Rowdy Magazine sat with Instagram and TikTok photographer Alex Frank to talk about photo inspiration and making it in the industry.
(@shotzbyalex / Instagram)
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Her surroundings spark her inspiration first. Not the wardrobe or the makeup. It’s the New York City street corners, the crevices between parked school buses, even the Indiana lake she sailed across during so many childhood summers.
For Alex Frank, otherwise known as @shotzbyalex, all the little details come together later. And when they do, her vision is immaculate. After all, this video producer by day and fashion and lifestyle photographer by night always has a story to tell.
In an interview with Rowdy, Frank said when she thinks of ideas, “they’re super elaborate. I have things planned out to the smallest detail.”
You don’t always realize all the planning done while scrolling through her Instagram portfolio. I mean, it’s easy to lose yourself in the dreamy nostalgia of her warm-tempered fashion photography.
You may not know about her avid Pinterest scrolls or prop scavenger hunts for fruits, flowers, fabrics or golf clubs. (“Props are everything.”) But her TikTok, on the other hand, shows a different angle.
Frank wanted to diverge from the cutthroat stereotype of fashion and the media industry and become a resource for the preteens who photograph their cats and the flowers outside just like she did. (Although, let’s be real: today’s preteens are way cooler than our cringy selves back then.)
So, the 23-year-old’s TikTok has become a Wikipedia page of photography advice. She shares the behind the scenes action of her shoots, but her followers mostly learn photography tips and gain photoshoot inspiration. For those of you who are as awkward behind the camera as me, she even shares tips on easy and effortless poses.
Franks’s photography is flawless in the age of influencers — and her Lightroom presets make them even more poppin’. She started selling photo presets on her website in Fall 2019 so everyone else could edit their photos into the honey-hued goodness. After much demand, she now offers six presets for mobile and desktop devices ranging from a glowy sun-kissed look to a film-inspired noir.
She’s not worried about others stealing her style. Unlike filters, presets are adjusted anyway to give each photo its own flare.
But more importantly, it’s not the camera or the preset that makes the photos, she said. It’s always the photographer.
Although some may think Frank has a God-given gift behind the lens, she’s truly had to hustle to rise to her fame. She said many think she’s more experienced than she is. Even though she's been shooting photos with her dad’s ‘90s Nikon N70 at age 12, a lot of the work she’s known for was produced in the last year and a half.
Like a lot of us, Frank didn’t know what her style was for a while. She didn’t find out until she found herself unemployed for two months — a gap between her post-grad video production internship at Business Insider and her first full-time job as a video producer for Meredith Corporation, where she still works today.
While disappointed she hadn’t gotten the job she’d hoped for, Frank suddenly had time to be as creative, experimental and weird as she wanted. “It ended up being a pivotal point for me professionally and personally,” she said.
During this stint, she pitched collaborations with about 50 Instagram creators in one day. Only one responded, but it was a start. She was getting her name out, and not a day went by where she wasn’t snapping a photograph.
She may have not nailed them all, but she made connections with people. She dove into the creative community, not only in New York City but throughout the globe on Instagram and Facebook groups. As she established her golden, vintage aesthetic, a stream of customers poured in.
“Create the type of work for the clientele you want to attract, and eventually your hard work will pay off,” she said.
While Frank remained modest in her efforts before college graduation (“I SO wish I was as passionate and persistent in my work while I was in school, as I am today”), she’s been grinding for a while now.
She recalled begging to take her friends’ photos in high school and rushing home afterward to edit them on PicMonkey (a cultural reset). While studying film and psychology at a small liberal arts college in Ohio, Frank built a reputation as a go-to photographer for her school’s chapter of Spoon University, campus events and senior photographs.
Through these small-town connections, she eventually became an intern for Spoon University in New York City and was able to continue freelancing for them and Food Network — all while still in college.
Now, Frank said she has a strong network of women in photography that she can “bounce ideas off of, celebrate wins [with] and support.” For her, these connections are preferable to a mentor. (Although, she’s super inspired by Olivia Bee right now.)
Frank always tries to remind herself how far she’s come. To reflect proudly on the shoots she styled herself, pairing garments and painting vibrant eyeliner on models. Her growth in just the last year makes her excited to see how she’ll progress.
Hopefully, five years down the line that’ll mean working freelance full time, or even shooting for a major magazine publication.
The hardest part about it all, she said, was just getting started. To those in that position, she says: “Pick up your camera… Keep shooting. Get weird and creative and share your work with the world. Your hard work and perseverance will pay off.”
Lauren Rousseau is the Online Editor at Rowdy Magazine. She loves watching drug-store versions of The Bachelor and baking cookies at innapropriate hours. You can find her on Instagram at @laurenxrousseau and email her pitches at firstname.lastname@example.org