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Who needs a professional photographer when you have a boyfriend?
Fashion bloggers at the top of their game—fans, contracts, influence—can easily rake in six figures a year. Many of these social media darlings are beloved by strangers far and wide, but the photographers responsible for capturing their outfits just so are rarely acknowledged. Who is behind the camera taking the images that make personal style bloggers famous?
Last year, writer David Yi wrote a post on Fashionista profiling a few successful fashion bloggers and connecting a common, unseen thread: their boyfriends took their photos. “Beau-togs,” he called them. In addition to romantic partners, close friends and family members also took a lot of the images on fashion blogs (both with and without pay).
It’s understandable why Insta-famous fashionistas turn to someone in their life to take on the role of photographer. First and foremost, there’s the convenience: When the fashion blogger spontaneously spots a place to shoot, it’s easier to ask pal right there to snap a photo than it is to schedule a session with a professional photographer in that location. Additionally, the perks for a partner or friend who is comfortable behind the camera can be enormously attractive. The most sought-after fashion bloggers can be invited to travel all the world by brands, all expenses paid. If their partner is their photographer, a solo work trip can suddenly become a free couple’s vacation. The same goes for a work trip that suddenly becomes a free girlfriends’ getaway. And for amateur photographers looking to build up a photography portfolio, a personal style blogger as a friend is an endless source of content.
I reached out to several well-known fashion bloggers to find out more about who takes the pictures on their personal style blogs.
Diana Tidswell of 204 Park turns to her boyfriend or friends to take her photos. She doesn’t pay her boyfriend, she explained, because her success is something that benefits them both, so they work actively toward it as a team.
A photo posted by 204 PARK (@204park) on
“The better my photos and my blog are, the more likely I am to get offers for sponsored posts or freelance writing/social media/content creation, which benefits us both,” Tidswell told the Daily Dot over Facebook chat.
Tidswell also pairs up with fellow blogging friends so that they can take photos with each other. Lindsay Emow of SugarAndSomething.com also finds that trading photography duties with local bloggers is budget-savvy—but this DIY approach isn’t without its mishaps. She elaborated:
“I once took photos for another blogger whose camera was very high-end. She didn’t know how to use it—it was her husband’s—nor did I, so we took all of the photos and on the preview screen they looked good, but at home on the computer every single one of them was blurry!”
A photo posted by Lindsay Emow (@champagneandbluejeans) on
These kinds of complications are not just occasional frustrations—they are always a part of the shoot, said Adaleta Avdic of Adaatude.com. “That ‘perfect picture’ took hours and was edited and staged,” she told the Daily Dot via Facebook chat.
Jennifer Johnson of the Instagram boutique Shop Venture Freedom relies on her boyfriend take her photos. A professional photographer seems too expensive to Johnson, who sees the $600 she spent on her camera an “investment” for her business.
Johnson pointed out that her boyfriend brings more to the table than a professional photographer would: cheerleading. “He has a very entrepreneurial spirit and without him I would have never started my business,” she explained. “He is the one encouraging me to get out and take pictures for my blog, because I can get lazy sometimes.”
Mary Keegan of What Sundays Are For also turns to her boyfriend for photography. Keegan says he’s happy to help and aside from the occasional breakfast due to an early morning shoot, she doesn’t compensate him. Keegan’s boyfriend is a graphic designer and developing a photography portfolio through her shoots has helped him to reel in new clients. “He needed practice in photography and I needed a photographer, so there was a mutual interest to collaborate,” she wrote the Daily Dot in an email.
A photo posted by Mary Keegan (@maryekeegan) on
Hillary Dixon of Style in a Small Town gets her blog photos taken by a a friend at work—which helps because she’s always dressed and ready for a shoot when she’s in the office. “We take my pics on our lunch break usually,” Dixon told the Daily Dot via Facebook chat.
“I’m a professional photographer by trade, so I usually set up my camera settings and such beforehand,” she explained. “I give a ton of direction and try to not take too much of their time. If I didn’t know what I were doing with my camera I’d definitely try to do some sort of trade with local photographers.”
As a working photographer, Doll knows the value in having a trained eye behind the lens—someone with experience in finding the perfect composition or settings arrangement. It just so happens that her set-up work is enough to keep her photos looking clean and crisp, even when a child is technically “taking the photo.”
Juley Le of Upperlyne gets her photos taken by her boyfriend, sister, or even strangers she encounters on the street. “If I’m alone and need strangers to snap a quick photo, I usually ask a girl,” Le explained in an email. “Girls are more open to taking pictures. It’s sometimes embarrassing but fun for the most part.”
A photo posted by juley le (@juleytl) on
When Le’s boyfriend snaps her photos, she usually pays for a meal for him as compensation. She does the same with her sister, but sometimes gives her sister some cash since she’s a college student. “Generally, they do it out of kindness and support,” she said. Anything else is basically a gratuity.
Jennifer Thai of This Jenn Girl works alongside her boyfriend at an ad agency in Tampa and, like Dixon, she finds lunch breaks are a perfect shoot opportunity. He is an art director/photographer, so they already both spend a good deal of time thinking about image direction and the impact of a strong visual statement. “It’s a great partnership, because even though he doesn’t specialize in fashion photography, he provides a lot of insight into new ideas, angles, and poses that we test out from time to time,” Thai explained in an email.
Having her boyfriend behind the lens helps her to relax, too. “I love having my beau take my photos because they come out so naturally,” she continued. “My smiles aren’t forced, because he’s constantly cracking jokes or making fun of me to get me to smile and laugh.”
Alas, working with boyfriends and husbands is not always a walk in the park. As Kathrine Eldridge of KathrineEldridge.com told the Daily Dot via Facebook chat that the process can be trying enough to make the professional photographer price tag worth it:
“My husband used to take my pictures but he wanted to do it his way and not mine. He was all about the shot and not the clothes. We had many disagreements. I then decided to hire a photographer and she totally gets what I need. I have been with her for about a year and it’s been great.”
Other fashion bloggers rely on immediate family members for their photography. Kim Tuttle of The Knotted Chain has long turned to her mother for fashion assistance. “She was definitely a style influencer, especially when I hit my early teen years and really started to get into fashion,” she told the Daily Dot in an email. “My mom was always there, ready to share her fashion, hair, and makeup tips.”
Now that Tuttle is a grown-up making a go of a career as a fashion blogger, the platform that The Knotted Chain provides is an outlet for both Tuttle and her mother. It has not always been easy for the pair, though. Tuttle said that since she and her mother are both strong-minded, they clashed frequently in the beginning of the process. “We would disagree on angles and the shots that I envisioned weren’t always what she would capture,” she explained.
Their process has clicked into place now, though. Tuttle has learned to appreciate her mother’s ideas and trust her judgment while her mother has become accustomed to the types of visuals Tuttle aspired to have by the end of a shoot.
A photo posted by Kim Tuttle • The Knotted Chain (@kimtuttle_) on
A close relationship between the fashion blogger and the person taking the photos seems to trump all else when it comes down to who’s asked to do the shooting. “We have a stronger bond because of our shared sense of creativity and the amount of time that we spend together shooting looks on the weekends,” Tuttle explained.
While some fashion bloggers barely acknowledge the fact that their photos are taken by their boyfriends, friends, or family members, Tuttle is happy to let anyone know that her presence as a fashion blogger is a family operation. When asked who takes her photos, Tuttle said, “I proudly answer, ‘my momma.'”
Image via Evan Blaser/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)