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Some Advice to New Photography Grads from Past Students

You never stop learning. If you have a teacher, you never stop being a student.” ~ Elisabeth Rohm

Every year for the past few years, I’ve taken on students needing placement hours from the local college photography program. These second-year students are eager to learn everything they can – lighting, marketing, posing, communication strategies … everything. It’s always a pleasure seeing someone come into new knowledge and to watch their excitement as they anticipate putting it to good use.

So, I thought it would be apropos to ask them what advice they’d pass on to the latest round of photography graduates in turn. Each has been out ‘in the world’ for anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years now and what goes around, comes around. Here’s what they have to say to the budding photographers who have just finished their programs:

Brayden Swire - First of my studentsA career in photography is not going to be easy. Pursuing a career in photography has never been harder as it seems like everyone is a photographer theses days. However, if you are one of those individuals that when the world seems to be nothing but sadness, and only taking pictures can cheer you up, then congratulations, your future has never been brighter in this industry.

Happiness in what you are doing can never lead to failure. It took me multiple photography avenues, a lot of late nights, and a lot of failures to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Find what makes you happy and run towards it. The rest will figure its self out.

My advice to anyone graduating, is to not stop practicing, just keep shooting everything and anything. It doesn’t matter if its for money or fun or for nothing at all. If you don’t do this, you will just lose “it” and its hard to start shooting again.

My other advice is to not settle for shooting one form of photography, and MAKE (don’t just take) opportunities for your self to try different forms of photography. For example, if you like portrait photography, shoot buildings. If you like sports photography, try lifestyle photography. That way you have experience with many areas, and it will be easier for you to find work.

Paige LarueSo you’ve graduated, you’ve done your homework, you know what you’re getting yourself into. You’ve heard the stories and know the rules.

But what is it actually like to get a job in photography? Whether or not you plan on running your own business, doing weddings, or trying the creative side the most important thing is to never give up. Often I find the first year after graduation is the hardest for anyone I speak with. ESPECIALLY for artists. You tend to rely heavily on the people in your program, the advice of the professors and the use of the equipment and studios that the school offers. It’s such a shock to go into the “real” world afterwards, you’re kind of left with a stunned look on your face as you ultimately realise that it’s a lot harder than you expected to have people take you seriously when you say you want to do this full time.

The most important thing I’ve learned is to stay active, constantly learn and challenge yourself. Don’t ever second guess yourself and only accept critique from the people’s whose opinions matter to you. I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy to do something that will actually make you happy, it never is, but some of the happiest people in the world have worked the hardest for what they have. So that’s it, that’s my advice.

Giving up, that’s the only way you’ll be unsuccessful in this business.

Students Suzanne CarrollYou may get your creative inspirations from the inside, but everything else, you need to reach out to the people around you. Photography is very much a “people” career. The more you put yourself out there in a community, the more support you will attract to help create a following and be recommended for work. Research everything. The internet, use it! Google images, social networks and YouTube videos. If you want inspiration, have a question or need a demo, the internet is an amazing resource for your new business.

Replenish your soul. I take long, long… long drives to feed my creativity soul. This takes me out of my small world to see a bigger picture of what is happening around me. Starting your own photography business can keep many creative photographers with their nose to the grind stone, so remember to schedule time for yourself to return, recharged and ready to roll.

Business management dominates 60% of your time as a entrepreneur. Business classes in school are not enough. Don’t get me wrong, school has the right courses, but as I was unable to apply these skills in a preexisting business, it was difficult to retain. Get involved with community business workshops, courses and clubs as much as you possibly can after graduating. This advice will be a great resource for you moving forward.

Mentors work. Find smart people. Follow them around. Argue with them. Socratic method. If you don’t understand this method, refer to step 2.


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