What's it like to be a woman in photography today?

02 September 2017

Region: Headquarters

Throughout May, our friends at Datacolor interviewed women working in photography around the globe. Often under-represented in a male-dominated industry, Datacolor wanted to expose the talents of these photographers, exploring what inspires them, the challenges they have faced throughout their career, and their advice to the photographers of the future.


Feeling inspired

© Verity Milligan / Bullring at Sunrise / courtesy DatacolorThere are lots of my contemporaries who I take inspiration from on a daily basis. Photographers like Julian Calverley, Mark Littlejohn, Rachael Talibart (and dozens more), who consistently put out incredible work and find innovative ways to capture the landscape,” says Verity Milligan, an award-winning professional photographer and educator working out of the city of Birmingham (image right).

Most of all I’m inspired by light, especially morning light, just after sunrise, and how it plays with the landscape, whether it’s urban or rural. I’m happiest when shooting at dawn, there is something so quiet and ethereal about the world at that time and even in a city it can feel like there’s only me awake (especially in the summer when I’m getting up as others go to bed).

© Olivia Bossert / courtesy DatacolorCornwall-based fashion and wedding photographer, Olivia Bossert (image left), agrees. “I’m also incredibly inspired by light. Soft, dreamy light. The way it envelops people’s faces. The changes it creates in mood. The way it alters landscapes. I’m totally obsessed with light!” She also stresses the importance of accurate colour. “Colour is everything. It allows for consistency, mood, emotion, storytelling. Without being able to see the exact colours within my imagery, I can’t tell the story I hope to tell through my images”.

Overcoming challenges

The biggest obstacle is probably that fashion photography is a hugely competitive field with a lot of rejection", comments London-based fashion photographer, Holly McGlynn. “I’ve won awards and shot campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world but I think my biggest achievement is that I’m absolutely relentless and despite the rejection and competition, I’ve never given up.

Verity Milligan initially experienced the challenges of a male-dominated industry, but has learnt to turn it around into a positive. “I find that being a woman has definitely made my photographic journey tougher, especially because my particular field is male-dominated. In the beginning people were surprised that I was a landscape/architectural photographer with no interest in shooting newborns or imbuing my work with pastel colours”, she explains. “I find that in a way I’m constantly being underestimated, and that somewhat plays to my advantage. I’d much rather be the scrappy underdog working towards something, exceeding expectations. Ultimately, as a woman photographer in my particular field, I’m in a minority, but that minority is incredibly supportive and talented, so I feel very lucky”.

Sharing knowledge

© Holly McGlynn / courtesy DatacolorBe confident, shoot regularly, mess up, pick yourself up and move forward," is Verity Milligan’s top tip. “Remember that you have an expertise, a skill you’ve honed over 1000s of hours, and that skill is worth something, so don’t sell yourself or your work short at the beginning of your career, because it will make it very difficult to change that perception further down the line”.

Holly McGlynn (image left) agrees practice makes perfect. “Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, network like there’s no tomorrow, keep shooting personal work as much as possible to develop your own style, never give up, and be nice. You could be the best photographer in the world but if you treat the people around you without respect, you’ll never be hired”.

I seriously encourage the idea of never stopping to learn”, adds Olivia Bossert. “I’m always attending workshops, taking courses, reading books, despite having finished my degree three years ago. And if you can, study business outside of the photography world. Learn from people in totally different industries! You want to stand out, not blend in, so if you spend all your time learning from other photographers… you’ll just end up doing all the same things”.

This blog comes from The Royal Photographic Society website. You can read full interviews with Verity, Holly and Olivia, plus many other photographers, at www.datacolor.com

Main image: © Olivia Bossert / courtesy Datacolor