February 28, 2013
On many levels photography appears an alluring line of work; the money is pretty good, the chance to have a creative job is a bonus… but man, it’s a tough industry! This makes it crucial to give yourself the best possible chance to make a go of it. Having raw talent is certainly an advantage, but talent alone rarely pays the bills. It goes without saying that you will need an abundance of passion, huge dedication and it’s a boon if you are flexible and inventive. The competition you will face is fiercer than ever and the industry is morphing faster than Lady Gaga.
If you are really serious about making photography your profession you will need a working knowledge of equipment and processes, hands on experience and a strong folio. There are many trajectories that lead to becoming a working photographer, but one of the more tried and true paths into a photographic career, and the path I took, was through formal study.
This is a black and white print that I wet in sections and scratched with a scalpel blade.
In the years before I studied I had developed some pretty abstract theories of what was going on inside the camera to capture an image. Through study I found out exactly how the camera and film collectively generated a photograph. In my experience study was a godsend. I completed a commercial photography course that was strongly focused on getting a real understanding of the industry and equipment I was using, I felt this course offered me the best opportunity to make my living as a photographer.
The Benefits of Structure/ Getting Work- Ready
Study gave me structure in ways that I hadn’t had previously in my practice and forced me to shoot unprecedented volumes of work. I was shooting multiple projects at once and all to strict deadlines. I was exposed to an extremely broad range of areas of the photographic industry and equipment that I never would have considered looking into. As well, it fast tracked my process by condensing a huge amount of experience into just a few years.
Through the practical side of study I honed my abilities to interoperate light, form and composition. Through the commercial side of the course I built an understanding of how I could apply that to working in the industry and running a business. One of the most important thing study gave me was a folio that was way stronger than the folio I used to get in to college in the first place. It was the folio that I used to enter the work force.
Preparation for study
Given that there is often huge competition to get in to the best courses, you need to be well prepared to have a chance of having your application considered. If you have the benefit of time you should organise a meeting with the people running the course you are interested in doing. They will be able to tell you what gaps there are in your preparations and what levels of prior education you need to have a fighting chance. I needed year 11 and 12 photography, which I did at a senior college, a bridging course in photo science and I updated my folio with more commercial images.
If you get short listed for the course take the process seriously and be very positive. Both you and your work should make a strong impression. All they know of you is what you present so every aspect of your presentation should be clean and powerful. Dress appropriately and without being over the top, talk yourself up. Make certain they know just how keen you are.
Michael Polyester is an Adelaide based artist who posed for me with materials he used to create his art works.
Integration/ Learning to learn
I felt it was a good five years out of college and running my business before I started to feel like a “real” photographer. It takes time to find your groove and know where you fit in the industry. Until you integrate information into your practice, it’s information rather than knowledge. Given how quickly digital technology is developing there are constantly new things to learn but study gave me a good grounding in how to go about learning.
By the end of the course I was more capable of defining what type of photographer I wanted to be. I finished my studies with huge enthusiasm, a head full of new tricks and a folio to prove I was capable. That was when the work really started!
Images and text © Andy Rasheed 2013
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