Columbia University Fashion Society hosted fashion and portrait photographer Romer Pedron at a pre-professional panel and interactive photoshoot on April 5.
CUFS senior advisor Maria Sun, CC ’18, introduced the first half of the event, which included a conversation between Pedron and CUFS director of programming Ainjell Williams, SPS ’19. Prior to enrolling at Columbia, Williams attended the Fashion Institute of Technology alongside Pedron, and invited him after the previously scheduled speaker Ty Turner canceled her appearance due to a work commitment.
Pedron has worked with clients including Vogue.com, Conde Nast, the Wall Street Journal, and Givenchy. He spoke to students about the art and business of fashion photography, including how the integration of social media into the fashion industry has shifted photography’s focus.
“There should be a bigger budget for social media, because that’s what people see most often. Most money goes into commercial stores like Target, but when it comes to high-fashion brands, they don’t pay [fashion photographers] as much,” Pedron said.
Speaking about his experiences as a student at FIT, where he graduated with a BFA in photography in 2009, Pedron stressed the importance of interning, especially for students who do not attend fashion school.
“When I was going to FIT, I was so hungry to get out there and meet people,” Pedron said. “My first internship was at a modeling agency, and at the time my favorite model was, and still is, Naomi Campbell. I figured out which agency represented her and I called and asked if they were looking for interns, and that was my first agency job.”
Since graduating, Pedron has recognized the shift within the fashion industry that both elevates social media’s importance in reaching consumers but diminishes photographers’ worths in the eyes of corporations.
“You really have to build a following, which is something I’m working on still. Clients really do look at how many followers you have, which can be discouraging when you’re trying to show your talent but need to be famous to do it,” Pedron said. “There’s been instances when I’ve been told, ‘You’ll get more money if you have more followers,’ which makes me think, ‘Do I have to buy them?’”
After the panel, attendees were invited to participate in a mock photoshoot, where Pedron demonstrated the process and equipment he employs during celebrity photo shoots. Students were given advice on how to pose, which kinds of lenses maximize indoor portraiture, and how to prepare for a successful shoot.
Pedron is the second speaker hosted by CUFS this semester, following Mike Mellia, CC ’02, who spoke to students about his career in advertising on March 1. Sun and other CUFS board members have been working to increase the number of speakers CUFS hosts since the group formed in Spring 2017.
“We want to be pre-professional, because that’s one way to connect with people at Columbia who are very future oriented,” Sun said. “We want to show people that fashion is not this unattainable thing, it’s actually very relatable. If someone’s interested in photography, this is a great event for them, or if they’re interested in writing, we are a venue they can go towards.”