Advice to photography graduates
On a weekly basis I receive emails from people looking to take that first step on the photography ladder; they look for advice to help them kick start their photography career and quite often offer to assist on any shoots I have coming up. I always where possible, I try to response to them with a little push in the right direction or very occasionally the offer of a project they can assist me with. Greg Harding Photography is not a company with huge untapped resources and the projects we get involved with are usually sensitive in nature, so getting outsiders involved can be a difficult task.
Around graduation time every year I get a spike of enquiries that ask for advice about pursuing their dreams and turning their recent learning into earning.
Here’s a typical email and my response to one such graduate.
“I’m Clare (not her real name), I’m graduating from Photography in October. Photography is my only dream, yet I’m struggling a lot to find a job that fits to my needs. I do a lot of documentary photography, and getting into this seems to be impossible. I was just wondering, do you get paid for the work you do on your website, is it your main job that pays well enough? I am having to stay with my job in retail for the time being, but I want to get out of it. I wondered if you had any advice? I like your commercial photography, and it just made me curious to know if you get paid for the things you do. I just want to get out of retail and make photography my full time job, excluding studio work because it’s not my cup of tea. It would be great to hear back. Apologies for the random email, I guess I’m looking for inspiration. I like the hospital commercial photography you have done, it’s real, it’s not over over-exaggerating, or making it out to be something it’s not. I just found this quite interesting, so I thought I’d email and ask if you get paid for something you love doing. Hope to hear back. I appreciate you reading this email anyway. Thanks”
Thanks for your email. Firstly, if your dream is become a photographer then stick with it. It may appear impossible but if you want it enough you’ll make it happen. In terms of my full time employment, yes, it’s commercial photography and it is the work you see on the website. It’s also the hard work you don’t see on the internet. The up keep of client engagement, the creative research, admin responsibilities and the worry about scheduling work and personal projects. It’s full time, all the time and I love it.
My advice to you is to reach out to other working photographers and try to assist them. Learn from them. Develop your own style. Don’t try to be someone else. Offer something unique and be different. Find your niche market and fill it. Follow your passion and if it’s documentary work, find interesting projects to cover and write about them, blog about it, send them to agencies and libraries. Work hard, and you’ll get noticed.
It’s not always the most talented or most qualified people that find jobs in photography (although many are), its the tenacious, passionate, driven and most hard working that eventually make it.
I work in photography, (specialising in healthcare, science, education and construction) and that’s my passion, my niche and my clients appreciate that. I’m very fortunate that they provide a good living and plenty of interesting projects to shoot. It’s not always glamorous and it’s mostly hard slog and at times it can feel more about marketing and SEO than photography, but that’s the nature of business.
Follow your passion, ask yourself what your first thoughts are drawn to in the morning and what gets you out of bed. Follow that.
I hope you succeed. It’s an extremely difficult business to break into, but you can do it, you just have to want it enough.
Good luck and let me know how it goes.
I’m blessed to have had over 20 years of photography experience in many exciting photographic sectors and have always been able to class myself as a full-time professional photographer. I know there are many photographers that have to supplement their income with a second job. I don’t know whether I’ve just been lucky or have been fortunate enough to chose areas that interest me and that have a shortage of good imagery that I can fill, probably both. Either way, its got me this far and things here at GHP have never been busier, so I try to provide guidance to anyone that asks for it.
When you’re starting out it’s difficult to find the right path; mistakes are frequently made and you can very quickly become disillusioned with knock backs and crisis’s of confidence. Confidence is a critical factor to getting employment and when you’re sat at your first marketing agency meeting, they’ll be keen to see how you present and handle yourself, it’s a given that you’ll be enthusiastic for the photography work you’ve produced. You’ll need to dig deep and stand tall.
Asking for help always takes courage, but I also believe that you’ll need as much of it as possible to achieve your dreams.
Keep emailing photographers that work in your sector of interest and try to get to talk to them. Here’s a few tips to getting a response from busy professionals.
- Make your email personal – not a cut and paste job
- Make sure you’ve looked at their work
- Make your email brief and to the point
- Include some links to your photography work that might be relevant to the sector
- Be prepared to wait for a response
- Keep the email upbeat and chatty – not a depressive rant (yes, I get all sorts).
Photography is increasingly difficult to sector to get employment in (as are many sectors these days), but it is still possible.
Good luck and don’t get dis-heartened.