Elizabeth Weinberg is a Los Angeles-based editorial and commercial photographer. Weinberg graduated with a degree in photojournalism from Boston University in 2004. In 2010 she was selected as one of PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers to watch, and in 2011 she was named an Art Directors Club Young Gun. Clients include Reebok, Nike, PacSun, Target, Starbucks, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Dwell, Esquire, Rolling Stone and Monocle. She lives in a very old house on the east side of LA with her husband, dachshund and two cats.
How did you get started in photography? I didn’t know I wanted to be a photographer until I was already in college. I was browsing my university’s website and saw the photojournalism program, and I knew I had to transfer there from fine arts. It was an impulse decision but I knew it was absolutely necessary, that there was nothing I would rather do.
Aside from your camera and lighting, what could you not work without? Caffeine!
What is the weirdest thing that happened on a shoot and how did you handle it? I worked on a skate brand’s lookbook out in Joshua Tree, California. The models and the brand team had already been in the desert for hours, and they were drinking and throwing fireworks and Molotov cocktails everywhere. I definitely got gasoline in my hair. It was a bit harrowing, but I just went with it. We ended up with some of my favorite images to date.
What excites you about photography right now? I like having a bunch of channels to promote my work. Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Web portfolio services have really started displaying photography beautifully, and that’s extra important now that people are viewing work on mobile devices. I am also really digging the new APS-C Sensor rangefinder-size cameras. They produce incredible files, and it’s nice to not have to lug around a DSLR for an everyday camera.
Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph? I like the idea of getting celebrities, people who are constantly photographed, out of conventional, controlled portrait settings and shooting them like we’re friends; casually, catching a moment, minimal lighting, natural. I’d love to shoot someone like Tom Petty wearing something amazing in the ocean, for example. My style is very lo-fi, without much production—I often prefer it to be just me and a camera, erasing the perceived distance between viewer and subject that a lot of portraiture creates.
What do you think of the photography industry at the moment and where do you see it headed? I know that commercial photographers are also going to have to be directors and know how to do motion to have a leg up on the competition. I’ve started doing some little motion shorts for fun, all on my own, to get a sense of the style I like and to understand the software. It’s important to know all that in the case, down the road, I am directing and have to work with a team. It’s easier to explain what is needed if you understand the tools involved.
What is your biggest challenge as a photographer? Pushing my work to evolve, and striking a good balance between work and life. Not letting the day-to-day tedium of being a working photographer affect my love for the art.
Which photographer/s do you admire most, and why? Cass Bird straddles the fine-art and commercial worlds perfectly, not to mention balancing family life in there as well. Jason Nocito is another photographer who puts out lots of personal work yet works commercially all the time. It's important to strive for both and to let them feed each other.
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Make consistently awesome work and put it on the Internet all the time. So many opportunities have been afforded to me just by being featured on great blogs, but the shelf life of new work on a blog is less than a week, more like a couple of days. You have to be consistently creating new work and blasting it everywhere.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? There’s no magic bullet for success. You can have an awesome year and then a terrible one right after. No one’s career path is the same. Hard work, talent, timing, luck and connections all intertwine to map out what lies ahead and it’s different for everyone. Also, get an accountant!