Carin Backoff: Dos and Don'ts from a Fashion Photographer
You may not know her by name, but if you’ve flipped through a fashion magazine lately, you’ve definitely seen her work. Carin Backoff is the woman behind some of the industry’s most memorable photoshoots of the last few years, capturing Nicole Kidman’s cowgirl glam in LOVE, Emily Ratajkowski’s black-leather looks for Vogue Mexico, and Juicy Couture’s 2018 comeback campaign with Thylane Blondeau, just to name a few. She’s also an official member of the GOOD AMERICAN family, having shot with the squad for fall '18
Her start in fashion photography began as a childhood obsession, but not with cameras or clothes at first though. Rather, Carin was captivated by the beauty of the top models, most notably Kate Moss, she’d see on the pages of imported magazines. “I used to run to Tower Records every month and spend all of my money on Nova, Dutch, The Face, I-D, Vogue Italia, and Vogue Paris,” she recalls. She knew she wanted to be part of their world but didn’t know yet in what way, that was until she stumbled upon Juergen Teller’s photography book in The Rizzoli Bookstore. “The connection he made with the models – all of these beautiful, real, raw moments—that’s when I started getting excited about photography.”
Upon realizing college wasn’t a fit, Carin began work in casting and continued learning and cultivating her photography skills on her own. It was there that she met legendary stylist and fashion journalist Katie Grand. “She saw some of my pictures and gave me a dream come true opportunity for LOVE Magazine—Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Jasmine Saunders…I still pinch myself when I think about it.” Carin didn’t let the once-in-a-lifetime chance escape her, proving her talent and ability in the work she produced for Katie and the magazine. Her career had officially been launched.
Photo courtesy of CARIN BACKOFF
Carin's advice following in her footsteps is full of straightforward takeaways that truly differentiate top fashion photographers amongst the rest. Here are her most crucial career commandments when it comes to succeeding in her industry:
DO follow through. In an industry full of talented people, you must be as good as your word, otherwise, you’ll get passed up on future gigs.
DO be true to yourself. To really hone in on your personal perspective as a photographer, “shoot constantly, watch movies, go to museums, people watch….” Then, make sure your work always speaks to that unique identity.
DO have an authentic passion. “I take on personal projects as a way to express myself and connect with people even when I’m not working,” says Carin about her love for her art.
DO stay focused on your goals. “Write them down” Carin recommends.
DON’T have an ego. “Have fun with it! Taking great pictures is a big part of it, but it’s also about having a positive attitude.”
DON’T take things personally. That means “being able to bring ideas to the table but also being flexible when things change at the drop of a hat.” It happens!
DON’T be afraid to ask questions. Enough said.
DON’T give up. “Thirteen years ago, I moved from Los Angeles to New York City to give photography a shot. This didn’t magically fall into my lap at first,” Carin recalls. Long story short, perseverance pays off.