12/12/2013 05:39 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2014

Rosario Fernandez Gives Advice on Becoming a Successful Photographer

Many folks have asked me what does it takes to be a successful photographer? I reply with -- "Lots of hard-work, some raw talent and luck. Lots of luck." Everything else is just a filler.

And Rosario Fernandez -- is a good example of how hard work and raw talent have made her into a successful photographer.

You were born in Puerto Rico but studied Art Photography at the School of Visual Arts at Syracuse University. Why did you come to Syracuse to study photography?

Growing up on an island like Puerto Rico, the possibilities are very limited. So most people like myself, if given the chance, would go study abroad and experience for our selves the limitless opportunities out there.

Just like any other looking for a good education, the VPA program at Syracuse University is amazing and I knew was a good fit for me. I went to study art but didn't realize my love for photography until the end of my first year, when I looked around and saw how much I had invested in magazines, just so I could analyze the technique of the images in them. From that moment, photography became my medium of choice as an artist.

Since launching you career in 1996 -- you have had much photographic success -- a prize in photojournalism from the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, awards from the Puerto Rico Association of Photojournalists and the Overseas Press Club. Are these opportunities simply dumb luck? Or is there a great deal of hard work behind each accolade and award?

I always feel very lucky to be awarded with such accolades over the years, but it is definitely very hard work for each one. In my case, I stumbled into photojournalism by much happy coincidence, and with an art background and creative thinking during my photo shoots, it helped me stand out with a particular style that wasn't typical of photojournalistic works here in Puerto Rico at that time.

But if it wasn't for the newspaper and the experience I gained from it, my career might not be where it is today.

You were asked to join Foto Divas -- an exclusive Puerto Rican women's photojournalists group. What did they see in your body of work that promoted them to ask you to join the group?

The Foto Divas of Puerto Rico began with the first women photojournalists working with the local media, getting together to support each other in a medium dominated by men as most careers back in the day.

They created their own name to stand out by doing exhibits of their professional and personal works. When I started working with the newspaper, a new generation of women photojournalist had been born, and after a few years of us evolving and growing in the field, the Foto Divas realized we had continued what they had begun and decided it was time for us to be a part of them.

You have worked with the New York Post, San Juan News and the Ocean Drive. There are a number of aspiring Latino photojournalists who would love to work with these magazines and daily papers. What recommendations would you give to these aspiring photographers?

In some of these publications it is important to know how to shoot pretty much everything, fast and quick. But just like that, it helps to develop a style and be consistent. So when people see your work, be a portfolio or published, they can easily know it is yours. You should be confident in your craft and let them know you can make it work always no matter what.

But most importantly, shoot, shoot, shoot... practice makes perfect!

Exhibitions are considered by many photographers as the crowning jewel. But these types of opportunities are tough to come by. What are the 3 most important steps to take if "you" want to be asked to participate in an exhibition?

To be part of an exhibit it takes time, patience, luck and sometimes depends on your location. You have to keep developing a body of work that seems unique but honest; aesthetically pleasing and that captivates the viewer in some way. It can help to participate in photo contests, since they usually showcase all the work and it can get you noticed.

Now a days, you have the Internet and limitless ways of getting noticed, like a personal webpage, flickr or other platforms that we didn't have before. So work, submit and never stop creating.

Call To Action

I am going to be very honest. I have not been shooting in over 4 months. And I even took down my portfolio site about 2 months ago. Why -- I made the argument that Latinos Behind The Lens was consuming a great deal of my time.

So much so that it left me very little time to make images. But I was lying to myself. I simply lost my confidence in making images. Why -- I am honestly not sure. It just happened.

But Rosario explained -- most importantly, shoot, shoot, shoot... practice makes perfect!

Why -- because from the constant shooting you are growing as an artist. You are learning. You are experiencing. Others are noticing your work. Your commitment. Your style.

So my long winded call to action is simply -- never stop shooting.


You can also check out Rosario Fernandez's gallery at Latinos Behind The Lens.