Fashion photographer Alicia Shi’s tips for success

Image by Fashion photographer Alicia Shi

Image by Fashion photographer Alicia Shi

For anyone who has had the gumption to cut their professional teeth in a second language or culture, you probably don’t have to be told twice its no small feat to “make it”. One-part sheer tenacity, teamed with a heavy dash of stubborn determination, Alicia Shi sat down with us to share her story on how she successfully established her photography company in Shanghai.

Here are her tips on how she turned her passion into a creatively fulfilling career:

Listen to your heart – for her undergraduate studies Alicia studied international investment but found she didn’t enjoy the subject so she began to attend photography lectures at a local museum. Even though she initially received negative feedback for her photography work, she didn’t care, she enjoyed photography so much she began to shoot her friends to develop her eye, execution skills and build her portfolio.

Be ready for a good fight – while it would have been easier to stay in her native Russia working in investment Alicia explains “You need to be ready to move in the direction of what you want to achieve, rather than sit in comfort. Initially I struggled in Shanghai with a new language, a new place but the more you fight for what you want the more you get.”

Why China? – “I was dreaming and planning for a long time to move to Shanghai. It’s an emerging fashion market, you have an opportunity to grow and develop with it.”

Understand the difference between commercial work and fashion – “Commercial work is about your technical ability to deliver and produce a desired image according to the advertising agency and client’s requirements whereas fashion photography is more of a creative medium where you can express yourself and negotiate with a brand.”

Get registered, think in seasons – to work as a legitimate freelancer in China with top brands as clients you need to be registered as a company so you can provide ‘fapiaos’ (official invoices). While it takes awhile to do, this is a must. Photography work also can be seasonal so you need to budget for this and control your cash flow.

Stay up-to-date and continue to grow – Alicia consistently checks Models.com, Fashion Gone Rogue and Instagram to stay up to date with the latest photography trends so she understands how to frame her taste to deliver relevant imagery. Photography is a living medium, you are transforming internally throughout your career, your work should reflect your transformation.

How to get started – “You have to shoot as much as you can, don’t be afraid to use new lighting setups, models, to contact people for help. There are other people who are new, ask around. We have so many social media channels to reach people, just try. You need to learn how to work with different people and understand the creative process of producing photography.”

Check out more of Alicia’s work here.

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