How to Become a Victoria’s Secret Photographer

The Victoria’s Secret Holiday catalog features beautiful models dressed in scanty lingerie, but for Russell James, photographing these sexy models is the highest pressure job of his year.  A behind the scenes look into Pier 59 Studios in New York City was created by the CNBC network show, Best Jobs Ever. Russell does make it look easy; as the professional models pose and flirt with the photographer, he smiles and states,

“If it looks effortless  – if it looks like I’m not doing much, then I feel like I’m really doing my job.”

How did Russell James get this rewarding job at the top of fashion photography? His journey, covered briefly in the video, started with being born and raised in Australia. His training was unusual because he did not go to photography or art school, instead he did a variety of jobs before developing his photographic hobby into a profession.

Russell’s work can be seen in any of the thousands of Victoria’s Secret stores as well as in billboards, print and web advertising, including the catalogs; as he has been their photographer since 1997. His work speaks for itself, as the lovely ladies sparkle in front of his lens, but he has done a lot more than open the shutter. All of the backgrounds, outfits and themes are chosen and prepared in meetings with the company’s marketing representatives. The studio and lighting are rented at a cost of $20,000. USD per day, 25 people are hired for the shoot, including the two models.

victorias secret photographer

Victoria’s Secret Photographer

As you see him smiling and relaxed in the studio, with his bare feet and quiet, polite demeanor, you would never imagine he has a moment of doubt, but Russell James says,

“There is an overriding insecurity that comes with that pressure — and it’s — you are only as good as your last photograph”

Russell James’s life partner, and mother of his children, helps him run the business side of his studio, but otherwise he keeps his personal and professional relationships separate. The models feel very comfortable with Russell and some have become close friends; he explains that he talks about their vacations or hobbies and not about how sexy they are. The models explain that they feel safe to look sexy and flirt; because they know he is a devoted partner and father. In the video, they talk about the trust he builds and how happy they are to work with him.

In addition to his family life, James has used his photographic success to help indigenous peoples  preserve their culture, starting with Australia. “Nomad, Two Worlds”, a collaborative art project with indigenous artists seeking reconciliation in action through art, music and film.

For further training on this type of photography, there are two eBooks available:

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