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Scott Borrero Wins 'Top Photographer'

The former Academy of Art University photography student took first in AdoramaTV’s reality competition web series hosted by Nigel Barker

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Scott Borrero's winning image. “I want to leave a legacy of inspiration that will hopefully bring positive change to the world," said Borrero. Photo courtesy of Zazil Media Group/PRWeb.

Until recently, photographers could only watch, and click their shutter buttons, as a parade of competitive reality series featuring creative professionals such as singers, dancers, chefs and models became full-fledged cultural phenomena. But last fall, AdoramaTV’s original reality photography competition web series, Top Photographer with Nigel Barker, finally gave them a turn in front of the camera.

Adorama, one of the world’s largest photography, video, audio, imaging and electronics retailers, issued a nationwide call for entrants to photographers of all skill levels.

In an era of widespread access to advanced technology, the show aimed to reward one technically capable, passionate, driven and talented photographer with a prize that can still be difficult to capture: a dedicated showcase for his unique vision.

Five finalists competed for the title of top photographer, each one chosen by host and judge Barker, an internationally renowned photographer and longtime judge on the hit show America’s Next Top Model. Guest judges, such as model Coco Rocha, fashion designer Pamella Roland, and professional photographers David Bergman and Emily Soto, assisted in evaluating the contestants.

A series of photography challenges spanning five episodes winnowed the field’s quintet of contestants down to one. The season finale revealed the winner: Scott Borrero, a 29-year-old commercial photographer and former Academy of Art University student.

Confident and competitive, Borrero said, “When I got onto the show, I expected to win.” But that’s not to say it was easy. “When we did start shooting, I realized how stressful it was going to be, with the time limits and the constraints we had to work under. The judges being there while we were shooting added a lot of pressure.”

The show also provided a glimpse of life in front of the lens. “It was fun to have the roles reversed and be the talent for once,” he said.

The pace of filming presented its own challenges. “Ninety percent [of the time] was hanging out with the contestants, and 10 percent was actually filming,” said Borrero. Downtime gave the finalists a chance to build rapport. “Having other contestants around, whether I had an idea to bounce off of them, or just being around inspiring people, helped a lot.”

Borrero’s Top Photographer prize package, valued at $50,000, included photography gear and an exclusive one-night gallery showing in Manhattan.

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Top Photographer winner Scott Borrero. Photo by James Wood.

On the night of the finale, the gallery was already set up and stocked with guests, including Borrero’s family members, who greeted him immediately after the winner was named.

That was the first time Borrero had his own gallery show, but it wasn’t the beginning of his career. Borrero’s résumé already includes several years of steady work as a freelance commercial photographer for clients such as Canon, Nike, Jeep, Visa and AT&T.

Armed with his laptop, phone, cameras and a Wi-Fi connection, he can work from anywhere—and work he did. “There were months where I was only home for four days,” Borrero said. “In this career you have to be open to everything.”

Simply entering the field required a leap for Borrero, who initially studied marketing at California State University, Long Beach before enrolling in the Academy as a photography student. “I took my time there very seriously,” he said. “I remember the first day of every class. I’d go up to my teachers, introduce myself, [and] say, ‘I’m going to be the greatest student you’ve ever had,’ and sit right in front.”

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Photo courtesy of Zazil Media Group/PRWeb.

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Winner Scott Borrero and host Nigel Barker. Photo courtesy of Zazil Media Group/PRWeb.

Through a lead from the Academy’s career board, Borrero secured an internship at fashion startup Le Tote. That evolved into a full-time job, which initiated another transition: Borrero decided to leave the Academy. “In two and a half years, I gained all the knowledge I needed to get into the industry,” he said.

In 2014, he went freelance. One of the fortunate few who have worked steadily without actively searching for jobs, Borrero estimates that approximately 80 percent of his business originates from Instagram. “I’ve been really active in taking advantage of the free marketing that social media gives you.”

After more than two years of nearly nonstop business travel, life has stabilized a bit. Still, for Borrero, a break involves collaborating with industry friends on a web-based project and more international travel, this time with a personal agenda.

The hiatus likely won’t last long. Borrero’s career goals are as vast and varied as the locations he’s traveled the world to photograph. From photographing magazine covers and editorials to shooting video to directing a feature film, he wants to do it all.