, do you have any advice or words of wisdom for photographers starting out?
1) Figure out your freelance rate
2) Work on all of your marketing materials, first and foremost a website with up to date portfolio, bio, tearsheets, testimonials, contact info (phone + email, social media).
3) Be an active networker and reach out to your niche influencers, make friends
4) Do everything that you can to build an outstanding portfolio that can SELL
My Complete Photography Portfolio: https://natalieminhphotography.com
Check Out My Website: https://natalieminhinteractive.com
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