With today’s economy, getting into any field is challenging regardless if you have a college degree or not. In just the span of five years, the job market’s been flooded with employees with a lot of the same skill sets. This makes finding a creative career a challenge. So, how can one break into the Photography Industry? Whether you’re an amateur or have just graduated from high school or college/university, here are some key ideas on how to get started working as a Photographer and hopefully continuing on to steady work.
Freelance for your local newspaper
If you’re passionate for Photography but have never shot in a professional setting, my first suggestion is to contact your local weekly/daily newspaper. Most newspapers are willing to take on photographers on a first time basis. However, don’t expect assignments like Peter Parker. In many cases, newspapers don’t have enough staff to always cover all their events and need help. A lot of times most reporters have to not only cover their stories but also shoot the same events. Not all reporters are keen to this idea and would rather not have to deal with the technical side of camera work. I should also mention at this point that there is generally not much of a salary for this position. A lot of these positions are non-paying and are only filled as intern positions. In some cases, you can get paid amounts of five to ten dollars per shot. It just depends on the publication. This is a good start in testing out your basic photo journalistic skills and whether you have the eye for composing a good shot. Plus, it’s also a good test on how well you are at getting into the action and dealing with the general public.
Apprentice with an established Photographer
My next suggestion is intern with an established Photographer in your area. Most photographers love having assistants to help take care of what they consider “menial” tasks such as carrying equipment, helping clients on poses, and the day-to-day office work. Though this might sound more like an office position, watching a “professional” work their magic is the best way to get hands on experience and be in the thick of things. This allows you to experience each step-by-step process of how a photographer attains potential clients, how and what they charge for expenses, how a particular shot is set up, and how post-production is done after a photo shoot is completed.
Study in a school setting
If you’re a teen and your school offers Photography as a course, TAKE IT! It’s generally an easy course, a lot of fun, and you get art credit for something you will enjoy. This will also be beneficial if you plan on studying photography in college/university to have a portfolio already established. Most departments at higher education institutes require you to “audition” by sending a portfolio before being accepted in a particular field of study. Another major plus is if you don’t own any kind of high end camera at all, as a student, you will have access to ANY camera you can think of whether it’s a basic SLR, a large format or a high end digital twenty thousand dollar Mamiya. Schools are great because they have these items available for students to practice their craft. As a student, you have access to these items as part of your tuition. Having access to free stuff is always a plus when you’re a student. It also means you can be working as a professional while you’re still studying and establish a client base before graduating.
Working for an established company
There are many companies that have events nationwide that need to be covered and they are always looking for freelance photographers in specific areas surrounding their clients. The events they cover range from: grade/junior high/ high school portraits, portrait shoots for graduations, and citywide marathons. An added bonus is the fact that most of these companies supply you with their own equipment so that you don’t have to go out and spend a fortune to start working for them. In my own free time, I freelance for one such company. Most of the time companies list their need for photographers through want ads in daily newspapers or online classified such as Craigslist. Each single event can pay forty dollars on up for as little as four hours work with expenses paid. It should be noted that a lot of times, you only have steady work for one to two months out of the year especially when shooting graduations. But, if you are willing to travel nationally, you can make upwards to one to two thousand dollars a month for eight to ten days work. This gives you an opportunity to bank some extra coin to stock away for an upcoming vacation or Christmas shopping.
Set up your own studio
Last but not least, have you ever thought about setting up your own studio? It’s a lot easier than you might think to start. The best part is you also don’t have to spend a lot of money if you don’t want to. I personally know a lot of freelance photographers that have their own “studios” via renting equipment for certain events. This way they don’t have to spend twenty grand for a Mamiya or other high standard device and are still able to advertise being able to produce high quality photos.
Now with all these suggestions, the most important part to remember is to NEVER STOP TAKING PICTURES! You may not be able to afford a Canon MARK IV or Mamiya, but any good photographer can still get a nice shot using an eighty to hundred fifty-dollar Canon PowerShot camera. So, if you’re thinking about getting your foot into Photography, try these simple ideas to get started. You never know where a simple freelance job could lead you. It may land you a job you never thought possible in your wildest aspirations.