A love letter to women. That’s how Beatriz Valim describes her fashion and portrait work. While wardrobe is central to her photographs, fun is what fuels her work. “When I photograph women, I want them to feel beautiful and confident and powerful,” she says. That’s why she often points her lens up at her subjects—to make them appear tall and strong. When it comes to wardrobe, she doesn’t want models to simply wear the garment; she wants them to feel like the garment was made for them.
“I tell them to keep moving and I will take the in-between moments while you’re having fun and playing with the dress,” she says. “I like seeing photography as a dance. If my model is moving one way, I move the other way. It’s a beautiful thing to me.”
At 23 years old, Valim is six years into her love affair with photography and not long into her career. After completing her photography degree, she felt like a child riding a bike without training wheels—no professors to help her along, no peers to commiserate with. “It was a little bit scary at first,” she admits. But being knee-deep in trial and error yields lessons valuable to any photographer, no matter where they are on their journey. Here’s what she’s learned so far.
In the photography business, you have to mold yourself into the world of social media, says Valim, “which took me a minute to figure out. I’m 23 years old, and I still don’t know social media like the back of my hand, like people say we do. It’s hard for everyone in the game, especially with new social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels.”
Don’t just share your work; share your personality. No matter how introverted you consider yourself to be (Valim dubs herself an introvert), it’s important to share a bit of yourself on social media by including behind-the-scenes photos and videos. That way potential clients can see what it’s like to work with you. Valim often photographs models, who can be nervous about working with a new photographer. “When you’re taking a photo of someone, it feels intimate, and it is intimate,” she says, so models want to know they can trust you. She shares videos that display how much fun she and her subjects have and what happens during a session. “Getting out of your comfort zone and showing who you are personally on social media will get you clients and will get people talking about you, saying, ‘I really like this photographer, they seem like they’re having a blast at their shoot.’”
Try a 365 project. When the world locked down due to COVID-19, Valim committed herself to creating and sharing one photo a day for a year, starting in September 2020. Creating quality work each day was a challenge, she admits, and not every image she shared was a favorite. “I would just post my projects every single day even when they sucked and weren’t my best,” she says. Meanwhile, her following grew and grew. By sharing so frequently, she learned to be less precious about her posts. The more she posted—even the not-so-great stuff—the less she cared about how many likes and comments her posts received.
Tag the clients you want to work with. As Valim points out, tagging takes mere seconds, and what do you have to lose? She recommends putting together a campaign for a brand you’d like to work with. Study their ads online, build some photography that fits that aesthetic, and then share those photos on social media, tagging the brand in the post. “That’s really a very smart marketing tool,” she says. “You never know who is going to see that photo, that shot, and be like, ‘I think I want them.’ Maybe they won’t see you today or tomorrow, but as long as it’s out there maybe one day it will happen.”
Build a network of photography colleagues. One of the joys Valim has found with social media, particularly with Twitter, is building friendships with other photographers and learning from their tips, tricks, and styles. “It’s always good to find a community that does the same things you do and just kind of see what else is out there,” she says. Even though her focus is fashion, she can learn from other niches of photography.
One of Valim’s trademarks is the vibrant palette of colors she uses, which is paramount to her style. She recommends working with a color wheel to experiment with secondary, analogous, and triad colors that will enhance compositions. She works with her stylist and makeup artist before each session to build a look that allows selected colors to pop. The hint of green in the model’s eye shadow, a brightly colored ring or bracelet—these color details take her imagery to the next level.
Whether she’s working with a model to create portraits for their portfolio or a company to create social media images for their brand, Valim builds a mood board to ensure she and the client are on the same page before the session. For example, a model client might request a series of photos for her portfolio with unique poses, so Valim will assemble a mood board that provides examples of such poses. When she’s working with a brand, she builds a mood board that represents their needs first and foremost while weaving in her own creative vision. For creative projects, she creates mood boards to share with her stylist, makeup artist, and models, so everyone is working toward the same goal.
Valim began with digital photography but recently switched to film. “That just changed my world,” she says. She no longer wields a digital camera, instead using a medium-format Mamiya RB 67. What she loves about it is that it forces her to perfect each frame, since only 10 are available on each roll of film. “I can take my time and slow down and get it right instead of taking a million shots that I only kind of like.” Stepping into film photography also reignited her passion for the craft: “I fell in love all over again.”
Valim describes her style as playful, eccentric, dramatic, and bold. But most of all, “I just love having fun with photography,” she says. Fun is essential to her shoots, and it’s especially important to her that models share her enthusiasm. “If you are in a photo shoot, you can see the model and I are having so much fun during, before, and after the experience,” she says.
Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.