It’s absolutely no surprise that I reached out to Rebecca to be featured on my career profile series. As you know, c&é is a place where I like to feature strong, intelligent women making strides in the world. Rebecca Dale is a self-made freelance photographer working long hours with shoots during the day, editing in the evening, and taking photography courses to learn techniques well into the night. With hard work comes great success, with her client list including Mackenzie Horan, Intermix, and Nourish Snacks to name a few, she has grown a lot in just a few short years. I’m honored to have spent an afternoon with Rebecca in Central Park and talk freelance photography.
You’re a selfmade photographer, what was your former career path? What drew you to photography? Do you have formal training in photography? Before I became a photographer I worked in retail management. I always wanted to be in the fashion industry but never knew exactly what I wanted, but I hated retail. My interest for developing my love for photography came in 2011 honestly I will say it, when Instagram came out. I found myself taking a million photos of everything and it was so much fun for me. My aha moment was when I met my now friend Rachael Ettinger in Las Vegas. I have always been interested in photography my whole life but would only really take photos with my little point and shoot of me and my friends or on some trips I would go on. She was a professional photographer and she took me on a trip to EDC in Vegas and gave me her DSLR to help her shoot even though I had no idea what I was doing. From that moment I held a camera I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life. I could combine my love for fashion with photography and make it into a career. Since I was working at the time I couldn’t go back to school but I enrolled myself into the New York Institute of Photography. What is funny, I didn’t even finish the program because I became too busy working! I started off taking street style photos at fashion week, because it is a great way to meet people and get your foot in the door. I look back and realize I had no idea what I was doing, but it helped that I just went for it. From there I started working with Julia of the blog Lemon Stripes. She helped me out so much to get started and I still work with her to this day.
Freelancing is a lot of work and you’re your own boss, how do you distinguish between your business and personal life? This is very difficult, I will say, for anybody. I think I am just the type of person that likes being my own boss. My dad also has his own business I think I get that independence from him. I am also just so passionate about what I do, I take photos and edit every single day not just for my job but also for fun. For me this is not a job, it is a career and a love and it can take over your whole life, but you need a good work/life balance. “From that moment I held a camera I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.”
What were your biggest obstacles as you transitioned from your former job to a freelance career? I was very scared to leave my job to go full time as a photographer. I was getting a lot of work as it was, working 5 days a week and then usually doing photography jobs after work and on weekends so it was a lot for me, but not enough to make a full income. I actually was working in sales for a nutrition school at the time where I met Julia, and the company laid off a lot of people including me last year. It was not a place I saw myself anyway and I was concentrating more on photography than working there. I decided that was my chance to try and make it doing freelance after that. I gave up my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and moved in with my grandma on the Upper East Side so I didn’t have to worry about paying rent. Sometimes you have to give up certain things to get what you really want. I am very lucky that I was able to do this, not many people have that opportunity. At first business was slow of course, but I had the time to network and gain a lot of clients, so it was booming in no time.
“Sometimes you have to give up certain things to get what you really want. I am very lucky that I was able to do this, not many people have that opportunity.”
What is the best investment you’ve made in your career? I would say traveling. One of my biggest passions is travel photography. If I could be paid to be a travel photographer I would do it in a second. I have spent a lot of money to travel but it has all been worth it, I want to see all of the world.
What equipment would you suggest to aspiring freelance photographers? I started off with a Canon Rebel t3, then upgraded to a Canon 60D, then a 5Dmark II because I wanted a full frame. I absolutely love my camera and my everyday lens is a 50mm f/1.2, I also just recently bought a 35mm f/1.4 because with a 50mm you sometimes cannot get wide enough and it is great for travel photography. I also have a 17-40mm f/4.0 lens which I use for wide angle shots (but I want a 16-35mm f/2.8). Honestly that is really all you need. I have rented and used a 70-200mm f/2.8 and its great for capturing candid moments at fashion week but its just too much and too heavy for every day use. Photography though, is never about the camera it is about the person behind it, so it doesn’t matter what equipment you have as long as you have the eye.
How do you promote your work and business? Any marketing tactics for other aspiring freelance photographers? I really don’t promote myself that much. Every gig I have ever gotten has been from word of mouth and referrals. I know that if I actually tried to market myself I would probably have more clients, but I have way too many right now that I actually feel pretty overwhelmed. I like to try and take every client that asks but it is hard to fit in, and I don’t like to do too many in one day or else I am too exhausted.
You have worked with so many incredible bloggers and great companies like Intermix, what is your biggest achievement to date? I think I have had a lot of big achievements, but I am nowhere near where I want to be and I don’t think I ever will in my eyes. My belief is that if you are an artist and you think you are the best out there, you are not. I am very critical of my own work. There is so much more to learn and I learn new things every day.
What do you hope to achieve in the future? I just hope to grow as a photographer and have amazing new experiences. Every shoot is a new experience, you get to meet new people and get out of your comfort zone. I know most people might have a goal, but I am an open book and I love to take any new opportunities especially if it is out of the box.
c&é readers love photography, and we are smitten with your shots! What is your best tip for new-to-DSLR photographers? I know this might sounds cliche, but practice makes perfect. The more you practice and learn the better you will be. I look back at shots I have taken 2 years ago and in my eyes they are terrible. I am sure I will look back at what I am doing now in a few years and hate it. It is like looking back at a bad outfit you wore when you were young. I also recommend trying a bunch of different types of photography, because you never know what you might love or hate doing.
“I know this might sounds cliche, but practice makes perfect. The more you practice and learn the better you will be.”
What drives your creativity and work? I would say my passion for what I do, and the fact that I am a perfectionist. It is the one thing in my life I feel like I can control. When I am at an amazing photo shoot or a travel location I get adrenaline, the same that a thrill seeker would get. My heart starts beating so quickly and I feel all discombobulated, but I love that feeling. I never wanted my life to be about sitting at a desk job not making a difference. I am a creative person and I want to put out my work to the world.
Where is your favorite place to photograph in NYC? I love Central park. Walking through it in the early morning is amazing, the light is beautiful and the park is empty. I don’t care how many times I walk through the same places, it never gets old.
“I never wanted my life to be about sitting at a desk job not making a difference. I am a creative person and I want to put out my work to the world.”
Be sure to visit Rebecca Dale Photography to glance at her portfolio, admire her photography, or hire her for a shoot!