The photography industry is a tough nut to break into. It is by no means impossible, but it’s tougher than most and you’ll need quite thick skin and perseverance to overcome the many rejections you’re probably likely to face.
The first thing you should consider is what sector you want to go into. There is literally a multitude of fields you can get into and they include sports photography, fashion photography, glamour photography, children’s photography, just to name a few.
There are generally two ways to get started on the ladder. The first is to go to college and take a photography course and the second is to undertake an apprenticeship with an experienced photographer. Both ways have their own advantages and disadvantages and it is important to weight up each choice with your personal circumstances.
Going to college has many benefits. If you choose a good college you will not only learn the important theoretical knowledge behind photography, but you will also get practical experience as well. You will also stand in better stead to get good work experience after or during your course because your college will help you find a placement and employers generally look more favourably upon those with academic experience under their belt.
The downside of this is that a course usually takes around 3 years and depending on where you study you will have to finance your course. If you are older and have commitments, you may not be able to afford the time and financial investment to study for 3 years.
Be sure to choose a good college however, as not all colleges or course for that matter are the same. An indication of a good college is one that not only provides you with the fundamentals of photography and allows you to develop your creative style, but is also successful at helping you find work experience. When looking at colleges, you should search the internet for reviews about the college course you are considering and if it is feasible, you should try to arrange to speak with a lecturer and students in the course. Many colleges hold open days where you will have an opportunity to speak with representatives.
The other option is to start an apprenticeship under an experienced photographer. The benefits of this are great. You will get to learn the ins and outs of how an experienced photographer handles a professional shoot, and also how a photographer business is run including areas like marketing and taking care of invoicing and inventory. There are many things that can be learnt from an apprenticeship that cannot be learned in a classroom.
The largest con to this route is that apprenticeships are incredibly hard to land. The sheer amount of competition for an apprenticeship will mean that you will be approaching literally hundreds of photographers and getting rejected each time. The key to landing an apprenticeship however, will be dogged perseverance. Out of the hundreds of rejections, you need only land that one to start of the photography ladder.
Whether you’re getting a work placement from college or undertaking an apprenticeship, you will need to have a portfolio of your best work. Try to have portfolios in different fields of photography. This will show your diversity and demonstrate that you are not just one-dimensional. It is also beneficial to set up an online portfolio. More and more people are getting web-savvy and an online presence will ensure that you have great exposure.
Finally, keep on trying. In the photography industry, persistence is more important than raw talent. You can have all the talent in the world but if no one knows about you, you’ll never get a chance to show yourself.