Photography is everywhere. In today’s media-driven culture we are constantly bombarded with imagery, every single day. From the creative and alluring imagery used by advertising photographers on billboards and magazines, to the hard-hitting world of editorial photography, the camera’s ability to record and manipulate the world around us creates an infinite number of opportunities for the aspiring photographer.
Like most other creative industries, photography is incredibly competitive and getting your foot on the ladder can prove to be very difficult. More often than not, it involves a lot of hard work and dedication, but the chance to make a living out of your passion is what makes everything worthwhile.
Do I need a degree for a career in photography?
Most people going into the business now are graduates. Completing a photography degree gives you the time and opportunity to experiment and develop your work, allowing you to build up a strong portfolio whilst gaining vital technical knowledge and receiving constant guidance. It is also a great place to make friends and contacts in the industry, which potentially gives you opportunities to set up work experience whilst you are still studying.
However a degree is not always necessary in gaining employment. A diploma course will teach you the technical aspects of photography and many employers value a good attitude and hard work over qualifications. Those people with a strong portfolio and a good head for business can become successful in all aspects of the industry.
Whatever your background and training, the most necessary item you need will be your portfolio. This is essential for showing prospective clients and employers your work. In most cases, if not all, the strength of your portfolio will determine if you are successful in securing the job.
What does a photographer’s assistant do?
Many budding professional photographers decide to take the assistant route in to the industry. Most often, this is done on a freelance basis and the assistant will usually work for a number of different photographers. Assistants who are hired by a single photographer on a permanent basis have usually been working in a similar role for a number of years. As an assistant your job will generally involve getting the equipment to the studio or location, setting up lighting, taking light meter readings, and cataloguing and optimising digital files.
The assistant’s duties will also include keeping records of exposures and lighting set ups, entertaining the clients, generally ensuring the shoot runs smoothly and shielding the photographer from any disruption. There are many benefits to taking the assistant route. It is a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills from professional photographers, whilst getting a vast and varied experience of the industry as a whole.
What does a freelance photographer do?
If you think that the assistant’s route may not be for you, then you may wish to go out on your own and become a freelance photographer. Freelance photographers can work in just about every photographic field, including specialist areas such as event and wedding photography, editorial or product photography.
Freelancing demands the ability to network. You need to market your skills and communicate well with potential clients. It is a hugely competitive field and many photographers find it difficult starting out. This is where prior experience of the industry, gained through internships or working as a photographic assistant, can really work to your advantage. However, despite the potential pitfalls, freelancing can be incredibly rewarding both creatively and financially.
Alternative photography career paths…
There are also many other areas of photography to explore, such as working for a newspaper or on a picture desk. If you are interested in these different areas, then try to look for relevant internships online, or contact editorial publications directly and enquire about possible work experience. Potentially getting some of your work published is a great opportunity, and it may bring you even closer to securing your dream photography job.
So, if you’ve got an aptitude for apertures, an eye for lenses, and a strong focus on what you want from a career, getting a job in the photography industry may be the perfect first step for you.