In 2008 the photography “blogosphere” (a term barely anyone still uses!) was a fraction of what it is today. The (sadly) now-defunct New York Times Lens Blog was just starting out, Slate’s influential (and also, sadly, now defunct) Behold blog wouldn’t exist for another 4 years, and the high-traffic PetaPixel was barely a whisper. There […]

In 2008 the photography “blogosphere” (a term barely anyone still uses!) was a fraction of what it is today. The (sadly) now-defunct New York Times Lens Blog was just starting out, Slate’s influential (and also, sadly, now defunct) Behold blog wouldn’t exist for another 4 years, and the high-traffic PetaPixel was barely a whisper. There were a handful of highly active art-photography blogs and platforms like I Heart Photograph, FlakPhoto, Humble, and Tiny Vices, but most focused on quick roundups or digital exhibitions. Long-form stories, interviews and thought pieces specifically geared toward getting photographers in front of creative directors and photo editors was still something to be seen. And Instagram, which has become a go-to for hiring new talent, was barely an idea.

Photo editor Alison Zavos saw an opportunity. Frustrated with the lack of a central platform for photo editors to share content that moved them, she started Feature Shoot – a simple photography blog filled with interviews and comprehensive stories about photographers she thought the world needed to know and hire. Still active, highly-trafficked and sought after by many of today’s top editors, curators, and art directors, Feature Shoot continues to be a go-to source for inspiration, helping many photographers launch their careers.

We spoke with Zavos about her inspiring path. We’ve included screenshots of some recent stories that moved us – we encourage you to explore and dive deep.

This is Alison.

The Luupe: Why did you start Feature Shoot?

Alison Zavos: I started Feature Shoot more than a decade ago when photoblogs were rare. I was working as a photo editor at the time and I was coming across so many amazing photographers on a daily basis. So I wanted to share my finds with others in the industry as a way to help photo editors, art directors, and others, find talent. Feature Shoot has evolved since then, but the underlying goal of getting amazing work out into the world is still at the heart of what we do.

The Luupe: What were some of your biggest challenges early on and how did you overcome them?
Time has always been, and remains, a big challenge.

Zavos: There are always more things to do than hours to do them in. But that’s a boring answer. I would say the other major challenge for us early on, and I would suggest any publication just starting out, was simply getting the site seen. Thankfully my boyfriend at the time (who is my husband now) was running a popular arts and culture site (Lost At E Minor), so we started running our content on his site and linking back to Feature Shoot. That helped us to establish an audience.

The Luupe: What’s the biggest “success story” you’re aware of from a photographer that’s been featured on Feature Shoot.

Zavos: There have been so many over the years! Photographers have gotten exhibitions, sold prints, been commissioned for commercial/editorial work, and so on from being on Feature Shoot. But in the long run, I think the most successful photographers are the ones that we may have profiled 5 or 10 years ago that are still producing quality work today. I see photographers now in The New Yorker that we ran on the site when they were just starting out many years ago. It’s not Feature Shoot that got them to this point, of course. It’s that they had the talent and tenacity to stick with it over the years and carve out an admirable career for themselves.

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The Luupe: At what point did you realize Feature Shoot was more than “just a blog?”  When did it become a “full-time job” for you?

Zavos: I ran Feature Shoot for three years as a side project whilst also working as a photo editor. Honestly, I never expected to make any money from it. I was hoping that the site would be a nice supplement to my resume that would set me apart from other photo editors competing for jobs. However, as soon as we started getting a steady stream of clients advertising on the site, the workload became overwhelming and I felt confident enough to jump on it full time.

The Luupe: You founded Feature Shoot at the beginning of peak “photo-content virality.”
You and Slate’s Behold Blog would publish stories on inspiring photographers and almost immediately get duplicated by some of the highest traffic photography blogs out there. As attitudes and attention spans have changed, what’s kept you going and what do you think has kept folks loyal and reading in this content-noisy time?

Zavos: As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a passion for photography and the stories photographers tell that has kept me going all of these years. I truly believe that most of the stories that we run on the site would never be seen by a wider audience if we didn’t run them. This has always excited me and been my main motivator. And that was the same back in the day when stories that we were running were going quickly viral. Feature Shoot and Slate and all of the other niche photography blogs that were finding interesting content gave a certain credibility to the work that made it okay for the bigger guys (such as Buzzfeed, HuffPo) to pick them up.

A collection of popular Feature Shoot posts

The Luupe:  In the past few years, FS has expanded to create dynamic content for some of today’s most dynamic brands. In your mind, what makes your team enticing to them?

Zavos: Over the last ten years, we’ve created over 5,000 posts on photography on Feature Shoot alone and we’ve worked with dozens of photography brands – both large and small – to create content. We know this industry very well. Our team is talented, professional and experienced. We are well-respected amongst industry professionals and photographers, having worked with thousands of them over the last decade. Apart from that, we work hard and smart.

The Luupe: Tell us about a recent project you worked on for a brand that was particularly exciting. 

Zavos: I just got back from a press trip with OnePlus. They flew me, along with other journalists from around the world, to Taiwan to learn more about the camera on their new phone, the OnePlus 7 Pro. We spent a day at their R&D headquarters learning the ins and outs of the camera and the rest of the time sightseeing and taking photos. Feature Shoot was not paid and there were no expectations from OnePlus for coverage, but it was definitely one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had with a brand.

The Luupe: If you could offer one piece of advice to content creators, what would it be?
Zavos: If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work.