How to become a professional photographer. Eugenia Milani says
Thanks to the camera, I could safely watch the world through the lenses… This is how professional photographer Eugenia Milani recalls her first approach to photography. At the time she was a shy teenager who just moved back to Italy, after some twelve years spent abroad following her father’s job. Today, she is a professional wedding and lifestyle photographer, who loves to describe emotions through the camera. Today Eugenia shares with us her story, her not so easy decision to dive into photography, her way to build up her career, patiently, step by step.
When did you realize you wanted to become a photographer, and how did you start?
I got to photography thanks to my mum; during my childhood we travelled a lot due to my father’s job, and when we got back to Italy I was 11. I was having a hard time fitting in at school, preferring staying on my own rather than mingling with the other kids…so my mum decided to introduce me to photography, and I instantly fell in love with the camera, a tool that allowed me to safely watch the world through the protection of lenses. I kept on nourishing this passion, and at high school I got my first jobs, as working for the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel during 2006 Paralympics games. At that moment I realized I wanted to become a professional photographer later on, even though at the time it seemed more a dream than an actual possibility. Nevertheless, I had the chance to meet the right people at the right times, to get more and more technical skills…. My career started like that, covering sports and corporate events, lectures…
What ‘kind of photographer’ are you?
I’d say lifestyle photographer, I like showing people’s characters and lives through the images. I mostly work with young couples expecting, families with kids… for each shooting I scout the location and the time that are more appropriate to the people I am working with, inviting them to be as spontaneous as possible, trying to make them feel at ease with the camera. I love capturing everyday life moments, such as a hug, an affectionate gesture. I use the same approach during wedding shootings: once the ‘formal’ pictures are done, what I really like is to capture genuine moments: people smiling, hugging, laughing… People are so beautiful when they are spontaneous, sincere, this is what drives my work.
Which are the golden rules to follow to become a professional photographer?
As in every other job, the tools are not sufficient; photography is a really accessible world (who doesn’t own a smart phone nowadays?) and a lot of people could easily consider themselves photographers. But the truth is that a lot of study is required, as well as a good deal of preparation to criticism. Never give up is also important, knowing that your work will not always be appreciated. Looking for inspirations is also important, visiting exhibitions, reading books, watching movies…. Last but not least, acknowledge that you’ll spend a lot of time dealing with administrative stuff, as every freelance does.
What’s photography to you?
It’s a means of communication, a language; a tool thanks to which I can tell who I am, what I feel. My orchid recently bloomed, and I captured the moment in which petals were illuminated by the sun. At that moment I thought how that flower reminded me of some people: thanks to its thick leaves it seems strong, but when it blooms it magically reveals its delicate side. This is what photography means to me.
Which are the pros and cons of being a freelance? How do you feel about gender gap?
Let’s start with the cons. Being a freelance means having a higher economic pressure and uncertainty; legislation in Italy changes frequently so you’ll probably need to hire an accountant. There’s no paid maternity leave, and no medical care. Banks are less keen to give loans to freelancers etc. On the bright side, you’re your master and the master of your time. You can to a laundry load in the middle of the day, have a whole morning of sleep and compensate with late night hours, meet a friend for a long lunch and so on. Concerning the gender gap, I don’t really earn less than my male colleagues, but as a woman I often have a harder time in getting some real respect. There are many man in this fields and if you want to cultivate your career as a woman photographer you need to get tough and confident.
An advice you’d give to young photographers to be.
Experiment a lot, shoot everything that gets your attention. It doesn’t matter what you like, if you feel like taking pictures of kittens, do it! Study a lot and know yourself well. Read, visit, look, observe. Ask for outside opinions and be ready to confrontation and criticism. If you’re not cut for it, just leave it and find something that suits you more.
A last quick Q&A
Your work camera and your day by day one
Work: Canon 6D and Canon 1Dx Personal moments: my phone LG G6
Your wishlist N°1 item
A thing you always bring with you
An open mind
Your favorite photographer
Robert Mapplethorpe and Richard Avedon