Making The Move To A Major Market - An Interview With Fashion Photographer Dana Pennington

Making The Move To A Major Market - An Interview With Fashion Photographer Dana Pennington

Dana Pennington is a Los Angeles-based Fashion photographer. He recently moved to become a permanent resident in Los Angeles, from his home town Denver, Colorado. I had the chance to sit down with Pennington during my first trip to L.A., over the past weekend, and talk to him about his journey into the fashion photography industry.

Pennington began like a lot of us do who live in mid to small markets. In fact, he reminded me of a lot of the experiences I am having living in the similar sized market of New Orleans.

Pennington is currently 29 and has been in Los Angeles for a little over a year. He had a vague interest in photography in high school but it wasn’t until he took photography as elective at the Metropolitan State College of Denver that he found his passion for it.

It opened my eyes to the power of an image and what you can do with a camera and I got hooked.

Pennington immediately switched his major and focus to photojournalism but shortly realized he wanted more creative control over his art. So with a shift in focus, Pennington transferred to the Art Institute of Denver where he had a brief stint as photography major. He decided that his path to education however would be hands on, in the field. Pennington began to then shoot and assist while still living in Denver. He also recommends to those looking to start careers in photography also consider business school as an option because those are the skills he sees such a great need for in our profession.

So at 24 years old, Pennington found himself shooting local models and building his experience and portfolio in Denver.

Eventually I came to the realization that if I wanted to take it seriously I needed to start working with better models.

At this point, Pennington would come out to major markets like, Los Angeles, New York, or Miami to shoot tests and to also build relationships with agencies. After a couple of years the one-week long trips expanded to three weeks or even a month. Pennington would work the whole time shooting, head home to edit, and then start planning the next trip. Also, his experience and relationships allowed him to book paid tests, which would in turn offset the expense of his travels.

It did take time though to build to that point. When he first started trying to test, he would wait a week or two before leaving for his trip and then just call every agency. Responses where spotty which Pennington found discouraging at first, but he realized that if he made five calls he may get one or two responses, and so he kept calling and kept working and continued to build those critical relationships.

But at 27, Dana Pennington realized it was time to make the big jump.

What I was noticing with the travel was that every time I came out here it was kind of like starting over, when you’re only out here for a short amount of time its hard to really maintain a relationship with the agencies.

“There’s a crop of new photographers popping up every day it feels like, so it’s easy to be forgotten,” Pennington says. When he first got out to Los Angeles as a resident it was all about reestablishing and reconnecting. Once reconnected and settled in, more paid test starting coming in which transitioned into other paid work like look-books and line-sheets.

Pennington has found that the presence of being there (Los Angeles) makes a difference. He has found that a lot of his growth to bigger projects has come from word of mouth as well as social media, but also notes that the journey is different for everyone. “I would like to continue to book look-books and get bigger ones and then move into ad campaigns. I would like to start shooting real true editorials, telling the story, true fashion.”

Pennington is always looking forward to the next goal. He is in fact currently in the process of throwing out a large percentage of his current portfolio and reshooting with higher production value and planning, setting his sights on the next big job.

Along his journey through fashion photography, Pennington has found the work of Melissa Rodwell to be particularly inspiring. Melissa Rodwell had partnered with Marius Troy, the founder of Bentrovato, to create the online resource known as Breed with whom Pennington is now working with.

Pennington had followed Rodwell’s original blog and has known Rodwell for a few years now.  “I wanted something to teach me the things that I wouldn’t have a resource for, for learning about fashion and there wasn’t one.” Rodwell has served as a mentor in a way for him. So Pennington was more than open to the idea and opportunity to partner with Breed.

We are aiming for it to be the ultimate online resource for anything fashion photography related.

A lot of Pennington’s experience writing for Breed has been a way for him to document his experiences as a photographer who is in the early stages of their career. “A lot of the things I have been writing about, I’m telling to myself as much as I’m telling to everybody 'cause I’m still learning too.” Pennington hopes to continue document and share his experiences as he continues to grow in his path as a Los Angeles fashion photographer. Pennington says he want to share with “people who don’t live in a big fashion city and [who] want to make the leap but don’t know where to start." "I was one of those people,” he said.

This year Breed has a series of workshops going on as well, Pennington will be teaching the intro to fashion workshops which is for people who want to start testing or who are testing but want to expand and have the opportunity to work with real models.

You can check out Dana Pennington’s workshops with Breed here as well as the workshops that Melissa and others will be teaching with topics including advanced fashion photography techniques and retouching. Also, you can find more of his work on Instagram and Tumblr

Images used with permission.

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2 Comments

Josh Rottman's picture

Great to hear the journey from someone a few more years and a lot of shoots down the road.

There are many other photographers who have made much bigger moves and achieved more success than this guy. Would be nice to read about them.