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Thread: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

  1. #21

    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    I think one thing that really freaked me out about going into business as a photographer, when I had my leg very much in the pool, and was thinking about diving in, was seeing how much amazingly good photography there is out there. I'm not talking about people you know about, I'm talking about random people on flickr who are just ridiculously good. I think photography is just not as difficult as some other, maybe drawing. Regardless, due to the proliferation of people with digital SLRs, there is just an overwhelming amount of pretty decent, bordering on really good or even great photography out there.

    I sort of realized that I didn't want to live a life of one gig to the next, and having all of us constantly trying to get the same (more and more limited) gigs.

    Just my $.02

  2. #22

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by KyledeC View Post
    Wow thank you all! I greatly appreciate everything that you all said. I have considered transferring schools in the past, but I thought of it like Frank said and how I should learn as much as I can about digital so that I am knowledgable of both formats. That is the main reason I stay at NAU. I have given thought to the idea of majoring in something more promising. But I decided that I want to master photography and learn as much as I possibly can, hopefully in turn making myself a more successful photographer. I am working on a fall back though, I am minoring in environmental science as well as studio art. After doing research I have found that having knowledge in the environmental sciences field opens up a lot of job opportunities. I know that I am going to be working from the ground up as a photographer, and I will be shooting whatever I can to make income. Hell I am already doing that right now at Sears Portrait Studio to put myself through school. And I am willing to work my ass off at it. The way I see it is anything worth doing takes a lot of work, money and commitment. I sincerely thank you all for all of your responses. They were all very helpful, and expressed a reality that my advisors have neglected to tell me. Thank you again!
    First off, check out this thread -

    I largely agree with Frank, but not in the same way. Unless you have some amazingly lucky networking, or run into someone willing to promote your work at a high level, then fine art anything is a way to burn tons of cash and get nowhere. You seemed a bit anti-commercial photography in the lead post, but that is the only area to sustain a photography business. What you really should wrap your head around is the idea of being a business owner, otherwise you will be wiped out quickly in any creative profession. Other than some big ad agencies, with high turn-over rates, there are few full time employers in the creative world.

    I graduated in 1998 with a specialty of oil painting. Immediately I went into doing illustration, and I learned everything I could about printing and graphic design. While there was some overlap of learning to achieve a BFA, the reality is that it was never a technical education to learn software, nor to learn cameras; those aspects were very brief, and only self practice and learning through other students made the technical aspects become second hand. In a way I think that is how it should be, because things we use in creative professions are simply tools.

    The working world often sees creative professionals simply as too users, either software (PhotoShop, Illustrator, InDesign, Quark, DreamWeaver, et al) or hardware (digital cameras, lighting, video gear, scanners, WACOM tablets, etc.). When you look at Adecco or Aquent, both who employ more creative temps than any other agencies, then you get a better picture of the world of employment for creative professionals. Most of the leads through Adecco and Aquent will be for production temp workers, meaning software and hardware specialists. This is the launch point for many, though some never move past this point. Many potential employers do not understand creative work, beyond technical skills, so those aspects will be more highly valued. They will also be misunderstood, because so many claim to know various software packages, though Aquent and Adecco test technical skills and rate you.

    Okay, now that the bad stuff is out of the way, I hope you are still with me. Here is the reality of commercial photography. It use to be that there was a vast middle ground, and many photographers could cruise along on a steady okay-paying level of projects. That middle ground is now being replaced by those who think they can do it themselves, or ready-to-shoot photo-factory type set-ups. Product photography at the small end has largely migrated to China, because that is where things are built, leaving few product photography shoots for the rest. The low end of photography is flooded with enthusiasts who are thrilled to get any money for a weekend of work; NEVER compete with them. Give up the idea of doing low pay jobs to lead into higher paying shoots; anyone who commissions you on low price will have no interest in giving you better paying gigs.

    That leaves the high end of photography. This realm is very competitive, but with enough connections it can allow a sustainable future as a creative professional. Top of the pile is doing any projects for the big ad agencies. Get to know who they are and how they work, then figure out their lingo, and then try to get your images and ideas in front of them. Next tier is corporate photography, which is largely what I do. There are a ton of companies that need images of who they are and what their company does, many of them in niche markets. Again, figure out who you might want to contact, what their image needs might be for the future, and learn something about their business so you can understand how they work. Often the corporate clients will not have art departments, so you may need to bring ideas, or learn how to communicate ideas without simply showing images.

    Oh, wedding and portrait. Nearly anyone in photography does portraits at some time, though for me it has been for corporate clients. I know from others that there is a wedding season, which means only so many shoots in a year. If I recall correctly, a few wedding photographers told me that being really busy meant doing 40 weddings in a year. If you just broke that down into what you expected to make annually, then you might see how the fees structure is built of how to charge for weddings.

    Anyway, best of luck in all this. I agree that if you have a passion, then you can make a profession work for you. I hope you keep that optimism, because the world of creative professions requires that you have a very thick skin.


    Gordon Moat Photography

  3. #23

    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    Just for the record, when I quit doing weddings I was beginning to regularly get close to $3k for a wedding. For the area (MA) it's sort of middle of the road. I think I did a pretty good job and was good with the people I worked with.

    Anyway, point being, if you can get 40 weddings at $3k per wedding, you may be able to do pretty well for yourself. I suppose it depends on your needs. That's a lot of hussling, and yes, equipment is expensive, but so is a truck and a set of plumbing tools, and no one will call you up at 3 AM to come to their house and figure out why their toilet is overflowing with poo.

    However, I think many, many wedding photographers are total crackheads, and I was really lucky for the most part in the people I worked for. I don't think I could hack the general industry for very long. If I ever was to say the phrase "your special day" I would probably spontaneously throw up. So I wasn't a long term candidate for the industry, but it was great money at the time and paid for me to hitchhike through Canada for 3 months, which was awesome.

  4. #24
    brian mcweeney's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    I say work in commercial photography and always pursue your "fine art" work at the same time. You can make a living as a photographer ... it's the same as making a living as a plumber, learn from the experts, work hard, and be better than your competition.

  5. #25
    In the desert...
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Nevada/N.Arizona/ Florida Keys

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wooten View Post
    Check out that community college in your area. Dick Arentz taught some good platinum classes there, he also is in Flag.

    It has been a while since I was over there, but they had a great darkroom, I think it was Coccino (sp) community college.

  6. #26

    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Chichester, UK

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    My advice to a young photographer would be to learn how to run a business, as that will be 90% of what you will be doing as a photographer. Your actual ability as a photographer is not as important as you might think (although of course still important). My experience of professional photography is in two halves separated by five years of running another business. My first foray into photography wasn't that successful but after running my own business I was much better placed to earn a decent income from photography, it's a lot better to have the mindset of an entrepreneur who uses his camera to make money, than to think of yourself just as a 'photographer'.

  7. #27
    Jim Jones's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Chillicothe Missouri USA

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    The two previous posts are valuable. Edward Weston was a photographer, not a businessman. While he was selling masterpieces for $25, another master (Yousuf Karsh) was selling prints for up to $300. Karsh was the best portrait artist of the time, but what made him so successful was the drive to succeed. However, aside from income, Weston may have had a more rewarding life.

    Schools can teach you the basics, but to become great, one has to be inspired and motivated from within. The best artists in my area had little formal training in art, but worked hard to be the best they could. Commercial art schools seemed to be as useful as universities. Either one gives the student the basic knowledge. Universities can also expand the student's intellectual horizons. This can open some opportunities. Karsh studied the backgrounds of his famous clients so he could intelligently converse with them. This does make a difference. With nature and wildlife, you have to learn more by observation.

  8. #28
    Richard Rees's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Kerrville, Texas

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    BEEN THERE DONE THAT. At age around 35 (25+ years ago) I decieded to go back to school and study Commercial photography, got out of school started working for a Professional photographer. Anytime you change fields you start at the bottom, after spending most of my days just in the darkroom and starveing to death I said its time to go back to a real job were I could make some money, went back to my old career, retired at 58 and built my own darkroom so I can do what I want as a hobby. Much more enjoyably.

  9. #29

    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Pacifica, CA

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography


    I just read a book 'Photographic Communication' that chronicles the annual photojournalism conferences in Miami in the 60's and they already were worried about where photographers would find markets because electronic media (TV) was killing magazines.

    Advice was sprinkled through that book. Become educated, learn 7 languages like Dr. Erich Salomon. Learn to write. Aron Mathieu says read these 8 books: The Sleep Walkers by Arthur Koestler, The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer, In Search of Adam by Herbert Went, The Rebel by Albert Camus, Ulysses by James Joyce, Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, Saints and Sinners, the Declaration of Independence.

    At a photo business seminar, I recall hearing advice somewhat like "be a nature photographer if there is absolutely nothing else in the world that you can do". It was advice meant to discourage the casual photographer from trying to go down that path, yet encourage you if you were truly committed.

    I also read a couple books by Galen Rowell, who I followed during his career as contributor to Outdoor Photographer. He fills his books with specific advice as well. Stay in shape, wake up early and go out into the cold morning light. I wish he were still here to give us current advice.

    I heard a radio show a couple days ago where an awkward DJ was interviewing a blues harmonica player who explained how he learned music and could read music, but that musicians who can read are not well admired. One day he picked up a harmonica and without trying he played mary has a little lamb. That was when he realized there was a subconscious connection between his brain and the instrument. I've seen several connections between music and photography that suggest maybe you should take some music courses, but not try to learn to play by reading music, but to learn how to feel it.

    Correspondingly in photography, don't get too caught up in technique - but practice and get lots of experience so that you are prepared when you feel the urge to communicate with the camera.



  10. #30
    multi format
    Join Date
    Feb 2001

    Re: Emerging Student Majoring in Photography

    get your degree in environmental science, and take photography courses on the side.
    you will have an easier time finding work in an environmental type job ..
    and have a marketable skill doing photography (for the firm or agency you work for).
    it won't be "fine art" but you will get noticed where you work for taking the photographs
    that actually " look good " and maybe do in-house promotional work, get assigned for
    special projects and who knows maybe head-shots, portraits or wedding photography
    for the people you work for ...
    and then ... you can always do your "stuff" on the side ...

    as usual frank is on the money ...

    good luck !

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