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Breaking into fashion

Posted on Jul 13, 2017

Magic Owen shares her insight on breaking into the fashion industry

Words by Jemma Dodd

Magic Owen’s first step into the fashion industry came when she modelled in her home country of France back in the 90s. Her love of iconic images and passion for fashion and art led to her longing to create such images herself. She gained experience from assisting a photographer and working in the dark room at weekends. Now a full-time fashion photographer based in Oxford, Magic mainly focuses on editorial work, but also covers product, lookbooks, commercial and model portfolio updates, and has had her images featured in the likes of Vogue Italia, Tantalum and Glassbook.

Can you remember your first big fashion shoot?
It’s hard to say which one was the first big one, jobs have slowly built up and my perspective has changed over the years. Almost certainly, the first big shoot probably didn’t pay much, but gave me the opportunity to prove what I can do and build valuable relationships, which are key in this industry.

When were you ready to go full-time?
I simply realised that I could afford it, and just had to give it a shot.

How do clients find you?
Social media, Facebook, Instagram and recommendation have been the main way of getting my work seen and gaining new clients, as well as sites such as Fashion TV, and regular publications in print and online.

Most of my clients have approached me. I do my best to make sure my work is seen by people I’d like to work with, but the rest is up to them. I’m really not a salesperson. I don’t have any way to make sure the work is always there, sometimes it just isn’t, and other times there’s too much.

How many shoots did you do per year?
It’s very hard to say how many, because they range so much from large productions to half-day studio shoots with everything in between. There are also a lot of projects I do with models or designers where there is a mutual desire to work together. 50% of my clients are actually models who come to me for tests or portfolio updates. I try to keep the larger production shoots down to one to three per month, so they can get the full attention that they deserve. But I generally shoot two or three times a week.

Can you tell us about a client shoot that you were really pleased to work on?
My first shoot with celebrity designer William Wilde was a highlight and definitely opened some doors. I have been a huge fan for years and when I was asked to shoot the Dairy Queen lookbook I was over the moon. I sourced the location, MUA, hairstylist and models. Whether it’s paid work or ‘time for’, I always ensure that everyone in the team is happy with the images, and that means showing the back of the camera, discussing what works and what doesn’t and giving feedback.

So you’ve been given a brief by a client, what’s next?
It varies wildly from client to client and shoot to shoot. Often I take responsibility for everything, which can turn out to be as much work as the shoot itself. Other times, the location and/or models are already selected. I have some close relationships with models, MUAs, stylists, hairstylists and designers so can help the client fill in any gaps.

What have you learnt about the industry?
Most people are in it for a love of the industry and even the most talented of them are often struggling. Getting recognition for your work is hard, but turning it into a livelihood is something else. This seems to apply to designers, models, stylists and everyone involved. The fashion industry is not an easy world to be in, you have to put a lot of work and effort in all the time.

What advice would you give to aspiring fashion photographers?
Don’t undervalue yourself. It’s tough now, designers have tight budgets and magazines receive free submissions every day. So hone your skills by building mutual relationships. Create, experiment, build your own style and avoid comparing yourself to others.

See more of Magic’s work at:

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