Interview: Alecia Lindsay, Fashion Photographer

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Alecia Lindsay is a 23 year old fashion photographer whose work has been featured in Photo Vogue, Ellements, Facade, Solis, as well as many other magazines. She’s Alaskan born, and is currently based in Seattle, Washington. You can follow Alecia Lindsay on Instagram @AleciaLindsay.

When did you first discover photography?  And what made you decide you wanted to go into fashion photography?

Like most children of the 90’s, I grew up around cameras. For every special occasion and holidays, my family would get out their Polaroids or those cheap disposable Kodak cameras with 20 to 30 shots on them.

The process to always smile, pose, and “take just one more” only fostered annoyance at being in front of the camera.  

However, from a young age I had always been creative at heart. I’d spend hours and hours at my little toy desk coloring and painting. I didn’t have any art classes, and I didn’t think much of it. I made things simply because I enjoyed it. But, I never took myself too seriously, though.

Perhaps it is because I came from a culture where being an artist for a living wasn’t accepted as a legitimate occupation. It was a “cute hobby,” but not a serious place to invest your time. It wasn’t “practical.”

It wasn’t until I went to college (and after the initial battle of what is a “practical” degree), that I decided to become an Art Major and I was truly (and completely accidentally) introduced to what photography looks like from behind the lens the first time. Those days of frustration at posing for the polaroid were long gone, and my inner child at the art desk began once more, to dream.

From there, my journey with photography traversed every road. I tried taking photos of my friends, I took photos of babies, and weddings, and engagements, and seniors… you name it, I probably tried it. Yet, after a while I came to the same conclusion I did with my major. I was playing it safe. What I really wanted to be doing was taking photos of fashion.

The decision to become a photographer was faced with enough adversity — from myself, within the school, and from my family — but, taking things to the next level of being a fashion photographer was just crazy talk. People kept telling me that I couldn’t be that specific no one would ever want that. And, that I needed to make sacrifices.

I forced myself to take a step back and look at a few things: 1. Would I regret not at least trying to pursue this? 2. Where was this advice coming from? And, did I like this person’s story? (Did this person play it safe, and hate their life and job? If so, I don’t want to take any advice from them.)

So I make the leap, moved out of state, cut off all of my “practical” revenue streams and ran with it.

What has been your most favorite photoshoot or collaboration? Describe the experience.

One of the most memorable shoots I have curated is entitled Dark Beauty. The shoot took place in Hatchers Pass, Alaska, and involved my wonderful model, Shannon (whom I had not met before this instance) prancing around the rocky mountain side with high heels in 15 degree weather and 40 mile per hour winds. You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not.

My favorite shoots are always in the most difficult shooting conditions. I suppose I see it as a challenge.

What happens on a typical fashion photography shoot? How many people are usually involved/who’s involved?

Depending on the scale of the shoot, the size of the crew can be can vary. For my work, I generally have a fairly small crew of 3-4 people, although I’m starting to grow in numbers. The main components of a fashion shoot are the model, the photographer, the hair and makeup artists, the clothing stylist, and a photographer’s assistant.

There are always more pieces to add to the puzzle based on the type of shoot at hand. Some shoots even have set designers, lighting specialists, or manicurist as well. The options seem to never end.

I usually work in small numbers because I like the intimacy of the shoot and enjoy working one-on-one with the model as much as possible. I find that some of my best shots are when the model isn’t distracted by a crowd of people staring or giving input — but there is a time and place for everything!

Here’s a really quick overview of what typically happens in day of shooting a fashion story.*

– Set up wherever the prep location is going to be.  

– Hair and Makeup – this can take 2-4 hours for the initial look. With changes in-between looks.

– Move to location (if different, than the prep location)

– Shoot 5 looks minimum

– Break down

The timeline varies from shoot to shoot. I’ve had shoots that are done within 2 hours, and other that have taken a 13 hour day. A few factors that contribute to the length of shooting time include how experienced the model is, the number of locations for the shoot, or the intricacies of the hair and makeup.

*A fashion story, consists of a minimum of 5 looks and in some cases are up to 10 or 20 looks. There are generally two main types of stories: Beauty and Fashion. The type of story helps inform what each look should be. Beauty stories are based on either different hair or makeup looks, sometimes both. Fashion stories are based on the number of outfits and or accessories.

One of the tricky parts can be making all of these looks cohesive. Each one needs to be distinctly unique, yet have a common thread throughout the story. They can’t just be a random collection of images.

Who are your favorite fashion photographers that you look up to?

A short list of my favorite fashion photographers include: Lara Jade, Margaret Zhang, Annie Leibovitz, Chris Hunt, Russell James, Ellen Von Unwerth, and Mario Testino.

Some I love, not just for their work, but for their story of working toward their career. For instance, Lara Jade and Margaret Zhang are both young and talented, and remind me that this doesn’t journey doesn’t have to take a million years. And, Annie Leibovitz, when you boil it down, said yes to every opportunity she came across and she hustled to refine her work. She wasn’t just sprinkled with some fairy dust that you and I don’t have.

Their stories help humanize the journey I’m on.

What are some tips for people wanting to follow their dreams as a fashion photographer?

Here are my top five pieces of advice for the aspiring fashion photographer:

1 Don’t wait

It’s easy to convince yourself that you need to wait. Wait until you have a better team, better models, better equipment, better timing, etc., but those obstacles and thoughts never go away. Like any major life decision, there’s always a reason to wait, and the time will never be right. You just need make time and start with what you have. And, believe it or not, working without having all of the essentials helps to strengthen your creative process.

2 Keep Shooting

Don’t stop shooting! When you’re getting into the swing of things and start running your own business, it may seem really tempting to stop shooting to focus on other aspects of your business. By all means, take care of what’s important, but don’t put your creative work on the back burner. We, as artists, need to be fed too. Creative shoots are my lifeblood. It keeps me going when things get complicated.

Everyone has a different capacity for how much or how often they should shoot, but make sure to create time for this work.

3 Be Curious

Try different things that push your boundaries and are a little scary. These exercises will help you build a vocabulary of skills to make you an expert in your field.

4 Team Building

You can’t do this alone! When you’re first starting out, it’s necessary to do things on your own, but start building a team as soon as possible. Being a “one-(wo)man-band” isn’t sustainable in the long term. Know you weaknesses and find people who are better than you in the places where you are lacking.

5 Give Yourself Some Slack

This process takes time! As much as I would like it do, it doesn’t happen overnight. You can hustle your bustle all you want, but there are some times when you just need to be patient. So take a breath and enjoy the journey.

Who are your favorite fashion designers? Favorite luxury brands?

I have so many favorites! I love the timeless classics like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Dior. However, I also admire some more modern brands with a twist like Michael Kors and Kate Spade.

Favorite store(s) to shop at:

For clothing, Nordstrom is my go-to clothing store. Both online, or in store.

Nordstrom also carries my favorite jeans of all time, called Articles of Society — Seriously, they are the best jeans ever.

For cosmetics, Sephora, is like a magical fairy land. I particularly love MAC Cosmetics.

Where do you go / how do you find inspiration for your photography? / What inspires you?

I typically have two types of inspiration processes.

First, there is the “magical” organic process, where I am not trying to seek inspiration, but it finds me anyway. This typically happens when I’m doing mindless or mundane tasks like watching movies, reading books, working out, or driving.

The second school of inspiration is building a concept. When I’m searching for a concept or idea, I’ll usually start brainstorming on a piece of paper until I have a starting point to work from. Then, I’ll move to sites like Pinterest and Behance, or I’ll take a look a fashion stories in magazines like Vogue or ELLE to fill in the gaps that I’m missing — things like location, clothing or feel of the shoot.

Who are some people on Instagram that you love/have inspirational feeds?

Two of my current Instagram obsessions are Margaret Zhang and Chriselle Lim.  

Margaret is a young, multi talented fashion photographer based in Australia. I haven’t seen anything that she has created that I didn’t like.

Chriselle is an Los Angeles based fashion blogger who has an amazing sense of style and an incredible creative team that constantly creates A+ work.

You recently moved to LA. Describe the experience and how it’s helping your fashion photography career.

Even though I had visited LA previously, I initially went through a little bit of a culture shock after the move. It’s different feeling visiting a big city when you know that you are going to leave in a few days, compared to the permanence of a move.

I’m from a small town called Big Lake, Alaska — the antithesis of the big city — home to about 3,000 people, where it’s not uncommon to see a dirt road. In fact, to this day, there are no stoplights there.

I’m still new to LA the area, yet the process of building the right relationships and getting plugged in to the right community has already been so much faster; namely, because there is actually a fashion industry here. LA has all the pieces to make my career happen here, I just need to go find them.

Although, I do keep running into people who ask me, “Why didn’t you move to New York City? There’s no fashion industry here.” To which my response is, “You have no idea where I come from.” (A town where moose are normal inhabitants of my back yard.)

What’s your favorite vacation spot / favorite location?

A few of my favorite places in the US are San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; and Hatchers Pass, Alaska. Each are exquisite in their own unique ways.

And, two of my favorite countries I’ve visited thus far are Italy and Taiwan — a weird combination, I know! Both have incredible food and their own sense of adventure.

Share an insider tip that our readers might want to know.

Journaling is the most powerful tool in my business. It can take some getting used to, but it does wonders for my mental clarity.

Also, write down your goals! It’s so easy to have an idea of something you want to accomplish, only to have it tossed to the wind because life happens.

Alecia Lindsay is now teaching an Intro to Fashion Photography course. Click here to learn more. 

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