I Wish I Had Known... About Writing A Cookbook!

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This is the seventeenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

On this post I speak with the fabulous Dina Begum, a Bangladeshi-born/East London-bred food writer about her passion for Bangladeshi food traditions and stories and her book Brick Lane Cookbook, in which she celebrates the diverse cultures and flavours of this much-loved area of London:

1. Where does your love for cooking come from?

My mother. I grew up seeing her prepare delicious meals from scratch almost every single day, using fresh produce. It seemed magical to me that she created feasts out of a few bags of groceries - that made me fall in love with cooking. My extended family are huge foodies and my maternal grandmother is also an amazing cook and this further inspired me, as I spent time with her during school holidays while growing up.

2. How does one go from writing down recipes on a notebook to actually writing a cookbook? Did you ever see yourself as an author?

I wanted to be an author before I even knew what an author was. I remember writing my first poem at the age of eight or nine and receiving a compliment from my teachers. In fact, my writing career began with fiction, poetry and narrative non-fiction including an essay on the shipbreaking trade in Chittagong, Bangladesh. While I loved to cook and write down recipes from a very young age I actually began focusing on food writing about five years ago. The two things I love are words and food, so I decided to combine the two!

3. What challenges did you face when you set yourself to writing the book?

Writing my debut cookbook was a tremendous learning curve for me. I learned how to write and format recipes properly, create delicious sounding yet relevant headnotes to accompany the recipes – which are crucial as they not only describe the dish but give helpful hints and tips. As a Bangladeshi cook, I learned through observing and helping. My mother and grandmother, like the majority of women of those generations never used measures, or wrote things down. It’s a very intuitive way of cooking. This made recipe testing a challenge at first as it was all new for me to measure ingredients exactly and time things. It’s so much easier now!

4. Did you work with a publisher or did you self-publish?

I was lucky enough to find a publisher through a friend who loved my blog and forwarded it to my publisher Kitchen Press. They’re an award-winning independent publisher and specialise in market cookbooks so it was a perfect fit for Brick Lane Cookbook. A blog is a wonderful way to highlight food writing, especially if you’re in the early stages.

5. How difficult is it to promote and sell a book? Where do you sell them?

My book is sold via my publisher and a distributor who deal with the business side of things. There’s also a PR to handle a lot of the promotional side. It’s available on Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Oliver Bonas and independent bookshops – one of which is the fabulous Brick Lane Bookshop on Brick Lane. As an author, I also consider it my responsibility to promote the book and I do this via social media posts, where I engage with my audience with regards to cooking and also promote any events I do. I also welcome press and promotional interest and do interviews where possible.

6. It has been said that people publish books nowadays for self-promotion rather than for profit? Is that your case?

I believe writing is a part of me and my life’s main purpose. Since my teens, I’ve published poetry, short fiction and wrote and edited articles for a magazine. This gave me a real sense of what it feels like to write for a living. To me being recognised for writing something interesting and producing good work is key. Self-promotion and profit is, and can be superfluous. Of course, if what you love can help you earn a living that’s a real bonus! My freelance food work is an essential part of my life and I try and connect it to my book as well as long term career goals.

7. Are there any other books in the pipeline?

Nothing concrete at the moment but I am working on a second book with more of a focus on Bangladesh. My book is split into Bangladeshi recipes and other cuisines which reflect the lovely diversity of Brick Lane, but it would be amazing to give Bangladeshi food 100% of my attention for my next project.

8. In your book, you publish recipes from your own kitchen but also from restaurants in Brick Lane. How did you get them to agree for you to publish them for all to see? How did you get their trust in the first place? Were they protective or happy to share their knowledge?

Through sheer power of persuasion and perseverance! Many businesses were easily convinced and keen to include their recipes in my book as they could envision how important it was to document the diversity in the food of Brick Lane. I think people love sharing their food stories. Some were protective of their recipes, especially ones they’d spent years perfecting or family recipes. I totally understood that as these are treasured recipes. I made it clear from the onset that they would be given credit and I would love to share the stories behind their dishes so they were happy to come on board and loved the process of chatting to me and showing me how to cook certain items, which was a real treat.

9. Have you ever worked in a restaurant? Have you thought about opening your own restaurant?

I haven’t worked in a restaurant as such, however, I have worked in them to host supper clubs and pop-ups, most recently at Darjeeling Express, which gave me a little taste of how restaurants operate. I also have some knowledge of them from family members who run their own restaurants. I would love to open some sort of eatery one day serving Bangladeshi food, with my own spin on it.

10. What are your thoughts on cooking robots like the Thermomix? Have you heard about the MIT robot restaurant that just opened in Boston last month?

I’ve literally just googled Thermomix! And to be absolutely honest this kind of cooking has never appealed to me. I’m sure it works for many people and it has its benefits but I just couldn’t imagine cooking this way. I’ve not heard about the robot MIT restaurant and find that very bizarre. I’m an old fashioned cook and not a huge gadgets person either.

11. On the day that we met, you were doing a demo on how to make one of your recipes using what you already have around in your kitchen. Do you try to apply the same concept to all of your recipes?

I believe in zero waste as a basic life philosophy, especially when it comes to food. So I strongly believe in utilising what you have lying around in the fridge or pantry first before buying more groceries. I love to create most of my recipes with that in mind. Use what you have and try and use substitutes. For particular recipes, substitutes don’t work but so many recipes are flexible. It’s all about adaptation.

12. Apart from the book, I know that you have also had your recipes published in many publications and that you host brunches where you share your delicious cooking with your guests. Have you ever considered giving cooking classes?

I love cooking for people and hosting pop-ups and demos. My teaching is currently available on Yodomo.co for whom I’ve filmed a Bangladeshi spice blend and recipe series. However, I’d love to give cooking classes and it’s something that’s on my list of things to do.

13. Where can we find out more about your book and your recipes?

You can find out more about my book and my recipes on my website (which has a recipes blog) and also follow me on Twitter & Instagram @dinasfoodstory to see what I’m cooking and eating and also find out about upcoming events.

This is wonderful, Dina! I really appreciate you sharing with me your tasty recipes and what being a food writer is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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A World That Others Can't See... with Chloe Rosser

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Our role as photographers is to capture a world that others can't see, and in this process we leave a little bit of us in every photo that we take. In a way, every single one of our photographs is also a portrait of ourselves.

In this series, A World That Others Can't See, I ask fellow photographers to talk about an image from their portfolios in order to discover the stories behind their work and to learn about the person behind the lens.

For the third post of the series, Chloe Rosser talks about her image 'Function 5, 4'. Chloe is a photographic artist based in London represented by L A Noble Gallery who has just released her new book Form & Function, available at Stay Free Publishing.

Chloe says: "This image is from my Form & Function series. In this work I hide all the identifying features of the figures - the heads, hair and hands. When seeing a body like this, you can't make the usual assumptions or judgements about a person that you normally would. Instead, you're able to focus on the details of the structure of the figure.

'Function 5, 4' © Chloe Rosser

'Function 5, 4' © Chloe Rosser

For these works, I try to use natural light whenever I can. I was usually shooting in people's homes, which means utilising window light as much as possible. This image doesn't get shown very much when the project is featured or exhibited, but it's actually one of my favourites. That's because of the quality of the light and how it falls beautifully over their shoulders, spines and muscles. They look so statuesque to me.

The other aspect I love about this image is the angle at which one of the figure's leg rests. It looks so strange, almost amputated. It rests there heavily and relaxed, but in a position which looks so awkward. Almost painful, but so calm.

The sole of that figure's foot is dirty from the floor. I see that as a little pop of humanity. We're looking at this pile of body parts, but right there is evidence of the human act of walking. For the same reason, I leave all the marks on the floors and walls - because it's proof the space is lived in.

I shot this image on a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-105 mm lens using natural light. The image is featured in my new book, Form & Function"

Thank you so much, Chloe, for sharing with me such beautiful image from your breathtaking work! You can see more of Chloe's amazing work on www.chloerosser.co.uk.


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different photographer each month!

Photo credit: portrait of Chloe Rosser © 2019 JC Candanedo

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I Wish I Had Known... About Contemporary Poetry!

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This is the sixteenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Being a big fan of Erin Bolens, you can imagine what an honour it was for me when she agreed to have a chat with me about what it is like being a contemporary poet, about her inspirations and about where in the UK can poetry enthusiasts and fans go to enjoy good poetry:

1. We met in 2017 during your beautiful performance at the Thames Festival's Boat Poets session at the The National Poetry Library and since then you can consider me a huge fan! Why do you think we need poetry?

That's so kind. I think my favourite part of doing this is meeting people along the way, so it's always great to come across those who are curious about poetry.

For me poetry is like a kaleidoscope - it's a small space with such a lot of detail in. Each read of a poem is a bit like shaking the kaleidoscope - you see a different pattern, a different colour and I love that. Poetry is a great shapeshifter and rises to lots of challenges so well. We turn to it both in times of sadness and celebration and I don't think that's ever going to change but I also love it when someone discovers poems that speak to their everyday life.

If it's something you relate to then it's a mirror that makes your perspective feel seen and if it's something you have never thought of then it's like seeing a new view or a door opening on a sight you weren't expecting. I love both.

2. How does one become a poet? Is it something that you study for or is it a talent that you are born with?

I think the habit and love of writing regularly is something some people develop very early on of their own accord and you can definitely create some brilliant poetry that way. You certainly don't have to study poetry in the formal sense to be a poet but listening to and reading a broad range of writing will definitely help to keep you experimenting and will fuel a useful curiosity about how words can be used.

3. What are the career opportunities for poets today?

I think this is a really exciting time for poetry. Perhaps it always feels like that when you are immersed in a particular world, but I do think there is an increasing number of spaces and platforms for readers and writers of poetry which is very exciting.

There isn't one thing that makes it possible for writing to be my job. I have worked with children since I was a teenager so doing that through poetry was a natural step for me and I really love it but it isn't for everyone. I do a mix of teaching, performing and writing commissions both for individuals, events or companies and organisations.

4. Do you remember a time before writing poetry?

Um not really. However, I don't think I would ever have called it poetry until much later on because for a long time I saw poetry as a very structured, quite old fashioned thing. For me, it was dictated by rules and it took a long time for me to discover how fluid and varied and expansive that label can be. That's not to say those structures can't be exciting but they're definitely not the only definition of poetry.

5. How has poetry changed your life?

Oh massively. It's always sort of been there because I've written for ages but I think discovering the world of performed poetry was pretty life-changing for me. I've always enjoyed stories and talking with other people and this combined the two for me.

I have a background in acting and at that time I found the autonomy of being able to write something true and perform it yourself really liberating. It became my favourite thing to do very quickly.

Aside from it being my work, just writing for myself is something that I get a lot of benefits from. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and feelings and is just a big source of calm and joy for me. Also frustration of course, but it's the positives that are always heavier.

6. Who inspires you?

This is a really tricky one and something I'm always adding to. For me, it's a big old melting pot that includes brilliant people from history to people I've met once at a bus stop who tell me something which changes my way of thinking or encourages me to do something.

I regularly work with The Poetry Takeaway which is a mobile space where Poets chat to people and turn those conversations into poems which are taken away and often treasured for a long time. It's a really beautiful thing and last year I wrote for a brilliant woman called Enid. She is one of the biggest poetry fans I have ever met and since then we have become friends. She has given me such incredibly kind and well thought out encouragement and advice. Recently, she told me not to deny myself any pleasure and not to over analyse poems.

For that and many other reasons, I would say she definitely inspires me.

7. When most people think about poetry, they think of the classics. But, like you, there are many contemporary poets out there that are equally as good as the classics, if not better. Do you have any contemporary poetry heroes or sheroes?

Yeah definitely. So many poets I admire and know are constantly reshaping my understanding of poetry and how it can be used.

  • Hollie McNish is a modern poetry Goddess and played a big part in me not feeling embarrassed to use rhyme if I wanted to.

  • Caleb Femi was the first Young People's Laureate for London and does incredible work with poetry in film.

  • Vanessa Kissule is doing brilliant things as the first City Poet for Bristol.

  • Toby Campion is one of my absolute favourite writers, performers and people and keeps everyone on their toes with how brilliant each new piece of work is.

  • Harry Baker is one of the most joyous poets and people ever. His love of playing around with words is so infectious and is always my go-to cynicism antidote.

8. Prose or verse? Or both?

Oh, both. Everything, all of it. Like with music, I think there are space and time for all ways of making and presenting any form or style of writing. I don't think it is possible for the existence of one to dilute another. You can have favourites of course, and for me, they change all the time, but I don't think anything is ever unworthy just because it doesn't speak to me today.

9. You contribute to shaping the young generation of poets through your workshops and your involvement in programmes like the Boat Poets residency. How can aspiring poets take part in these activities?

Projects like Boat Poets have been such a big part of my writing and life. They provide time, support and connections which expand your opportunities, help your confidence to grow and your work to develop and to be influenced by things other than your immediate thoughts and surroundings.

There are absolutely loads and I'll probably remember the best tomorrow but here are a few that I have taken part in or that I know have been a big part of the journeys of writers I know.

  • The Roundhouse in London. If you are under 26 you can enter their slam (usually takes place in early summer each year), apply for their poetry collective or to be a resident artist.

  • Apples and Snakes - they regularly put on brilliant workshops across and master classes for all ages and levels of experience across the UK. Their project 'The Writing Room' is another excellent collective based writing course.

  • SLAMbassadors - The Poetry Society's national youth poetry slam championships for 13-18-year-olds.

  • UNIslam - annual poetry slam bringing together teams from universities across the UK for a mixture of workshops and performances.

  • Barbican Young Poets - annual poetry course for young writers at the Barbican Centre in London.

10. Where can people find out about your schedule and performances?

I keep up most things on erinbolens.com

Thank you so much, Erin, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you and learning about what being a poet is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Photo Editors!

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This is the thirteenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

This week I am thrilled to chat to Raffaela Lepanto, Photo Editor and Photographers Consultant, about what it is like to work as a Photo Editor, on how should Photo Editors be approached by photographers and what can photographers do to produce portfolios that stand out:

1. You have been working in diverse roles in the photography industry for more than two decades, from the editorial desk and picture research to Photo Editor and working as a photographer yourself. How did it all start?

It started by pure chance, really. I had been working part-time for an independent publishing house while studying at the university and had loved the environment; talking with photographers and sorting out the photography archive was what I liked the most about my job, but I guess I didn’t realise it until much later.

I had studied International Political Sciences, and I really liked writing, so I thought that I wanted to do something related to journalism... but I didn’t know exactly how. I didn’t have any real experience and I didn’t know anybody in the field.

I also loved photography and had been taking pictures all my life, but I had been raised with the idea that I had to find a “serious” job. What was exactly that “serious” job that I could actually do, I didn’t know. Waiting for a magical answer, after university I took one year off to travel; when I came back to Europe I was penniless, jobless and still clueless.

So one weekend, I was trying to use my time constructively and give a serious direction to my future while reading Cosmopolitan on my sofa (she laughs). And on that issue of Cosmopolitan, I found this interesting interview to a famous Italian travel Photographer, and I really liked the interview and his photos and I thought it would be awesome to have him as a teacher. So I mustered the courage to call him. He actually answered the phone, and took me onboard to teach me!

This is where, retrospectively, I think I’ve been very lucky: the photographer wasn’t just a photographer, he was also running a very small Photo Agency specialised in Travel Photography. After the photography course finished, I offered my self as an intern and asked him if I could help in the agency for a few months. Now I’m making it sound like I was very wise and smart, the reality is that I absolutely didn’t know why I was doing it, I just felt that I needed more time there. So I worked there for 3 months as an intern, and then another 6 as a part-time photo-researcher and learned so much not just about photography but also about researching and editing.

So yes, Picture Editing really “happened” to me as a way to be as much in contact as I could with Photography. I didn’t even know it existed before then.

2. For nearly a decade, you were a Photo Editor at Grazia Neri, probably one of the biggest photographers agencies that ever existed (representing big-name photographers from Herb Ritts to Annie Leibovitz). Now, you coach photographers at universities, colleges and work with private clients as well. How was the transition from Photo Editor to Photography Consultant?

Yes, Grazia Neri Agency was the biggest Photo Agency in Italy, and one of the leading Photo Agencies in the world. It was the dream Agency to work for!

At the end of the 90’s, when I started working there, the archive of Grazia Neri, and I’m talking about an analogical archive here, was counting 20 million pictures between slides and prints. Can you imagine?

20 million physical pictures. It was totally mind-blowing.

And yes, as you say, the agency represented the best photographers and agencies of the whole world. From Annie Leibovitz to Helmut Newton, from Robert Doisneau to James Nachtwey, to Tim Hetherington, if you could think of a famous photographer or a prestigious agency, they were there...

That was my school, those photographers and their amazing pictures literally shaped my photographic education and for that, I will feel forever grateful.

I always felt that it was a much bigger opportunity than working as a Picture editor for a single magazine, that I learned much more that way.

Also, working in the super fast-paced Editorial Sales Department forced me to keep things very “real”. It was the humblest, no frills, no nonsense part of the otherwise high-end world of photography, and what worked and what didn’t work was pretty vital to learn there. It wasn’t much about “talking photography”, it was more about making photography happen, and getting it published!

Meeting new photographers, commissioning them new projects and working with them was again the part of my work that I liked the most. I guess that there has always been an element of empathy in there, as I felt that their dreams, their hopes, their problems were very similar to my own...

So the “transition” hasn’t been a real transition, after all. What changed was the “external shape” but it feels like my work has always been more or less the same. I don’t feel like I’m teaching anything to photographers, today. I still feel like an Editor, who has the chance to share what she’s learned.

Paradoxically, I’ve recently come to realise that working with non-famous photographers and students is, in fact, the “advanced” level of my work. Working with someone not used to a portfolio review and unaware of their potential, competition and market is something that took me a while to learn but for which today I feel very lucky. It gave me a much wider perspective, and it keeps me away from the haughty, condescending world of Art Critique.

3. What would you recommend photographers to focus on to develop their careers and make themselves a place in the industry?

Being a photographer is not easy: It takes a special kind of discipline, stubbornness, and courage.
If I think of the young photographers that I met during my career who really “made it”, three things come to mind:

  • They were all very kind: often more listeners and observers than talkers, so I’m not thinking just about extraverted PR people, here. I’m actually not thinking of them at all.

  • They all had a very personal style, one that I could recognise across different projects: something very difficult to achieve.

  • They had a deep, passionate interest in their projects. You could see it in many little details, such as their well-researched text, their relationship with their subjects, their captions... In my work you learn to read through the lines of a photographer’s work and you’ll just know how much time they have spent on it, how aware they are of other photographers’ work, if they have studied what’s out there, if they are trying to emulate what is trendy or they are really offering a bit of their soul... You learn to respect a truly personal vision because you see in “transparency” the huge work that it takes to get there.

4. What's the best way to contact Photo Editors? What are the first things that Photo Editors want to know about photographers and their work?

Well, you know, Photo Editors belong to the very same species as photographers, so they are drawn to the very same things; pictures.

A special, unexpected light in a portrait, a bold perspective, an uncommon colour to tell a story in a different way... as all visual people, they will look at images first and will make a thousand small evaluations in a second, deciding if they like them. If they do, they will read your intro text. Never the other way round.

As for how to introduce yourself, I can’t speak for all Editors in the world, of course, but I can share what I personally like to find in an e-mail. I like personal, short messages, where I can see that who writes me has taken the time to know my work and my company and introduce themselves briefly. You don’t need more than 5 lines for this; what type of photographer you are, your location, that’s it.

When I’m reading, I will have seen your images already: even one picture in an e-mail is enough, it generally tells me everything I need to know. From there, I like to be able to access the photographer’s website, and possibly see and read more.

What do Editors want to know? Photo Editors pride themselves on discovering emerging talents, so you don’t need to be an established photographer with dozens of exhibitions, awards, and publications. Of course, showing a good publication or award helps, but you don’t need to write this type of info in an email. If you have them it’s better to keep them on your website.

For your projects, again, in my view, pictures speak a thousand words; in those cases where an intro text is absolutely needed, Editors normally look for the 3 journalistic W's: who, when and where. Something I’m personally not very fond of? If someone has to explain too much the “vision” behind their photography, or if they use the third person to talk about themselves, as if they were someone else (how weird is that?).

5. How often should a photographer contact a Photo Editor? Do Editors keep records of photographers that have got in touch with them?

This is a difficult question. It’s always a matter of finding a balance, isn’t it? Between being persistent and becoming... too persistent.

I personally respect persistence very much, I see it as an achievement, a quality belonging only to photographers who went through the hard initiation of rejections and have been ignored already and didn’t give up. There is nothing more deafening than the silence after a well-crafted newsletter, one that took the photographer days to prepare, not to talk about the months spent working on the project he’s trying to promote... It’s disheartening. And it makes Editors look like cruel, evil people, I know.

The reality is that a photographer seldom knows the amount of very similar newsletters and promotions Editors receive in one single day. “Very Similar” is the key, here. It’s disheartening, too. Because you really wish to get back to (almost) everybody, but you can’t because you just don’t have the time. Unless - I’m honest - you have a glimpse of something so special that makes you jump on your chair and it becomes a priority.

For a first contact, I would write a very short personal e-mail rather than a newsletter, showing the best of my work and also showing knowledge of the Editor’s magazine, agency, whatever...I would then ask for an in-person appointment. If you don’t get a reply, I would be persistent, until, hopefully, I get one. How often? It could be... a few times, leaving a few weeks in between.

For direct marketing and keeping in touch with old clients, it all depends if you have the right project to offer, if you are looking for an assignment, what is the reason for your campaign...there is no right frequency, really. I would write down the reason, the why, first of all, for each group of clients. When I know exactly why I want to contact them, I would.

Periodical, general, impersonal newsletters or mailers don’t work much, in my experience.
I’d rather focus on building real relationships, and when you do have one, you normally also know when to call, right?

As for Editors and Agents keeping records of photographers, of course, they do. Not all of them, but the ones who emerged as somehow different, or especially talented, they sure do keep them.
I’m still doing it now, as I often use a special project as a reference in my work with photographers.

Back when I was working for the agencies, I had endless lists of websites that I actively researched, looking for a single picture that I remembered, for a whole body of work, to assign new projects... again, Editors pride themselves on finding hidden talents, it’s just something they do, so yes, perhaps they don’t answer to all e-mails but they are like elephants, they don’t forget (she laughs again).

6. What kind of relationship do you like to have with photographers, and is it one that you'd like to grow over time?

Photographers have always been “my people”, the sort of people that I feel comfortable around; perhaps because as a photographer myself, I went through the same rejections, the same insane joy seeing my pictures published. And I know we share the same obsessions, that pale light on a dark background, a perfect coupling on a book page, a moment that just the eye of a photographer can see and doesn’t make for a normal conversation with normal people. Those details. You know what I mean...

In most cases, the working relationship becomes a very friendly one; I like to be updated on their success, and I genuinely share their happiness when our hard work pays off.

7. In your opinion, what makes a Photographer's portfolio stand out from others?

  • A deeply personal vision

  • Style consistency, all through

  • Courage

8. When you are editing a project/portfolio, what criteria do you use for selecting or discarding images?

Editing is a very complex process. You have to keep in mind so many factors that I often don’t have a clue myself what the result will be until I finish. Artistic and technical merit are just the tip of the iceberg; you also have to take into account style consistency, patterns, colours, type of light, final usage, type of public, type of layout, and of course the meaning of the project, what the photographer really wants to convey and who they want to be... It’s indeed an alchemic process, one that is very hard to describe and almost has a “life” of its own.

If I have to summarise it in two words, though: no matter how long is the project and how many pictures I have to work with, I normally do a first edit which is purely emotional and instinctual, meaning that I literally just pick the images that I like without thinking twice or having other thoughts. From the second edit onwards, rationality takes charge again; here I start thinking about all the elements above, about the sequence, about avoiding repetitions and so on... eventually, I just take out what just doesn’t work.

9. What advice would you give to a photographer who is transitioning from working as an assistant to working as a full-time photographer?

Working as an assistant is an exceptional experience for a photographer; it’s not just about learning the technicalities, it’s having a chance to be in touch with the whole photography business from the inside. My best advice is to keep it as a side-job until your solo career is on (very) solid ground: this is, having enough clients, established relationships but also a good, realistic strategy.

10. Finally, what can photographers expect from your services and how can they get a hold of you?

I keep my services as much product-oriented as I can.

I do help photographers also in the medium and long-term through coaching, but I normally start with a focus on short-term results; an edit for their new book, print portfolio, homepage, a full web edit, a new website.

I believe that offering ready-to-use tools and dividing the work into practical steps works better than offering endless consultations on how to market themselves.

All my services and contacts can be found on my website www.raffaelalepanto.com

This is fantastic, Raffaela! Thank you so much for your time and for helping me understand what being a Photo Editor is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!

Thanks, JC, speak soon!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Modelling In Your 50's!

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This is the twelfth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I have the honour of chatting with British model Nicola Griffin about how opportunities arise when you least expect them and about what is it like to pursue a career in modelling after a certain age:

1. When we met a few years ago, you had recently started modelling at a very unconventional age. Can you tell us a bit about your story?

I first started modelling when I was 53. A lady asked me in the bank if I would do a photo shoot for a new shampoo product called white hot hair. This launched me into the modelling world and I was approached by an agent to be represented. Not long after, I was lucky enough to get a job with a company called Swimsuits For All in the USA.

2. From the cue at the bank to being flown to the Caribbean for a photo shoot with the one and only Ashley Graham to be featured together on Sports Illustrated! And then the cover of Bazaar, and countless advertising campaigns, editorials and catalogues. How does it feel to be part of this new pro-diversity movement in the industry?

It is really inspiring to be part of this as I represent older women in the fashion industry. I was the first woman to appear in Sports Illustrated magazine at the age of 56. Which I'm very proud of! It's a wonderful feeling to be part of this movement showing diversity in every age, size and race.

3. What sort of opportunities are there in the industry for models starting out later in life?

I think they're all sorts of opportunities out there now for older models. Things are improving all the time and I do believe anything is possible and anything can happen. I am living proof!

4. Modelling is a tough job that requires a strong will, very thick skin and a heck-of-a-lot of self-confidence. Still, people, in general, have the misconception that modelling is an easy job where you just have to look pretty. Can you describe what a career in modelling is about?

Trying to describe what modelling is all about it's quite difficult. What I would say is it's really fabulous when you're on a shoot with wonderful people in a beautiful place and it's really the most wonderful thing to be actually making a living doing something that is truly amazing. However, it's lots of hard work. The downsides, of course, are the travelling, the delayed flights, the arriving at your hotel at midnight and having an early call at 4 AM. It's hectic and you're under pressure.

5. How much of making it in the industry is about working hard in promoting yourself to modelling and casting agencies and how much is it being at the right place at the right time?

I think that to make it in the industry involves a lot of good luck and a lot of hard work and being in the right place at the right time. Promoting yourself on Instagram and Facebook and all the social platforms is important in today's industry. Castings can be tough, the feeling of rejection when you've not been chosen can be quite upsetting but you have to move on quickly, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and tomorrow is a new day.

6. What would you suggest to starting models on how to start their careers? How does one become a model?

I think if you are starting out as a model today I would suggest getting some good photos together and start looking for an agent and agency that would suit you and your style and your strengths. Work hard and believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, be brave and be strong because you're going to need it.

7. You are represented by some of the biggest agencies in the industry, both in the UK and the US. What is the role of an agency for a model?

The role of the agency that represents you is to guide you and nurture you, to get you the best deals from the client and look out for you. They take care of your travel arrangements, check your tickets and check your hotel, check you got everything, they make sure that you're getting the jobs that suit you and the client is happy. And, most importantly, that you're happy. That's a lot for the agency to do to look out for you so picking the right agency is very important.

8. As a mother yourself, what message would you send parents whose children are interested in modelling on how to navigate the industry?

As a mother of two daughters, I always pushed for them to finish their education when they showed interest in modelling. It was very important to me that they were not distracted from their studies. I did tell them many times that when they finished their A-levels we would all get a shoot together by a photographer. But that never happened. They then went off to university and now they are in full-time employment. But, had they have been interested in the industry I would've given them all my support.

9. We are living in times when models careers are longer than they ever were. Where do you see your career going?

I do look forward to being in the industry for a very long time! I'm hoping I can continue working well into my 80's, maybe even 90's... how wonderful would that be!

Thank you so much, Nicky! Thank you for being so fabulous and taking part in my column to help me understand what modelling in your 50's is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Alternative Processes!

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This is the eleventh post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

As I explained on a previous post titled I Am An Immigrant, early this year I had the opportunity to meet Almudena Romero, a London based visual artist from Spain, and with whom I had an amusing discussion about art, immigration and alternative photographic processes:

1. On the day that we met, I posed for you for your Growing Concerns project using the Wet Collodion technique, and your enthusiasm and passion for your craft captivated me. When did you first know that you wanted to become an artist? When did it all start?

I think when I signed up for an MA in Photography with a fine arts focus is when I made that choice. I was working as a photojournalist in Canada, and I think I gradually became more interested in the artistic possibilities of the medium rather than the documentary ones.

2. You create beautiful pieces and portraits using both early and contemporary photography techniques. Why did you decide to create your art using photography?

I find photography very powerful. We consume and produce images constantly. From my point of view, knowing how to analyse and create an image is like knowing how to read and write, but with visual content instead of words. I find surprising how poor visual education we have in Spain. Not having the tools to analyse the critical context of an image, what it signifies, makes us very vulnerable. I think that the more I read and work with photography the more I like to explore the medium.  

3. As a photographer myself, I know how the industry is always looking for ways to label us into preconceived types of photographers. Do you consider yourself a Portraits Photographer, a Fine Art Photographer or don’t even consider yourself a photographer at all?

I consider myself an artist, but if someone describes me as a photographer I am perfectly fine with it.

 Almudena Romero making collodion plates at her studio in East London for her project "Growing Concerns" about immigrants to UK. With JC Candanedo (Grey Pistachio).

4. You combine your practice with teaching at the University of the Arts London, doing talks and running workshops in the UK and abroad. Is this the life of the contemporary artist? Do you do it out of passion or to make ends meet?

I work with photographic processes that are very little known, and therefore, to engage people with these processes is to engage them with my practice too. I consider teaching part of my practice, and I don't think teaching is less cool than selling pieces or taking commissions.

People always like making distinctions and hierarchies. Photographers vs Artists, Technicians vs Academics, Artist selling through small commercial galleries vs Artist working with public institutions, etc. These categories are not helpful, so I don't really worry about them. Everything has advantages and disadvantages.

I see the benefits of teaching very clearly. First, it pushes me to be precise and consistent and then it helps me enormously to expand my network.  Teaching has the same effect as when you are cooking for someone else, you put so much more effort than if you were doing it just for you, and in the end, you end up being much better at it.

5. Speaking of your practice and your business model, when you sell your art do you sell the originals or do you sell prints? Do you do limited editions? Who are your clients (collectors, museums, galleries, private clients)?

I only sell originals to other artists that are also collectors (this happens very often, and I see myself collecting pieces soon too) and other people in my network including relatives, friends, art collectors, people working in the arts.  

6. I was lucky enough to visit your recently opened studio space in London. How long have you had your own space? Do you think it’s important as an artist to work in your own private studio? How did that affect your practice?

I have this one since October. I think it depends on the work. Some people need interaction and feedback, but I need to control the light and the ventilation conditions. It's easy for me to work 8/9 hours non stop, and this complicates a lot sharing the space.

7. Affordable spaces in cities like London are rare and in very high demand, with waiting lists that sometimes go for years. What advice would you give to other photographers and artists who are looking for a space but haven’t been able to find an affordable one yet?

Sign up for those lists now. Use artists studio finder website. Avoid companies managing spaces, go for charities or artist-led spaces like ACAVA, Bow Arts, SPACE, Cubitt, Acme- There are so many good space providers!

 Almudena Romero making collodion plates at her studio in East London for her project "Growing Concerns" about immigrants to UK. With JC Candanedo (Grey Pistachio).

8. Your projects deal with issues relating to identity, representation and ideology; such as the role of photography in the construction of national identity, or the link between photographic archives and colonialism.  I tend to go towards this sort of topics in my personal projects out of my own experience as an immigrant coming from a family of immigrants. Is it also a personal journey for you? If not, why do you feel attracted to these topics?

Having lived over the past 10 years in the UK, France, Canada and Italy, I have a strong sense of belonging to the immigrant community rather than to any nation. I want to use and share my knowledge to work with one of the most archival processes and leave a legacy of a contemporary understanding of colonialism, identity and photographic archives.

9. Your work is exhibited in galleries across the globe, and your most recent project, Growing Concerns, will be at the Centquatre Gallery in Paris from March 17 until May 6, 2018. For those who don’t understand the exhibitions circle, how does exhibiting your work come about? Do you get commissioned to do a project for an exhibition space? Do you pitch a project that you have in mind and that you want to work on? Do you create your work and then the exhibition spaces come for it? Do you submit to competitions?

I create work I want to create, then I research who can be interested in the work and then I apply to open calls and other opportunities within that network.  I tailor my applications to the space/facilities available. It's crucial to tailor your proposal, otherwise, the juries might not visualise how they could bring it to their own space/platform.

10. As a visual artist, what do you consider is the role of the artist in our communities nowadays? Why do we need artists? Why do we need art?

We need art in the same way we need science. It enriches us, it gives us perspective, a different angle, it helps us to understand. I see the role of an artist very similar to the role of a scientist, it's an everyday job that you do in conjunction with other people working in the same field that ultimately facilitates understanding and generates engagement.

11. What is in store for you in the future? What sort of new projects do you plan to work on?

I am now working on a series that focuses on the deregulation of goods and capital and the environmental and social impact of this, forcing communities to migrate. I have started to use plants which are originally from Asia, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, and nonetheless widely available at daily markets in London, to alter the photosynthesis process and print images that relate to the migration history and context in their native countries on the leaves of said plants.

Beautiful, Almu! Thank you so much for answering all my questions and helping me understand what working with Alternative Processes is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

Photo credits: behind the scenes images by Chelín Miller.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Wholesale!

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This is the ninth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

A few weeks ago I had a really interesting conversation with Jessica Morera, the Wholesale Sales Manager for Iberia at Guess Europe, about her career in sales in the fashion industry and on how being proactive can open many doors:

1. You have an extensive career in sales in the Fashion Industry, working for companies like Calvin Klein, Inditex, Desigual and currently Guess. What made you go into Fashion? And why Sales?

It was actually pure luck. I had never looked into fashion as a career option, but right after I moved to New York I was offered a temp job as a receptionist at Calvin Klein. Since there was little to do at the reception and I like to keep myself busy, I asked all the departments around me if they needed any help with any projects. They started giving me little things here and there, which increased in quantity and complexity over time. After a few months, there was an opening in sales and I got a recommendation from one of the people whom I had been helping.

It was love at first sight. Attending fashion shows, presenting the collection, building relationships with my customers, but, above all, learning about the business from professionals with many years of experience.

I was extremely fortunate, but I must admit that my proactivity got me that opportunity.

2. Usually, when people think of the Fashion Industry, they think of designers, models, photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists and editors, but they forget about all the supporting roles that keep the industry alive. What exactly does a person in Sales in a Fashion brand do?

That is true, often people think that their role is what really makes the difference in this industry. Creatives think that without the “magic” that they make a product would not be attractive or have a demand in the market. Salespeople think that without them, the product wouldn’t make it to the point of sale and the business would not be able to survive. The truth is that one without the other would not have a future, both sides of the industry are equally important and need each other to exist. Those professionals who acknowledge this have a higher chance of success.

In my opinion, the main objective of anyone in sales (whether is Retail or Wholesale) is to promote the brand as if it were their own. It is important to do that by building relationships with your clients and understanding what they need. In the case of Wholesale, you go one step further as you must create a healthy alliance with your clients. They are the experts in their business and you are the expert on your brand. Combining those two and working with your client as a partner is one of the keys to success. Their business is your business.

3. Would you say that to work in Sales you have to study a career? Are there any studies that would help someone who was already born with selling skills?

It certainly helps to understand the basics of the business. Often people think that as long as sales are growing the business is healthy and they forget that what makes a business sustainable over time is having healthy margins. It is crucial for anyone in Sales to understand the basics of how to achieve “healthy sales”. You can learn this with a Business or Economics degree, even though I would always recommend a Business degree as it usually includes learning about Marketing.

But I think that the key to being a good Salesperson (no matter the level you are at) is mostly about common sense and being able to build relationships and trust with your customers and colleagues.

4. As someone working in Sales in the Fashion Industry, you must have some sort of understanding of fashion. What would you advice someone who wants to go into Sales in Fashion to learn before embarking on this career?

No matter the industry you work in, having some knowledge about the product that you are selling is a must. Nobody expects you to be an expert from day one, but some sort of understanding about the product that you are selling is required.

When I started out, I was quite uninformed about fashion. I guess that working as the receptionist, I was not expected to know a lot about it. But, because I was working in the reception of the Design and Product Development floor, I became curious about it. All the little projects that I was given were related to sales, sketches, fabric samples, etc… This is how I got acquainted with fashion and found out how much I enjoyed it. I was very lucky!

By the time I started in the Sales Department, I had made sure to be as informed as I could about Fashion. This was back in the year 2000 when researching information was not as easy as it is now. The rest I learned through experience and thanks to a great team that was willing to be patient with me and teach me as much as I was willing to learn.

To someone who has a real interest in a career in fashion sales, I would recommend getting as much experience as possible. Real experience. Working in a shop, for instance, is going to give you a lot of real experience about what the business is all about. You will learn about fashion (patterns, fabrics, and trends) and you will do so in a practical way, meaning that you will learn by doing, which I find to be the most effective way of learning.

5. Designers present their collections on the runways, in private shows or in their showrooms a few times a year. What happens next?

Many things!! The moment the samples reach the showroom is one of the most exciting times of the season. You open boxes with the same excitement a kid has on Christmas morning. But it is also hard work! Ironing and hanging the garments, pricing them, learning the collection (fabrics, fits, the moods within the collection…), creating a visual that provides a nice flow to ensure that the first contact that the clients have with the garments has a lot of Wow factor, etc.   

You also need to prepare each appointment as thoroughly as possible. How was your client’s season? Was your brand key for them? Why? Or Why not? What type of garment and which price point worked best for them? These are a few of the key points that you need to have prepared before the meeting starts, not only in order to be able to have a successful meeting but above all in order to help your client make the most efficient order possible. If you manage to do that, it is much more likely that your client will have a good season and allocate more space and budget for your brand.

It is also important to work on the marketing activities for your region. Each season, the Brand will work on a strategy as broadly as their DNA and resources allow. Media (Print, Social, TV), Press Events, Product Placement, etc. It is important that, as a Salesperson, you transfer that strategy and its message to the point of sale level and allocate your resources wisely. There are many resources such as brand images and logos, gift with purchases and even some events, but these are limited so it is important to try to allocate those resources in a productive way.

There are many additional steps that will go into the sales process: commercial conditions, payment terms, shipments, product exchanges and returns, etc. These tasks are undeniably more administrative (and unattractive), but they are just as important!

6. What avenues do designers have to make their creations available to their customers? What is the difference between all these channels (e.g. wholesale, retail, e-commerce, etc.)?

We live in a world that has almost endless options for designers that are just starting out to make their creations reach their target. Like everything in life, each formula has pros and cons. Retail offers direct communication with the consumer but very high fixed costs. E-commerce offers high exposure with low fixed costs but a lower emotional connection with your consumer and high returns.

A priori, Wholesale offers the best balance for newcomers; margins are higher than in Retail; you have a closer relationship with the consumer than in e-commerce; and you have your Brand in stores where they sell others brands that you might have established as your benchmark, which will give you visibility with the target consumer that you have envisioned.

It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed with the business side of the industry, in which case it’s good to partner with an Agency. They can help you to get started and provide the contacts that you need.

7. You have been working closely with department stores for almost your whole career in Sales. Can you tell us what exactly is a department store and how is it different from other channels?

Back in the day, department stores were born as shops in which you could fulfil all your needs in one place. Hence the name, department store, a store divided by departments. For many decades, this model had the upper hand as it provided convenience by offering everything one might need in one place, offering also exclusivity by always being the first to have any novelty that reached the market.

Nowadays, these advantages are not exclusive to department stores and many of them are struggling to attract consumers. Many people have shifted to online shopping, which is the epitome of convenience, or shopping malls which have all the benefits of a department store but its setting is normally more appealing than the one of a department store, including larger and more open spaces, family-oriented activities and a larger food offer.

Department stores that are thriving in today's economy are doing so by differentiating themselves from competitors (whether these are other department stores or a different channel altogether). Some of them are doing it by providing exclusivity through high-end brands or small labels that are hard to find; others are doing it by offering certain benefits to their customers (extended return dates, payment plans, promotions, additional services, etc). There are many ways that they can differentiate themselves and it is key to choose the best option according to who your consumer is.

8. Apart from the different sales channels, there are also different markets with their own particular characteristics. You have worked in Iberia, Europe in general, the UK, the US and Canada. How would you say the peculiarities of each market affect the selling process?

The base of most markets in Europe and America is basically the same, even though each region does have different needs that need to be acknowledged.    

Some markets are more professional than others in terms of how business is conducted, and it is important to adapt to that. Things like being on time for a meeting, being accurate on your communications, having a polished image are extremely important in some markets. So my recommendation would be to try to have standards as high as possible in order to be seen as reliable and trustworthy by your customer no matter what market you are working with. Even if you conduct your business under higher standards than those in your market, it is unlikely that anyone will have a negative perception of you for being too correct.

In regards to other relevant aspects of the industry, such as fashion, marketing trends or competitors, I think it is important to specialize in the market that you are managing, but it is also very important to keep up with what is going on in those markets that are close or connected to your own. Back when I started out, each market was an “island”, with its own set of rules and timings. Nowadays, everything is linked due to globalization, so having an interest in what’s happening in other markets will give you a competitive advantage.

9. If you were to hire someone to work for you as your junior today, what would you look for in them?

For me, attitude is the most important asset. Almost anything can be learned as long as the person is willing to do so. But finding a person with enthusiasm and passion for what they do is not as easy as one would hope.

10. What is in store for you in the near future?

Honestly, I’m not sure. For most of my career, I always thought a couple of steps ahead. I was a Regional Coordinator working towards being a Key Account Manager. I started my first Master's Degree because I wanted to move into international sales. I went onto Product Management because I wanted a broader view of the business so that I could have a more relevant position in the company where I was working.

For the first time in 18 years, I’m just enjoying my job and it’s quite refreshing. I have goals and ambitions of course, but these are short-term goals and ambitions related to the role that I currently have. Such as reaching my sales target, getting a big account that’s been an objective for a while, etc. And I must say that my job is much more rewarding than it has ever been because I can stop and appreciate each accomplishment instead of rushing off to the next thing.

Fantastic, Jessica! Thank you so much for all this amazing information and for giving us an insight into what working in Wholesales in Fashion is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Makeup Artistry!

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This is the eighth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

I recently chatted with Oscar and Bafta nominated makeup artist Tina Earnshaw during her masterclass at the Delamar Academy, about her career in the film industry, her beginnings and on how aspiring makeup artists can follow her path:

1. By going into your IMDB profile or your Wikipedia page, one can see that you have had an extensive career in some of the most iconic movies of our times. But, like many other makeup artists, you had very humble beginnings working at a makeup shop in London. Did you ever imagine your life would follow this path? Did you ever dream this big?

Well, you know, I was 16 when I started in the Max Factor salon in Bond Street. I’ve always loved makeup! I’d never thought about movies and I was looking forward to working in TV. I never thought that far ahead to movies. I did think far ahead about fashion and beauty, though. I loved all the pretty stuff. When I trained at the BBC I learnt all the grotty stuff, too. The 7 years training from the BBC put me in good stead. I was good with wigs and I loved beauty makeup. I did fashion and TV commercials for years. I didn’t want to be a film mummy and be away from my children for months on end. I did wonderful commercials for brands like Chanel. So I didn’t think I would be where I am today at all! I suppose I had a lucky break!

2. How did you end up working in film and tv? Did you ever consider fashion or other creative outlets?

It was all through Carole Hemming who designed Cinderella, and Murder on The Orient Express. She took me on my first film to design makeup. I owe my film career to Carole! We did many films together. The first film I worked on was with a young Gwyneth Paltrow, and then it went back to back with films after that. I absolutely loved it! My children were more grown up then. With young children, I wouldn't have concentrated so well. I had some experience designing with War & Peace but it was Carole who gave me my break. I did lots of commercial work prior to this and worked with some of the best fashion photographers

3. What did you do back in the days and what would you advice makeup artists to do today to put themselves at the right spot at the right time? Did you test a lot? Did you network much? Did you assist other makeup artists?

I was very lucky with my career path. I never assisted any make-up artists. I didn’t have assistants and I didn’t do testing. I never did any of that working for free. Barbara Daly was a few years ahead of me at the BBC and she made a way for makeup artists. She was the one who started getting paid for photographer’s fashion shoots. Barbara was really brave. The fashion industry I found intimidating. I did a lot of stills with David Bailey, whenever he was over here. Fashion was scary and not my cup of tea. I stuck to high profile commercials, even Fairy liquid ads! Fashion is a different world to film and you do have to work for free sadly.

4. How can aspiring makeup artists manage having a day job to pay the bills and also trying to pursue their dreams? I have sometimes heard how they miss out on opportunities because they have to work full-time elsewhere to be able to make ends meet.

With hard work, lucky breaks and commitment. If it’s right for you, you won’t spend too many years struggling and you should always say yes to the job that will improve your makeup career. If you need to work in a store or something like that, make sure it’s as flexible as possible. Your employer needs to know your makeup career comes first and places like Space NK are quite good at respecting that.

5. What do you think about jobs that promise exposure to justify low payment or no payment at all? Did you ever encounter these types of jobs while you were growing in the industry? What about working only for expenses?

I didn’t have this experience, but the world of film and TV is very different.

6. Are you represented by an Agent? Do you think representation is something that makeup artists should aspire to? Or are there other ways to get the jobs?

I do have an agent! Film agents take on people with experience who they can get work for. I don’t have an agent for private work. I just have them to take care of the money. I know some people without agents! Morag (Ross) has the same agent as me. They are helpful and definitely something most successful make-up artists in my field have, but they don’t always need.

7. Do you have assistants? How do you pick them? Do you always work with the same team?

I try to work with the same team because they are brilliant – about 8 people I’ve worked with for ages. Maralyn Sherman, I’ve worked with for such a long time because she is so clever – she can do Prosthetics, hair and make-up all so well! I stick to the same people mostly because you get a good team spirit. I work in a slightly different way – I don’t have an ego, I can’t bear the people who operate with the big egos, they terrify the trainees and the juniors!

8. Do you do hair? Are you often expected to do hair on set? I know a lot of makeup artists complain that they are always asked to do both makeup and hair. Is this a common practice in the industry?

I don’t do hair anymore! In film, it's important to have lots of skills, especially in the UK.  In the US you are not allowed to do both, the unions won’t allow it. When I left the BBC I often did both makeup and hair. I get the good hair people to help me now. They are much better than me! I know exactly how it all works and this is why I’m a designer. It all comes down to money and the more you can do, the more cost-effective you are. I prefer to have everyone sticking to their particular skill.

9. As a makeup artist, how do you feel about society’s obsession with perfection? From the abuse of Photoshop in the industry to the “beautify” options in our smartphone’s cameras, it seems like we live in a Retouching-thirsty world. What goes through your mind when you see one of your makeups in a photo that has been completely photoshopped?

It’s a bit annoying, to be honest. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove that extra chin. A little bit of help is fine, but it’s gone too far where people look 22 who are actually 50 and it’s not real.

10. Finally, how does an aspiring makeup artist start a career in the industry? Do they attend an academy, do they learn from youtube tutorials, do they practice on their mums and friends?

All of them! Do everything and never stop learning or practising.  Delamar Academy is truly one of the best places to start or top up your skills.

Beautiful! Thank you so much, Tina, for taking the time to answer my questions and giving us an insight into what being a makeup artist is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!

To learn more about Tina Earnshaw, make sure to visit her website www.tinaearnshaw.co.uk and discover her line of brushes and accessories.

To find out about the Delamar Academy and their makeup, hair, special effects courses and masterclasses, visit their website www.delamaracademy.co.uk


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

Do you like what you just read? Subscribe to my weekly blog posts here!

I Wish I Had Known About... TV Adaptations!

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This is the fifth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I chat with Kenza Yarhfouri, a BBC Development Executive based in Paris, about what a career in TV Adaptations is all about:

1. When we think of people working in TV, we think of actors, presenters, and producers, but we forget about the thousands of possible career paths in the industry. In a few words, can you explain what you do?

I'm laughing at this question. First, when I told my family and relatives that I was working in TV, they were expecting to see me on screen or to at least read my name on the initial credits! But no one waits until the very last credits... You won't see me on screen, but I'm definitely part of the TV world. I work for BBC Worldwide as a Development Executive where I deal with content creation. My job consists on adapting English TV programs to the French market. We have access to a huge catalogue of titles from different genres (game shows, factual, shiny floor, talk...), and we spot the more relevant ones to our local market. For the lucky titles, we think of a French version and introduce them to the local broadcasters. Once we convince them, we start producing our own version which won't be far from the original one but will have a French touch. Since I started working in BBC, 4 years ago, I have worked on various big hits like Dancing with the stars, Great British Bake off, Top Gear, The Weakest Link...

2. When we met in New York six years ago you were working for Nickelodeon in the US and also writing for a magazine in France. Now you are living in Paris and working for the BBC. Was this the path that you had set out for yourself or did you just let the chips fall where they may?

Already 6 years, time flies... If I have to look back at my life, it was a series of opportunities that came to me. New York was a dream come true. I went there to finish my Master degree for a semester, but I did want to have a professional experience. I was fortunate enough to get an internship at Nickelodeon. I was working in Times Square (at that time I was convinced that I was part of a TV series since it felt too big to conceive...). I loved the experience there. I worked with amazing people and had great missions. I started my career in the Kids area where I was in charge of buying youth programs for channels. Then, I came back to Paris and did a more specialized Master degree at La Sorbonne. At the end of the year, I had to do an internship and wanted to discover a new field in the TV area. I left the children content for a more adult one and got hired after my apprenticeship.

3. How much of your work is sales-related and how much is actually production?

Actually, 99% of my work is sales, the 1% left is when I go on set to attend the recordings. My main occupation is to make the content that we have in our catalogue attractive. We work hard to find the perfect fit between our titles and the channels' needs. For every format, we must highlight convincing arguments to sell it. We'll usually be looking at the local trends, the success of the original format, the hosts and talents... Once this is done, then the production part begins.

4. Do you only work with BBC content or do you buy from other networks?

Besides the development side, I'm also in charge of finding new shows from other catalogues to adapt to our market. I get in contact with several independent companies all over the world and start shopping. Our catalogue is very rich with hundreds of titles, so you may think that we don't need to look elsewhere. However, we are always paying attention to the international market because we don't want to miss any hit. Therefore, I source content for our own market and look carefully for TV programs that can be relevant to invest in.

5. Does your audience include only channels in France or any French-speaking channel worldwide?

Our clients are mainly France-based companies targeting French audiences, but most of these channels are also available in French-speaking territories (Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, etc.).

6. How do you know if a show is adaptable to a French audience?

All the shows are adaptable, the main question is; is it relevant to the local market. Will the viewers be interested in this program? For instance, the audience in the U.K. has a different taste than here in France. For example, you have a lot of success for Antiques shows in England which wouldn't be appropriate for other markets.

However, most markets, including France, are very sensitive to bigger markets like the US, U.K., or Australia. If something is doing great in those territories, you can be sure that you won't have to contact the channels, they will be the first ones to get in touch with you. This is how we can see all over the world big hits like The Voice, Survivor, or Got Talent. Those key formats have an international radiance that makes them easy to adapt.

7. Growing up in Panama, I remember as a child watching Japanese or German game shows on TV and not really understanding what was going on because their sense of humour and their culture was so different to mine. How do you deal with this when sourcing content for the French audience?

It seems like the people who bought those programs in Panama didn't do a good job! From the broadcaster's point of view, the idea behind an acquisition is to buy content that matches the local needs and mentality. It's more difficult when you are investing in ready-made titles, but when you acquire the program's rights, it's easier to perfectly fit the needs of the audience since you are producing locally.  For example, when we sold Great Bake-off, we knew that because of our heritage our challenges would be more complex and our amateurs' creations would be more stunning. I'll let you compare the two versions and you'll see the differences. That's the aim of the adaptation; producing a local show that matches the viewers' needs.

8. How would you say the audience in France is different to the audience in the UK? How about the audience in the US or in your birthplace, Morocco?

We are all different and similar at the same time. Thanks to the internet, international contents can easily be watched wherever you are. So the audience is relatively the same, everyone watches content for the same reasons; to be entertained, to challenge their knowledge, to be informed, to get help... the difference is more about our societies, and traditions. Everybody knows the success of The Apprentice, it's a huge hit in the US and in the UK, but it failed in France. The local adaptation didn't convince the French viewers who weren't familiar with this kind of management. France is a country where social rights are very inlaid, so the idea of having a big boss firing you was unacceptable.

Therefore, you can notice that some topics are easily discussed in some countries while they would be inconceivable in others. In Morocco, for instance, the blood in TV series will be blurred and some scenes censored. In the US, their puritan society can easily be shocked so not all the themes would be covered.

9. Do you think that adapted programs have actually influenced cultural changes in different countries?

Indeed, I believe that TV can have an impact on the society and the viewers habits. When we launched a sewing competition, we noticed that more and more people were interested in the topic, and some even invested in sewing machines and started making their own creations. There was also the very controversial show aired on Channel 4; Benefits Street. I won't express my personal opinion of the show; however, it did make people react and deal with this topic that is usually eclipsed.

To go further on this question, as a photographer, you are aware of the images' impact on people. TV is part of numerous households, and the content is a reflection of our current society. We currently see the success of the news channels which are airing live and covering all sorts of events. It reflects the immediacy of information; thanks to the Internet we are instantly informed, so TV has to adapt and offer the same service.

10. In a world saturated with reality shows, do you think networks react to what the audience wants or are all these programs pushed to the audience to see how they respond?

Both answers are correct. Reality shows are a real trend in our current world. It's cheap, easy to produce, and moreover, it's attracting the young audience.

When a channel schedules a show it's in order to attract the maximum possible number of people; at least that's the aim of the commercial channels. Therefore, the broadcasters will match their viewers' wishes. From this statement, you can easily understand ITV2's schedule which is mainly targeting a young audience.  However, you won't imagine The Only Way is Essex aired on BBC One; it wouldn't fit their audience's needs. Besides, as a public service, the BBC group will be more inclined to produce very original shows so that everyone is able to find on the TV Grid something suitable for them. Thanks to this strategy, the audience can still be surprised and be pushed outside its familiar consumption.

Merci beaucoup, Kenza! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and answer my questions about what working on TV Adaptations is like. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!

Thank you! À vite! Gros bisous!


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I Wish I Had Known... About Fashion Journalism!

This is the third post of my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Olivia Pinnock, Fashion Journalist, Copywriter and founder of The Fashion Debates, about what fashion journalism is all about:

1. I met you through the Fashion Debates but you are also a copywriter, a lecturer at London Metropolitan University and a fashion journalist. Who is Olivia Pinnock?

Oh I ask myself that all the time! I trained as a journalist and I do still really believe I’m a writer at heart but I’m very fortunate that I’m able to channel all of my skills and passions into many different areas.

2. What exactly is Fashion Journalism? Is it related to Fashion Critique?

Yes, all fashion critics are journalists, though not all journalists are critics! Fashion journalism is the reporting of news and trends related to what we wear. This can be interviewing designers, writing catwalk show reports, announcing changes to key staff in fashion companies, forecasting trends for the coming season, reporting sales figures for brands, and many more things! Fashion criticism is deeper analysis of these things. It could be putting a fashion collection into context and offering thought on whether it is a successful or unsuccessful. It could also explore why certain trends are popular right now, or what changes in the industry mean for business.   

3. How do you become a Fashion Journalist? Is it a separate career from journalism?

There’s not one path to go down. I studied Journalism at university and built up a portfolio of fashion writing to specialise and I believe that my training in traditional journalism skills has been very helpful. However, some people study fashion journalism and other people don’t study at all, they just train themselves through experience. I didn’t know I wanted to work in fashion when I studied so it was the right route for me.   

4. What is the role of the fashion journalist today in this day and age where a photo posted on social media is worth a thousand words?

Well we all know that what is posted on social media is not necessarily factual never mind good quality. While it can be even harder to stand out amongst all the noise on social media and the internet, I think we need top quality, trustworthy journalism in all fields more than ever.   

5. With great writing comes great responsibility. Do you think that a fashion journalist should actually know about fabrics, pattern cutting, design, and the basics of the fashion industry to be able to do their job?

Absolutely! You would expect a political reporter to understand how government works, you would expect a war reporter to understand the history of the conflict, you would expect a football reporter to know the rules of the game, so you must educate yourself as a fashion journalist to understand every aspect of the industry and its history.

The module I teach at London Met is called Fashion Branding & Journalism but as part of our classes I give them quizzes on current fashion news, names of fabrics, shoe styles, important figures in the industry, etc. We also take a trip to a factory to see how clothes are made. I feel very strongly that this is something that is very important and yet often missing from fashion journalism education.  

6. I know that you are also a copywriter. For the rest of us: what is copy?

It is any writing that is done for a brand, and therefore has a commercial purpose. It’s a very broad term that covers anything from product descriptions, to press releases, to advertising slogans, to e-newsletters and social media posts, to company information on a website or catalogue.  

7. Is it right to think that sometimes the copy on the cover of magazines or in advertisement is trying to exploit our insecurities?

Of course it is. It’s not necessarily so obviously at the forefront of editors and advertising executives’ minds when they write them but it is a very long-standing technique in order to get people to buy things and it’s very effective. However, we are now much wiser to this and there is quite a backlash to the negative impact the constant bombardment of messages that tell us we are not good enough unless we buy things to solve all our problems has. This is very slowly heralding a new age of advertising and media.  

8. How about fashion brands? How honest is their message? What can we do as consumers?

Well, that really depends on the brand! I think we should always be aware that any brand’s ultimate purpose is to sell and make a profit, but that doesn’t necessarily make them evil. Of course, sometimes they cross a line and we have an awful lot of power as consumers to boycott brands we disagree with and to hold the brand’s we do like to a higher standard when they miss the mark by using our voice. It’s important to think critically and always be aware of the motives behind the things you see, read, and watch, and while brands can have an amazing impact on raising awareness or money for certain issues, don’t expect them to be saints. Expect them to be companies who need to make money in order to survive.

9. What are the Fashion Debates and when and where do they take place?

The Fashion Debates is a series of panel discussion events in London which explore ethical issues facing the fashion industry. Our past topics have included sweatshop labour, environmental pollution, racism, the health of models, and unpaid internships and work. And there’s many more to come! You can find out when the next one is coming up on our Twitter and Instagram accounts, or on our Facebook page and there’s also a newsletter sign up form on our website.  
    
10. How can people from outside London take part on the debates?

We stream all our debates live on Facebook, make sure you’ve ‘liked’ our page! And by sharing your ethical fashion style every Wednesday with our hashtag #OnWednesdaysWeWearEthical.

Amazing! Thank you so much Olivia for taking the time to answer my questions and for explaining with such care what Fashion Journalism is about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


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I Wish I Had Known... About Marketing!

This is the second post of my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Ilise Benun, a Marketing mentor and author based in New York, about what marketing is and how can creatives successfully self-promote:

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and the work that you do?

I am an author, business coach, national speaker, the founder of Marketing-Mentor.com and adjunct faculty at Pratt Institute and Maryland Institute College of Art, host of the Get Better Clients Bootcamp and a Program Partner for HOW Design Live, the largest design conference in the U.S.

Half my time is spent coaching creatives, especially the ones who are willing to do what it takes to get better clients with bigger budgets. That includes photographers, designers, illustrators, copywriters, videographers and other miscellaneous creative professionals. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years.

I have also written 7 books, including The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money, The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing, and Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive. I edit 2 blogs, The Creative Freelancer Blog and The MarketingMixBlog, and I host 2 podcasts, The Marketing Mentor Podcast and the HOWLive Podcast. My online courses can be found through CreativeLive, HOW Design University and American Writers & Artists Institute.

I also have an online store where I sell tools to grow a creative business, including The Pick a Niche Kit, The 30 Minutes-a-Day Marketing Plan for Creative Professionals, The Designer’s Proposal Bundles and The Package Pricing Bundle.

All of that keeps me busy delivering the basic business training in all the different ways a creative professional would want to learn how to grow their business.

2. When did you decide that you wanted to help creatives with their marketing strategies?

In 1988, I was fired from a job so I started out helping my friends who were actors and singers and painters in New York be more organized; over the years it has evolved into helping creatives learn what it means to be your own boss and take control of your business and your life. So I wouldn’t say I “decided” – it was more a question of me responding to the needs I perceived around me with a skill I didn’t even know I had at first, and then practising what I was preaching to take control of my own business!

3. Niche, target, audience, market... for the uninitiated these words are very confusing at the beginning. How would you explain in everyday words what self-promotion is all about?

Let me start with what self promotion is not. It’s not:

  • Bragging

  • Tooting your own horn

  • Boring people with me, me, me

  • Shoving your business card in someone’s face

  • Convincing anyone that they should work with you

Unfortunately, most people think it’s one or more (or sometimes all) of those things. Instead it is very simple:

Self promotion involves identifying those who need what you offer (that’s your target market or niche) and letting them know that you are willing and available to help. Self promotion is everything you do to communicate that message to the right people, the ones who will be open to it – again, your niche.

4. Why is it important for creatives to get their products and services out there?

James Sommerville, VP of Global Design at The Coca Cola Company, said it best on my blog: “Show us you’re interested by reaching out to us. Otherwise, we probably won’t know you exist."

5. Are creatives betraying the artist in them by trying to attract clients?

There does seem to be a popular myth that art and business don’t mix, that one corrupts the other or that you can’t be both “an artist” and “a business person.” I, of course, think that is bull. In fact, I recommend not labelling yourself at all. Instead, think about the business tasks that need doing and do them, whether you are “an artist,” “a business person” or a dog.

6. In this day and age when we are over saturated by promotional material, how much self promotion is too much... or too little?

It depends! And we each have to figure that out for ourselves. Here’s how: if you have a goal to earn X dollars (or pounds) per month, you have to figure out how much self promotion it takes to make your monthly goal based on how much you charge for your services.

Also, self promotion is not a question of quantity, as much as quality and effectiveness. If you choose the right tools to reach your target market in their moment of need, you may not have to do much at all. But you have to know which tools those are! Sometimes, attending one targeted event will give you all the marketing ammunition you need to last a year, as long as you follow up.

7. Is it enough just spreading the word about our work? What else can we do?

The most important thing to do is develop and nurture relationships with the people who are in a position to either hire you and/or pass your name along to the right people.

That can be done in many different ways – too many, really. It can be done in person through networking. It can be done online through social media. It can be done via email and through the old fashioned snail mail -- even sometimes on the phone. The problem most people encounter is getting overwhelmed by all the different marketing tools available. Or using the right ones in the wrong way. The right way, of course, is strategically, allowing you to connect the dots so the right people get the right message at the right time. That is the basis of my latest marketing plan: 2017 Marketing Blueprint - How to Connect the Dots of Your Marketing.

8. Most creatives are very good at their craft but very bad at selling themselves.... myth or reality?

Reality…but for a good reason. You are good at your craft because you care about it and you devote a lot of time to improving it and making sure you’re the best you can be. If you don’t do that for the business side of your craft, you are almost guaranteed to be really bad at it. No one is good at anything they haven’t learned and practised until they are competent and confident about it.

9. Any other word of advice?

Stop making excuses and get on with the work of letting people know about your work. It is your obligation to yourself.

10. How can creatives reach you and what can you do for them?

What I can do is teach you the simple and basic marketing tools that will bring your ideal clients to you. If that sounds good, sign up for my Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor to get a taste of my advice. Listen to the podcast and then, if you like what you see, sign up for my free 30 minute mentoring session and we’ll talk.

Beautiful! Thank you so much Ilise for your time and for all this fantastic information. So many things that "I Wish I Had Known"! I am sure that a lot of people will find it all very useful. I know that your blog, podcasts, calendar and books have been very useful for me!


If you haven't read the other posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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Changing The World One Photo At A Time

I am really happy to announce that I am now part of PhotoAid Global, an organisation that offers professional photographic services to NGOs, charities, and good causes in order to inspire understanding and action through visual documentary on human and animal rights, and raise environmental awareness. PhotoAid Global is the brainchild of Vanessa Champion, a brilliant photographer and an even more beautiful soul who has travelled the world living exceptional experiences with the most extraordinary people while telling their stories with her camera.

Vanessa set up PhotoAid Global to help fuse the two sides that she sees all the time: NGOs and good causes who desperately need money and are always looking for volunteers and supporters but who have amazing assets in the people and on-the-ground knowledge and can broker travel and relationships; and photographers and business people who want to put something back and are at that point in their careers where they want to make a difference.

Her efforts have also inspired the creation of new chapters like the recently founded PhotoAid Greece, pioneered by photographer Giorgos Xirogiannis whose goal is to help and promote 'people who help people' across Greece and to spread the message that in the difficult times that we live only through solidarity to our fellow human beings our society can maintain its cohesion.

Please show them some love and support by following their social media channels:

PhotoAid Global: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

PhotoAid Greece: Facebook

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