Ask the Pros: What's the most valuable thing you've learned? Part 1

Ask the Pros: What's the most valuable thing you've learned? Part 1 Our Ask the Pros series is here to answer your most pressing questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication art and photo departments. Got a question you want answered? Send it to us at and we'll put it to our experts! A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work. 

Today our incredible panel of photo editors tells you what skills and lessons they've learned in their careers so far that have helped them get where they are ...

What's the most valuable experience you took from your other jobs/experiences into your current position or that you've gotten from where you are now?

PRO: Kathryn Marx - Assistant Photo Editor, Veranda Magazine
Probably the most valuable thing I've taken away from my position is the importance of communication skills when working in a team dynamic, especially when dealing with constant tight deadlines. I'm always reminding myself that I will probably regret not asking questions if I'm unsure about something. Working at a magazine with such a small staff has also allowed me to handle more responsibilities than I would at most other publications. It's allowed me to work closely with all our editors and really focus on the photo needs to produce each story, from start to finish.

PRO: Scott M. Lacey - Photo Editor, Boston Magazine
The most valuable experience I had would probably be interning. So many people I know (including myself) worked really hard at the internships they had, and it ended up turning into longer-term positions. You never know when a great opportunity is just going to fall into your lap. Putting yourself in a place for that to happen and working hard at it is a good start.

PRO: Rachel Barker - Associate Photo Editor, HGTV Magazine
I was working as a photo assistant (a staff position) at a magazine for about three weeks and then it folded. There weren't many jobs out there at the time, so I had to go back to interning. I learned that this industry is unpredictable, but if you really want to be in it, you have to be willing to do anything to stay in it. Going back to interning was not ideal, but it was another position I could put on my resume, and I gained more experience, which is really the most important thing.

PRO: Susan Hennessey - Photo Editor, Inked Magazine
I think working in a small photo department as an assistant photo editor really helped me gain the experience I needed for my current job title as photo editor at Inked Magazine. Prior to working here, I was the assistant photo editor at Family Circle for nearly 4 years. At first, my job was mostly photo research, and as time went on, my responsibilities grew. The photo director there had me booking smaller photo shoots, assisting with production on larger shoots, and by the time I Ieft there, I was 95% art directing almost all our still life shoots. Being in this position also helped me gain relationships with photographers, stylists, hair/makeup artists, studios and agents. I am still building on a lot of these relationships later in my career! 
    When I came to Inked, it was a huge shock going from being an assistant photo editor to the photo editor. I also went from a 2 person department to 1, so it took me weeks -- probably closer to months -- to get a grip on my workload. Thankfully, I had seen the photo director at FC handle her job so well, that I just kept having to think about my roots and how she would handle her photo shoot production. It took some time, but within a few months of writing down everything I needed to do and creating databases of studios, prop stylists and new photographers I wanted to use and following all deadlines, I finally created some sort of normalcy within my day to day at Inked!

PRO: Kathy Nguyen - Senior Associate Photo Editor, Fast Company Magazine
I was working at a woman's magazine before coming over to Fast Company, so it was an adjustment content-wise, but it also was a really great challenge for me to work with and meet new photographers. Being able to communicate is always key too!

PRO: Deborah Boardley - Photo Editor, Essence Magazine
My most valuable experience was the hands-on training I received while in school. I worked at the photo lab Duggal in NYC and interned at a national magazine during my junior and senior years of college. The photo lab experience enhanced my school curriculum because I interacted often with photographers of New York and the lab technicians who processed their film. My internship placed me in an office with editors, had me on-set with photographers, hair and make-up persons, stylists, etc. I absorbed everything possible to learn from the top professionals in the industry and used the knowledge, acquired contacts and experience to transition from intern to photo assistant and on to photo editor.

PRO: Ryan Mesina - Associate Photo Editor, Money magazine
Work hard and keep a good attitude!

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for all their great advice! 
Check out our previous Ask the Pros questions below. And email us if you've got a question.
- Is it possible to get a job as a staff photographer?

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