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.
Get All-Access


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.

Fascinating story. I am an amateur photographer and have admired Jimmy Chen's work for many years.

though i am not an adventure photographer I found Jimmy's life info very interesting and is transferable to all forms of not only photography but life dreams and ambitions have to want it be prepared years of this dedication too be ready when that "break" comes and being able to recognize that does come in whatever form and putting your whole self into it and enjoy the ride thanks Jimmy.

I love your high quality of work in photography. For me, it takes a lot of practice.

I learned a lot and got inspired to shoot more photos - of any kind.


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.