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Design, Photography, & Fashion

Career Advice: Building a Body of Work

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 11:01 min

Building a career takes tenacity and patience. Learn Jimmy's philosophy behind a life in photography--and how hard work, passion, and perseverance can lead to success.

Jimmy Chin
Teaches Adventure Photography
National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.
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If you want a career in photography, clearly, you have to do the work. I think you can be talented. You can think of it as a hobby. But if you're serious about it, it's about committing. It's about being obsessive. You know, I always say, you have to do your due diligence. You have to get out and shoot. It's kind of building on this body of work that you have. Building that body of work is great, because it helps you get honed in and refined with your camera, your equipment, thinking about shooting, how you're going to shoot it, different approaches. There's so many things to learn about photography that it really is about boots on the ground and getting out to shoot. If this is something you want to pursue, like anything in life, you've got to throw down. You've got to make it happen. It takes obsessiveness. It takes relentless pursuit. It takes getting beaten down and getting back up. It can also be really enjoyable. I mean, you should love the work. You should love getting out and creating images, and motivated every day to do it. It should be a calling. For me, it's given meaning. It's given purpose to my life. It should feel like that. I think people are lucky when they discover something that gives them meaning and purpose. And if you feel that, you have to go after it, and it has to be relentless. Producing that body of work doesn't come easily. There are really no shortcuts. You really have to spend the time. It can be challenging, for sure. Breaking into the photography business isn't easy, nor should it be. I think it's nice to give yourself assignments. It's great practice. Think of these ideas that you want to-- or a story that you want to tell, and go out and shoot it. That's the best way to develop that voice and the best way to kind of start putting all these different kind of abstract ideas and coming back with images. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I'm thinking about a shoot, I think through a lot of different ideas of what I want and try to get. You have to build your ideas from a certain point. So you kind of have your initial spark. I think a good way to approach it is having that initial spark, and then thinking bigger. Looking at it and thinking how you could make it really incredible. And I mean, that's what it means to push yourself creatively. Taking that first idea and taking it up another level, and then up another level, and really pushing it to as grand a scale as you can think of. Then you work backwards from that in a way. Sometimes you're also thinking about a shoot or an image, and you can go the other way, minimizing it if it's something more detailed or abstract. But in most cases, I think of a shoot, an idea, and I'm really thinking about how I can take it further and create something that maybe I haven't seen before. So it really requires you to think outside of the box. But when you are thinking about big ideas like that, there's a whole other side of that, right? Because if ...

Push the limits of your photography

Jimmy Chin has built his career taking photos at the top of the world, earning him the cover of National Geographic and multiple awards. Now he’s taking you on location to teach you techniques for capturing breathtaking shots. In his photography class, learn different creative approaches for commercial shoots, editorial spreads, and passion projects. Gather the gear—and the perspective—to bring your photography to new heights.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Great philosophy of life regardless of your vocation.

Amazingly well though out teaching. He has helped my passion for photography tremendously!

A really interesting path! It was good to get some inside knowledge from a National Geographic photographer.

Jimmy's narration and the way he brought out key learnings was incredible - Key things i learnt was one to discover my self, two the way he shot- various focal lengths etc, three hard work # shots and finally staying in the moment


A fellow student

Overall, this lecture series didn't really know what it wanted to be, or what audience it was addressing. The lectures ricocheted between presenting very basic information (what you use depth of field for, when you use a fast shutter or a slow shutter speed) to presenting very esoteric information intended only for top-tier professional photographers hoping to be anointed by National Geographic. How many people watching this lecture series expect to be climbing Everest and photographing people skiing down it? I mean, come on! How about teaching those of us who operate in the real world? As someone who travels regularly to far-fling places like Iraq, Papua New Guinea, and Namibia, I certainly feel like I'm engaged in "adventure travel," and was hoping Jimmy's photography lessons would speak to "adventure photography" in that context -- including contexts in which you don't have the luxury of photographing during the Golden Hour or bringing 60 pounds of equipment along with you. Also, there were too many lectures where Jimmy did nothing but talk. This should have been 100% show-and-tell -- with equal emphasis on the show as well as the tell. For example, he talked in one of the earlier lectures about the influence a particular photographer had on his work. But then he didn't show a single photo taken by that photographer. Pictures are -- needless to say when it's a class on photography -- what should tell the story, and there just weren't nearly enough pictures shown during the series. I learned far more from Bob Crist's lecture series for NatGeo ("Travel Photography") than I did from Jimmy's lectures. Other points: Jimmy didn't talk about filters on his lenses. Was he really shooting with bare lenses? I guess if he gets free stuff from Canon he doesn't care if a lens gets scratched, but for the rest of us . . . And another thing: he talks in his first lecture when he's photographing Conrad about the importance of making sure the fastener on his camera bag is actually fastened. Then in a subsequent lecture on one of his mountain climbing trips, he opens the lid of his camera bag, takes out a lens, but doesn't secure the top of the bag to the bottom with the fastener! Tsk, tsk, Jimmy. Overall, I'd give this series a C+ -- and I say this as someone who thought "Free Solo" was one of the most amazing documentaries I have ever seen, and who thinks Jimmy is one of the top commercial photographers in his sector.

Linda G.

I had a stronger appreciation of the content as the learning module progressed. I learned many new ideas. I would definitely recommend this video to others who had an interest in photography.

Peter S.

Pretty much all of these classes are completely Worthless. I came into the MasterClass with a lot of questions and expectations. Should I get a teleconverter lens? Tell me in your 20 classes many scenarios that you use different lenses. Tell me why this f-stop is preferable. What are the settings of your national geographic photos? What are ideal combinations of f-stop, Iso and aperture to get proper photos outside vs inside. Midday vs night time, etc. Jimmy Chin ends up talking about things like "you need to allow yourself to fail." Yea, no kidding, I already learn those lessons everyday in my own life and my own career. This is a waste of money. I literally learned more about photography from the first 5 minutes from ANY YOUTUBE VIDEO or from the first five minutes of any photography book or the first 5 minutes from taking a photography class. He just wastes your time telling you stories about when he was a kid, waiting tables, working for his mentors, how Conrad is his best friend, etc, etc, etc.

Shayne O.

Love the 10 feet in front of you and smaller blocks in perspective to get to where you need to go without becoming overwhelmed.

Alex H.

For all intents and purposes, a true "lucky break" without lots of time spent, in addition to being strategic (and tactical when needed) will never, ever happen. Nobody ever simply "gets noticed"- they simply manage to hide how hard they worked to subtly place their work in front of the right people.

Francesco G.

I started adventure photography basically 2 years ago with climbing. Before of that I was still searching for my way (I'm passionate about outdoor sports, I've always practiced them but never came to the conclusion to merge these two things, kudos to my stupidity :D ). After shooting friends and a semi-pro athlete, I got my first job later in 2018 working for a climbing guide. Today I'm working on a winter climbing project for a magazine. I hope that somewhere tomorrow I'll end up working with brands and huge athletes like Jimmy. As he basically said, one step at a time!


Basically, NEVER GIVE UP. Keep trying to do BETTER and push the LIMITS. :)

Alex M.

"If you get a lucky break, do you have the body of work to support it." Very wise words Jimmy, I've often thought the same. To be ready to seize that key moment which could realise your career."

stasia P.

Thank you for the concept of focusing on the 10 feet in front of me but having the awareness to see how all the objects will lead me to the top. I'm sure I will never shoot a high altitude summit because I am a chicken, but I can glean all sorts of wisdom from those who have adventured and explored for me and come back with wisdom that I find very tangible. Thank you Jimmy.