Let's say you're 18 and want to go pro. How do you spend the next four years?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by st3ve, Aug 3, 2010.

  1. st3ve

    st3ve Member

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    Wasn't sure if there was a better section to post this in, but I think it's an interesting hypothetical (because I'm sure not 18 anymore and not really sure photography would be as fun if it were my job) that I thought of while taking the morning shower. It's based on an article I read recently called "Seven Reasons Not to Send Your Kid to College".

    You're 18 and have been keen on photography for some time now. Your stuff is alright, it doesn't blow anyone away, but you're getting better. You think that now is the time to go pro. Medium of photography and outside factors aren't relevant for this question.

    Would you spend the next four years getting a business degree (which would likely be the most practical degree for this purpose), or working on your craft? Let's assume that you don't have a large scholarship / trust fund and either way, you're going to have to work to support yourself during this time.

    On one hand, if you have very little business acumen (formally taught or "natural"), you're going to have a hard time keeping everything under control even if your photography is great. But if your photography is crap, you're going to have a hard time finding a client base at any really sustainable price.

    What would you do?
     
  2. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    Double major at university, business administration and fine art. After finishing, apprentice under a photographer for less money than your worth to learn the tricks of the trade. Above all else, minimum 200-300 pictures a week for the whole period because you have to be able to do even when you don't feel like it.
     
  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Skip school and assist. Work your ass off, save your money, and learn how to deal with people and run a business. Degrees in photography are worthless unless you intend to teach and/or write/edit. People who will hire you to do professional photography don't give a rat's ass about your schooling. They only care about your portfolio, your work ethic, and your professionalism. The 4+ years you would spend in school are going to be nothing but a loss of time in the end, if you really intend to simply be a professional photographer.

    This being said, having a degree never really hurts, and always inching toward it (maybe one or two classes at a time) may be worthwhile if professional photography doesn't work out in the end after all.

    ...but if you are 100% certain that all you are going to do is to work as a professional photographer, then spending time in school is a liability (i.e. a 4+ year vacuum of time, money, and lack of experience), not an asset.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2010
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Get the business degree and shoot on the side. If nothing else, if the photography gig doesn't pan out, you still have a marketable skill and recognizable credential.
     
  5. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    I agree completely.
     
  6. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Definitely. Hopefully, the photographer you work for will also show you the business end of photography also, not just the nuts and bolts of photography. What hurts the photo profession is newbies not knowing what to charge and business practices. Building a portfolio with real work will help to.
     
  7. epatsellis

    epatsellis Member

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    I would tend to conditionally disagree. If you are planning on getting into commercial work especially. While skill and knowledge has little to do with schooling (or lack thereof). What it will do is give you solid, theory based tools to make your work better. It does create good work habits, and gives you the tools to think critically about art in general, as well as photography, which helps define and refine you compositional and color theory skills. In addition, you have a common, consistent and defined skillset that allows you to accurately and effectively communicate with AD's, designers and the like.

    I felt like a lot of the others here, and it wasn't until I was in school for a couple of semesters that I realized it had changed not just my compositional skills, as well as being more aware of the interplay of light, but also the way I assessed my own and other's work changed dramatically. Granted, I'm not 18 anymore, and it's been a few decades since I was, but I can say that if you apply yourself to it, it will change you as an artist, refining you.
     
  8. aloha

    aloha Member

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    I'm 27, I would love to be able to make money with photography, but I'm in the same boat, how do I get from here, where I'm taking in my free time, and not making money, to there, where its my main source of income?
     
  9. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    If I were to try something like this, I would have a backup plan. Not that I don't trust in my ability to learn or my dedication be any less, but I would recognize that this is a field where making it and not making it depends on a lot of different factors - not all of them in my control. Quitting school and working for someone else wouldn't meet my own standard.

    I did something far more risky than choosing a carrier in my earlier days but I had a backup plan. To me, taking a risk and going for my dream includes preparing for unexpected or unintentional.

    That's my take on this.
     
  10. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    If you want to be an artist, I'd get into the best art school I could and get an MFA. Then you can teach for a living and still photograph as an avocation. And that way you'll never have to compromise your art for anyone.

    If you want to be a commercial photographic illustrator, then I'd apprentice myself to the most successful pro I could find who will take you on. Then start your own business. You'll have to cater to your clients for your bread and butter, but you'll still be able to do your personal work any way you want to.

    Either way can be a great life. Take your pick.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    This part I disagree with.

    Get a college education and a degree in something you are passionate about. That can't be taken away from you and can only help. Get into a field you love and then if possible bring photography into it.

    Steve
     
  12. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Everybody who has the means and the aptitude owes it to themselves and to society as a whole to go to college and finish a degree. The program of study should be something you are very interested in (and it isn't always obvious what one is interested in right off). It does not really even matter what you study...as long as it is interesting to you. You end up working the rest of your life....always for somebody else. College is an investment in you and it pays off many times over.
     
  13. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    And this is what I shall be facing shortly.
     
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  15. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    United States Navy

    No, wait, that is a lousy idea forget I typed that.

    I can make jokes like that now that I am retired from that company.
     
  16. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    A typical person's brain does not even become fully formed and wired until their early/mid 20's. At 18 I would suggest opening oneself up to all the possibilities -- college is good for that, especially if one is not self-motivated to experiment and study.

    If one KNOWS that one wants to be a pro photographer, then go for it. But if one just thinks that photography would be an interesting way to earn a living, then keep one's eyes open to the whole world of possibilities.
     
  17. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    What do you want to photograph?

    What career would open doors to enable you to take those photographs? Like travel? One of my friends is married to someone in the oil business who travels all over the world, staying in places for months at a time. Want to do more model based commercial work? Figure out what steady job with flexible hours you can do somewhere with lots of people - another friend is working odds and ends in LA while focusing on her art in her spare time. Want to photograph war zones? I have a friend in the military who occasionally makes time to photograph.

    Depending on what you want to shoot, simply getting access may be one of your biggest barriers. Finding a job that provides that access is another potential in while giving you a stable base from which you can build yourself up.

    Thats just me though - I am financially conservative. I was set on a career long before I realized how important photography was to me. My job covers the bills but isn't really opening any doors for me artistically (aside from working with some good artists and a few other hobbyist photographers)
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    education is never wasted, and can never be taken away ...
    a well rounded education can help in a career of photography
    giving a better understanding of the subject matter.
    getting an apprenticeship while studying in a university,
    working with a professional in the area he or she may have an interest,
    may be a good idea. it will give him/her a better understanding
    of what being a professional photographer is all about. these days it is less
    about photography and more about other things.
     
  19. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    A friend who's a highly successful Advertising & Commercial photographer began by assisting for a Summer before doing his degree, chose the right course/University very carefully which allowed for placement with a top London photographer for a few months.

    He then made sure he learnt all the skills he already knew he needed. Within 2-3 years of his degree he was shooting for major International clients, covering the Le Mans 24 hr race for a sponsor, photographing their calendar in exotic locations etc.

    As everyone one else says education is important, but one that allows work experience is going to fast track you in the right direction.

    Ian
     
  20. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Whilst this is true, education doesn't always have to mean a degree. It could be education through experience.

    I never take ownership of a degree as competence in anything. It just means someone has attended university and managed to find the correct answers in the exams.

    In the last few years we have employed a couple of people with degrees in electronics. One of them didn't know which way to wire up an LED (something I learned when I was about ten) and the other had a similar in depth knowledge of the subject.

    I would hope these are exceptions to the rule but I hear similar stories from others.


    Steve.
     
  21. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    "On our last night ashore, drink to the foam!!!" is a good way to spend the next four years...
     
  22. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have invented things, written technical books on software safety in nuclear power plants, designed on spacecrafts, taught Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the senior and graduate school level as a professor, and I can tell you that the most important skill you can have for live and the work place is the ability to speak and write clearly. If you do not communicate clearly to your audience, your customer, your boss, and your spouse, you will not get what you want and need. English 101 is the most important course you will ever take.
     
  23. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I agree entirely with the above.


    Steve.
     
  24. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I failed study hall twice!:smile:

    Jeff
     
  25. epatsellis

    epatsellis Member

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    It's not all that different in any field. When I was the production manager of a printing company, I interviewed numerous applicants with a degree that had no concept of the most basic, fundamental skills, yet somehow managed to earn a graphic arts degree. My son is nearly finished with his EE and can't perform the most basic steps of diagnosis outside of his specialty, even though the same concepts apply regardless of whether it's a data comm system or an automobile engine that refuses to start. The basic skills, that many of us were taught in middle and high school, seem to have vanished from the earth I fear.

    I have been a working graphic artist and designer since my mid 20's, when I left electronics and manufacturing at the beginnings of the "down sizing" trend. With two plus decades of demonstrated competence and skill level, I haven't been able to find a job paying anything close to a living wage, as nearly every employer wants applicants with a bachelor's degree. In the current job market, where there are hundreds of applicants for each job, it's easy for the employer to segregate based on their stated requirements, irrespective of demonstrated skills, abilities or references.

    This situation precipitated my return to school, after 29 years, and my ultimate decision to just keep going and get an MFA. At the very least, I can teach.
     
  26. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I would advocate some college education if this person wants to be successfully self employed. Unless he/she has entrepreneurial parents willing to provide business coaching (and the 18 yo is willing to listen to them), some advanced business training would be useful for a photography job and and any other future employment.

    Perhaps an associate degree at a local state university branch or community college. 4-year degrees are nice but not necessary, and many people do not use their 4 year degrees, changing plans after college. Thus the investment in a 4 year degree is often "wasted", despite the value of what they learned, because it wasn't applied to their job.

    A "trade" job like plumber, photographer, metal fabricator can make decent money on their own, but it won't happen well if the person has no business skills or training. If they work for someone else, their motive should certainly not be a comfortable income. A spouse with business skills could also complement the trade person's trade skills, but I think it's better if one person can grasp both aspect of self employment.

    There are plenty of good business people who are weak on photography skill as well. The 18yo should continue to refine their photography skills and enjoy all aspects of photography such as digital, analog, darkroom, computer skills, lighting, etc...