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Career Choices Using Photography and the Skills Needed to Succeed
There are many different jobs which involve photography, including:
-Portrait/studio/wedding – focusing on images of people and selling images to families and individuals
-Sports – action photos, from childrens’ leagues up to professional and olympic levels
-Commercial/product photography – every ad has images taken by someone. Jewelry, food, automotive, and fashion photography are some examples.
-Artistic/landscape – scenic or artistically oriented images, often sold as artwork, postcards or tourist items
-Architectural – photos of buildings and other constructed items
-Forensic – used in police/detective work. Crime scene and related photography.
-Journalism – un-staged real-life images for newspaper and magazines
-School/event – school pictures, sports teams, church and other groups where high volume is typical.
-Stock photography – images taken that other people will buy and use for advertising and other purposes
There other other specialties such as astrophtography and microphotography.
Frequently Asked Questions about careers in Photography
1) What skills do I need to be successful as a photographer?
-Conceptual- the ability to understand your clients’ needs and communicate with them
-Technical – the ability to identify, configure and use camera, lighting, and props to make images
-Editing – the ability to process captured images and edit them to meet the customers’ needs
-Marketing – the ability to get your name out and to connect you and your business to your potential customer base
-Selling – the ability to earn money from your profession. Includes pricing, negotiating, meeting with customers, producing their final products
-Managing – Taking care of the day-to-day needs of a business or professional, including buying things, paying bills, covering insurance, taxes, permits, etc.
-Leading – Building and or working in a business environment where you need to create visions, define goals and actions, and implement them to grow the business
-Serving – Contacting and growing your customer base, measuring customer satisfaction, resolving customer issues.
You can see that only the Technical and Editing skills fall into traditional Photography/Computer skills. However, because photography involves a high degree of interpersonal communication and subjective needs of the customer base, you need to develop and posses good people skills – listening, documenting, creativity, follow-through, etc.
2) What education do I need to be successful in photography?
You will need to learn or be taught the technical aspects of photography – lighting, composition, camera science, image editing and production. Some people can learn this as they go. Others pursue a special degree or certificate from certain schools, or you can get a 4-year degree in arts/photography from a university. To be very well prepared, you should consider a minor in business or marketing or a minor in your chosen specialty field such as criminal justice, sports or journalism. This will give you an edge over any candidates who do not have this education.
3) What type of experience is required?
To be employable, you need to demonstrate competence in not just the technical areas of photography, but also the soft skills. I recommend building and growing a portfolio of your own images to show your technical and artistic development and skills. A demonstrated track record in any service industry (food service, retail, etc.) will demonstrate that you can work with people and satisfy their needs. Using your photo skills in volunteer areas will also grow your skills and breadth of experience.
You can often get work as a “second shooter” or assistant to professionals in your town. Your ability to take on the dirty work and learn on the job will increase your odds of success in finding entry level work.
4) What are the job duties of a photographer?
They vary highly from the job areas and the size of the business, but these are the general duties:
– Prepare marketing plans to advertise and promote your products and services
– Interact with customers on proposals to secure the job
– Prepare for photo sessions – logistics/planning, coordinating equipment, props, models, permits, etc.
– Conduct the photo session
– Edit and backup the images
– Publish and/or make the images available for customer review
– Interact with customers to develop the images into their ideal products
– Transact the sale and collect the payment
– Manage the business accounts – keep the office running
5) What is the outlook for this type of career?
There are good jobs in all of these areas. The development of high quality digital cameras has given the average person the ability to create very good images at a reasonable cost, but the professional photographer will have the training, talent, tools and motivation to make better images. Price pressure will continue to force professionals to be more cost effective.
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