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Celebrating International Women’s Day Everyday: A Twitter Space Show and Tell with Black Women Photographers

One of the great benefits of using social media as a photographer is the incredible opportunity to instantly connect with different creatives from ...

One of the great benefits of using social media as a photographer is the incredible opportunity to instantly connect with different creatives from around the world and from different walks of life.

It’s now easier than ever to share stories, support one another, and learn from each other from across time zones, overseas, and through screens.

It is always a pleasure to bring photographers together and learn about the work they’re producing, the communities they come from, and the reasons why photography is such a special part of their lives.

This year, for International Women’s Day, we partnered with Black Women Photographers to highlight the work of several women we admire, and opened up the virtual stage for an inspiring and uplifting Twitter Space conversation.

Listen to our full chat below, and read on for the highlights – including some fantastic advice for fellow photographers, gear preferences from our featured guests, and shout-outs to the important women in their lives.

Cover images courtesy of Elsie Kibue-Ngare, Amanda Cain, Betty Tamrat and Jillian Atkinson.

We were lucky enough to speak with four different photographers from various locations around the world: London, New York, California and Ethiopia.

Meet Elsie Kibue-Ngare, Jillian Atkinson, Amanda Cain and Betty Tamrat.

When planning for our talk, we asked each of these photographers to select a few photos to share and discuss. Take a look at the photos they selected below and listen on to hear the story behind each image. Then follow these women on social media to see more of their work!

What advice would you give to fellow or aspiring photographers? 

We love sharing words of encouragement, tips from the pros and uplifting messages from photographers to their peers. What would be your go-to advice for fellow or aspiring photographers? Tag us on Twitter (@photoshelter) and let us know.

Elsie: Photography can be a very lonely profession. Most of the time you’re alone. So my advice would be to look for an accountability partner, and this is something even Polly Irungu encourages us to do through Black Women Photographers. 

My other tip is to always practice self care as well. Because even when you’re going through downtime – currently I’m going through a slump, I haven’t photographed in a while and I feel really bad – I’m taking it as an opportunity, and as my body telling me to rest and prepare myself for the next stage of my photography journey. Always think about how there are days that will come when you’re not motivated, but it’s ok. Take it as a chance for you to regroup and prepare yourself for the next stage in your own journey.

Jillian: Repetition is definitely key. Just get up and shoot for sure. I started cooking for myself and photographing my plates of food in the house and that progressed over time. I could see my progress and so it pushed me to keep going.

My second tip would be not to rely on your gear or camera as the reason why you take great photos… The question that I get most often is, ‘What do I shoot on, what is my camera?’ But I didn’t start with that camera. I started shooting on my iPhone and I was capturing pictures that way for a long time before I committed to actually gearing up. So, trust your eyes and define what your vision is and what your goal is. Because your eye is the picture itself, so work with whatever you have in front of you and just go for it.

Amanda: My go-to tip is to shoot everything you possibly can. Whether your goal is to be a food photographer or a sports photographer, a lot of those skills transfer over into each discipline. 

Did you know we recently interviewed Amanda to learn about her experience with representation in the photo and hockey industries, how she got her start, and more? Read our feature story here.

Betty: These photographers have said it all. All I can say is trust your gut, trust the process and just use whatever you have at hand. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, you’ll figure it out in the process.

What gear is a must-have when you’re working on a project or you’re about to head out for an assignment?

Whether it’s food photography or street photography, camera gear and photo equipment can look a lot different for every photographer and every speciality.

Lighting and photographing food, in a studio or kitchen for example, comes with a great number of factors to consider. You can pull out all the bells and whistles in a studio setting. On the other hand, documentary work takes a whole different approach, where photographing people and interacting with the world around you often works better with less tools on your back and in your hands.

Jillian: When you ask me about gear, my first thoughts are the kind of layout work that I do with styling and prep. So I make photography-specific decisions based on the bowls, the plates, the food, the temperature of the food, etc. That’s not really gear, but that’s my first step. I take a lot of notes, I grid out my shots first and I sort of see them in my head; overhead shots, straight on, and about 45° angles. Then I have to think about light. Do I want to soften the light based on the plates? Do I need to change my umbrellas to a rectangle or square because I’m shooting glass?

I also shoot with a speedlight rather than a strobe, but I’d love to move onto a strobe. It gives you a lot better functionality. And then there’s diffusion. I diffuse a lot, especially when it comes to food and making sure that I’m highlighting the hero part of the image, a.k.a where I want you to look on the plate first.

Betty: As a street photographer, I choose my iPhone for that. It’s a better experience than shooting with a camera because people don’t give you as much attention. You can be your true self. People are afraid of cameras these days… 

For my indoor shots, I do use Sony though. And for my travel shots I use a 70-200mm lens.

Click here to watch our on-demand webinar about iPhone vs DSLR Photography.

Let’s talk about mentors. Who inspires you? Who are the women in your life–whether they’re photographers and creatives or not–who you admire and look up to?

At PhotoShelter, countless photographers have told us they wouldn’t be where they are in their careers without mentorship. Here’s a shout-out to those who raised us, came before us, challenged and educated us along the way, and helped to make us who we are today.

Download our guide, Photography Mentorship: Why You Need it and Why it Helps Everyone, to get inspired.

Elsie: I have to give a big shout-out to Polly. I know she hears this a lot, but I think I’ll keep giving her flowers because she created this community in the height of the pandemic, we all came together, and we helped build a community of Black women photographers. This has helped so many women… and there is a lot she is planning for the coming days. So big shout-out to Polly.

And Mom, in case you’re listening, let me shout her out too!

Jillian: Many many women in my personal life who I look up to and honor everyday – my mom, whose house I’m at today and my grandmother, who’s 100 years old. I love and honor them everyday. 

Also Elsie is spot on for shouting out Polly, who has created such an awesome community for us. Thank you so much Polly, and Polly’s mom too, who is always so much fun and interactive with us!

In terms of photography women that I look up to, there are so many influential women, especially in the food space. One of those is Joanie Simon, who does a lot of teaching. She’s a great resource if people want to start getting more involved in food photography. She is somebody who I really admire – just her capacity to build an entire YouTube empire around food and food photography, and I like to shout her out if people are interested in getting started. 

Click here to watch our on-demand webinar with Joanie Simon about capturing action in food photography.

Betty: I want to give a huge shout-out to my grandma. I know she’ll never hear this, but she has a special place in my heart. She’s so inspiring every day. 

In the photography industry: Martha Tadesse, she’s a huge inspiration as a photographer. She’s a documentary photographer and she’s amazing at her job. And of course a shout-out to Hilina Abebe. She’s my favorite and I always look forward to seeing her work.

Amanda: Shout-out to my mom for believing in my dreams and Polly too, for organizing a spot for Black women photographers to be seen and heard. That is an amazing accomplishment. Photographers in the space… quick shout-out to Nina Robinson and Michelle Agins – females like those who I’ve had the pleasure of talking to and who I’ve been mentored by. A shout-out to all of the women sports photographers out there because we are all inspiring. And to the women here too, because we are all inspiring.

Want to join us next time we host a Show and Tell Twitter Space? Follow @photoshelter on Twitter and stay tuned for our next conversation!

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