4 Bits of Career-Advancing Advice from Shutterstock Academy


Ready for creative inspiration? Look no further than Shutterstock Academy and the pantheon of talented creators actively involved.

For many creatives, the urge to learn new skills and sharpen up our current ones never truly leaves us. Sometimes, that feeling of wanting to grow stronger can hit us when we’re looking at our billings for the month. Or, when we’re in the real world and wishing we could capture exactly what we’re seeing as art. Or, when we’re simply existing online, surrounded by incredible work that we admire.

Self education plays a key role in creative evolution, and sometimes the best way to learn something new is to hear about the work of someone else in your field. Shutterstock Academy doesn’t just contain a multitude of how-to articles, we’ve also included thought-provoking interviews with some of our most successful creators.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite bits of creative and career advice from our Shutterstock contributors, sure to inspire no matter where you are in your creative journey.

Image via Amazing Aerial Agency.

1. Develop a Critical Eye with This Simple Exercise 

Hand Chair
Image via Joe Schmelzer.

Photographer Joe Schmelzer keeps a critical eye on his own work by performing this small exercise on the work he sees all around him . . .

“I play this game where I go through [interior magazines and catalogues] with a Sharpie and circle everything that bothers me,” he says. “Not to [denigrate] the photographer who shot it, but to remind myself what to look out for when I’m shooting.”

Modern Beach House
The art of simplicity. Image via Joe Schmelzer.

He flags things like pillows with overly aggressive karate chops, props that have been moved from one room to the next, or overlapping chair and table legs, which can suck the air out of a photo and make it look busy.

“Remember that photography is a lifelong journey,” Schmelzer says. “You’re not just going to pick up a camera and be the next big thing right away. You have to have a passion for it.”


2. Analyze Your Best and Worst Work Experiences

Happy Couple
Image via JLco Julia Amaral.

While developing her style as a photographer, contributor Júlia Amaral found out what she didn’t like about her then dream job and used it to help refine her career path . . .

“Try everything,” she says. “Just experiment, and in the process, you’ll see what your strengths and weaknesses are.” 

Yoga Fitness
Find your passion and run with it! Image via JLco Julia Amaral.

At the beginning of her career, for instance, she really loved wedding photography. “That’s something I thought I would love doing and I had an eye for it,” she says. “But, the moment I started doing it, I realized that it was too stressful for me and it was too spontaneous. I didn’t have a say over anything. I couldn’t direct, and if I missed that moment, I missed it forever. But, I had to try it to learn that otherwise I would still think, Oh, maybe I should be a wedding photographer.”


3. Go Beyond “The Rectangle”

Snowy Road
Image via Paul Prescott.

This bit of advice from aerial photographer Paul Prescott refers to drone photography, but the spirit of capturing something beyond the canvas can apply to nearly any discipline . . .

“The limitation with a camera is the rectangle,” Prescott says. “Sometimes, it’s difficult to compose a photo within that rectangle. But to get more into the image, you need to pull back, and then the subject gets smaller. So, I encourage [my photographers] to shoot a few photos and ‘stitch’ them together [after the fact]. This way, you can edit all of the shots down to a normal-looking photo, but you still have your whole composition in there . . .’

“First, you take off with your video on, and get footage until your point of interest. Then, you take some top-downs of the place, tilt up and take landscapes, which you can ‘stitch’ together later.”

Dead Sea and Mountains
Think outside your camera’s rectangle box. Image via Paul Prescott.

The universal takeaway? Think outside the box. Shoot as much material as possible while you’re on location—then let your imagination run wild later.


4. Bankroll the Work You Want to Do with Work You Can Do

Lion Cub Playing
Image via Susan Portnoy.

While it’s hard to find a balance, finding a way to supplement your favorite work (in Susan Portnoy’s case, her stunning travel photography) with a mixture of commercial and branded work can keep your creative passions funded . . .

“Travel photography isn’t cheap,” Portnoy says. Sometimes everything is paid for—either by a publication or a destination that wants publicity. But, in many cases, she has to pay part or all of her own way.

In those instances, Portnoy considers whether the excursion in question will be beneficial to her down the road. Will the trip earn her greater respect in the industry? Will she be getting access she might not otherwise get?

Samburu Woman
Use your commercial shoots income to pay for your passion trips. Image via Susan Portnoy.

To mitigate costs, she tries to take both commercial and branded content. Those higher-paid jobs help to fund other trips.

“I also recommend that you have savings that you can dip into,” she says. Her time in PR allowed her to build a nest egg to see her through slow times, like this pandemic year. “I have a cushion and that’s really important.”


A few more tips by artists from around the world:

Cover image via Bloomicon.



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