Back in the dawn of fashion blogging — circa 2008 — having a photographer boyfriend was nearly as crucial to a blogger's success as owning the newest Marc Jacobs bag and perfecting a signature street style pose. Like most of the early fashion blogger trends, we have Rumi Neely of Fashiontoast to thank. The California native's (now ex-) boyfriend Colin Sokol shot most of her early posts, all of which were oozing with West Coast coolness and helped to define her aesthetic. Plenty of other bloggers, like Chiara Ferragni and Aimee Song, followed suit and still continue to work with their significant others in some capacity today.
But while having a blogger boyfriend might be a convenient industry trope ("the best of both worlds," as one blogger put it), the current competitive fashion environment makes it tough to get by with an amateur photographer behind the camera, as your daily outfit posts can quickly translate into income. The top Instagram stars now know it's best to hire a professional — and of course, there are plenty to choose from.
The business of fashion blogger photography has moved beyond simply tag-along boyfriends into an industry in and of itself. These days, bloggers have their preferred photographers, whether it's WeWoreWhat and Jeff Thibodeau, Something Navy and Alexandra Wolf, or one of the dozens other familiar pairs. Once a blogger finds a photographer they connect with, it's common for them to remain fiercely loyal for years. Even as the industry evolves from personal style blogs to social media-only stars, the one constant necessity is a photographer-blogger chemistry that pops off the screen.
Blogging is still a relatively new field, so it's not surprising that many photographers found their blogger clients before they knew what blogging even was. When Alexandra Wolf moved to New York from Italy looking to make a career change from design to photography about eight years ago, she needed to gain experience. "I had no idea what blogging was all about at the time," she explained. The Cyprus native, who got her start doing editorial photography, stumbled upon a job posting from Arielle Noa Charnas of Something Navy, who was searching for a photographer on Craigslist. "I had to go in for an interview, and, like all Craigslist ads, you're never sure what it's going to be," she said. "But we became really good friends and have worked together ever since."
Lydia Hudgens (who shoots Nicolette Mason, Krystal Bick, and Gabi Gregg, among others) also unexpectedly found her start in the business while trying to build her portfolio. "I initially reached out to bloggers after finishing school in San Francisco and wanting to work on fleshing out a portfolio that was fashion-based,” she told Fashionista. "I contacted girls whose style interested me, but I also loved the concept of bloggers because it was like working with a stylist, model and muse all rolled into one." This business snowballed, and as more and more girls started contacting her, Hudgens realized shooting bloggers could be a viable career path. "I started charging girls rather than simply collaborating," she explained. "Jennie from Going West, Christina from Profreshstyle and Blair from Atlantic Pacific will remain the first girls I ever worked with." Hudgens said she did shoots for free the first few times, but within a month began receiving inquiries for paid work. She explained that now the ballpark photographer fee for new blogger clients ranges from $40-100 a look, or $100-200 an hour.
Top-tier bloggers have since parlayed their successful personal style sites into brand ambassador gigs, and they often bring their photographers along with them for client work — sometimes in far-flung locations — which is a definite perk of the job and an unbeatable networking opportunity. Hudgens said that potential clients often find her via her previous blog work. "Brands and companies have seen my work on certain bloggers sites and reached out directly, or the girls have brought me work by recommending me as a photographer for a project, etc.," she said. "To be honest, I wish I had jumped on the social media game earlier on. I think people knew who I was because I worked with so many bloggers but couldn't put a face to the name until just recently, something that helps in this industry." Along with a curated roster of bloggers — "I'm working with less and less new girls," she said — Hudgens's varied client list now includes everyone from Ted Baker to Ugg to Marie Claire.
Brooklyn-based photographer Mark Iantosca has also used bloggers as an entryway into big-name branded gigs. "I don't work with bloggers that often anymore, but initially it was really great to get my name out there," he said. "I've been fortunate enough to work with pretty big bloggers such as Leandra Medine and Kelly Framel. It got me a lot of exposure and access to brands." When he's not shooting street style at Coachella, you can find his work for companies like Amazon Fashion, Refinery29 and Loft. "There isn't nearly as much money in street style as there used to be, but I can still get good jobs," he said of today's crowded environment. "The competition is really crazy."
Plus, with more and more bloggers choosing to focus on Instagram as opposed to an editorialized blog, there's even more pressure to get that perfect shot. Blogger photography may have started as a niche industry, but the pros we talked to predict it's only going to get bigger — and likely more lucrative. "A few years ago it was just about the blog," Wolf recalled. "Now I really have to get that one great picture; that one with the perfect composition that works for Instagram." She said she often takes hundreds of photos in order to find that perfect shot. "You know when it's right; and regardless of whether it's for a blogger or for a brand, you have to take into consideration the aesthetic they're going for." And, when it comes to a sponsored Instagram post, photographers typically get paid out by the blogger—"Unless a brand hires me directly," Hudgens explained.
This blogger-brand-photographer trifecta is arguably the most profitable team in fashion right now, which makes it all the more fitting that photographers are making an effort to step out from behind their Lumix cameras and into the spotlight. "A lot of brands just work with bloggers and Instagram, and that's how they advertise," Wolf said, summing up the current environment. "[My blogger clients] have the opportunity to work with amazing brands, and that opens doors up for me as well."