Paul Barshon recently spoke at Santa Monica College to a group of photography students. We distilled the conversation into some key points and thought we should share his valuable advice with you!
By Andrea Stern & Paul Barshon



Paul spoke about all the importance of building a cohesive and personal portfolio reflective of your unique style.

Paul expressed that building your book is really one of the most essential things to keep up with as a photographer. Build your book based on what you love to shoot. Test constantly. You will get hired for your unique voice and vision. Your portfolio is EVERYTHING.

Your book has to be created with your style. It has to be about YOU. You will get hired for YOUR style. Hone in on your voice. Know that it will grow and change and that is OK.

But be careful...don’t chase what everyone else is chasing, that is a sure recipe to get lost in the mix.


It’s all about perseverance and persistence.

I would add, this industry requires resilience, patience, and tenacity. 


This attitude parlays into your marketing strategy. Consistently sending your ideal clients promos, hello emails, taking people out to lunch. 

When you have new work send it to your contacts! Don’t be afraid to do this consistently. 

Utilize tools such as Agency Access and Bikini lists to find the right ad agencies for your desired clients. Focus your marketing and keep your name in front of the right people.


Reps are facilitators, negotiators, connecters, but a rep can’t magically get you work if your book doesn’t make an impact. Ultimately, what it comes down to, is the quality of your work. 


Crew: Your crew is really, really important. Gather a solid crew of people to work with. People who you can rely on and count on when stuff hits the fan. 

Location: You have to know everything about this location. Know the sun path. Know what lenses you will be shooting with. Where is your camera going to be? Do you need a permit? 

Gear: You have to know exactly what you need beforehand. 


Attitude: Even if you don’t win the work, don’t be discouraged, it means people are looking at and liking your work. That’s huge.

The Creative Call: Find a way to stand out and infuse your voice into the conversation. Track key words that the agency uses (such as “moody”) and thread those into your treatment. Take copious notes. Be fun and creative. This is where you need to show them who you ARE, not just as a photographer but as a human. 

The Treatment: How do you think the project should be handled? Sell your idea. You’re not just being hired to take photos. You’re being hired for your vision and voice.


Everyone. All the time.

Learn everything. Know everything. 

To put it simply, know your ****.


Follow your heart. Shoot what you love to shoot. Develop your style and voice. Gather good people around you who you enjoy spending time with. 

To see more of Paul's work: