What you don’t learn from a photography degree
There are many benefits to getting a college degree in photography. However, like with many creative degrees, there are a few aspects of the industry that don’t typically get covered in a photography BFA program. That’s not to say that every BFA program won’t cover these topics, but a lot of the time, photography degrees are more focused on the technical and creative aspects. These are ten things that many photography BFAs don’t teach you.
1. Collaboration over competition
Art school can become a really competitive environment. When you are working on creative growth, seeing others who are in a similar boat can yield a lot of competition and jealousy. It’s a unique experience versus a typical non-artistic college degree, because you are constantly seeing visual representations of other peoples growth and development put before you for critique. but at the end of the day, your peers may be some of the most helpful people in your career. Choosing collaboration over competition can result in a healthier environment for your artistic abilities to grow and flourish. It may also lead you to connections between your peers down the line. If your paths diverge with your peers in terms of style, niche or even genre of photography, having a healthy relationship with your peers will open up opportunities for them to recommend you or collaborate with you on future projects.
2. Networking makes a difference
Starting your networking in college make a huge difference when you leave for the “real world”. These can be made through assisting, taking on small jobs, interning, volunteering, and many other ways to get a foot in the door. Making connections around your industry and niche will serve you in the future when you put the work in now.
3. Marketing matters
your marketing matters. Marketing is how you’re going to pay your bills with photography in the future. Learning to define a brand and sell it is half the battle when it comes to being a full-time professional photographer. Use your time well getting a PFA as an opportunity to explore the world of marketing to ensure that your business will be properly set up for success in its marketing initiatives.
4. You need to carve out a niche
not only do you need to use your time in photography school to figure out what type of photography you want to be working in, but you need to carve out a niche. It’s not enough to just be a photographer. You need to figure out what makes you and your work special, and why other people should be paying for it. What sets you apart from the other photographers in your area? College is a great time to explore different areas of photography. Once you narrow down what you like to shoot, niche it down even further to prepare yourself for your market.
5. You have to make your business legitimate
There is a lot of logistical work that goes into becoming a professional full-time photographer. You need to make your business legitimate. Filing for taxes, working under an assumed name, getting the correct business licenses and more to ensure that you and your business are protected. It’s a lot to think about especially when so much school is spent working on your creativity and technical skills, but it is absolutely necessary to make your photography business legitimate.
6. You need contracts and written confirmations
When you’re vying for a job, it’s great to hear the “yes!“ from the client. However, a ‘yes’ is not enough. You need contracts and written confirmations when you’re booking jobs. There are different contracts for different types of and it’s important that you have them at the ready to protect yourself. even for non-commercial jobs like family photography, weddings etc. you need to prepare contracts and model releases to keep your business secure through these transactions.
7. There is a lot of downtime
If you are a freelancer, there is going to be a lot of downtime in your schedule. Use this time to develop your marketing strategy and execute it to keep your business running smoothly, so that you can create less and less downtime. That downtime will also become filled with retouching, editing, meetings and more. When you’re first starting out, there’s going to be a lot of downtime and that is okay.
8. All nighters do not serve you
Let’s be clear: just because you were working on something all night does not make the work good. Time management is an important skill to learn in college, and if you’re spending your time on assignments staying up all night to complete them, something needs to change about your routine. Keeping healthy and getting a lot of sleep will serve your work creatively and professionally.
9. There is a lot of free education available
Even if you’re not learning some or all of these things in photography school, there is a lot of free education online available. Thankfully photographers are out there sharing their knowledge both creatively and in a professional sense for people who may not be getting the information they need to succeed. If you’re curious to learn about specific topics, do independent research. Yes, if you’re paying for college you should be learning the basics in starting up and running your own photography business, but if you don’t feel like that’s enough, there is a lot of free education out there.
10. Not everybody is going to succeed
The hard reality of working in a creative field, or any field for that matter, is that not everybody is going to succeed. It is not easy to create a sustainable business full time as a photographer or any creative. It takes a lot of hard work and patience to get where you need to go. The important thing to figure out is, how are you going to succeed? How will you make an impact with your photography career? Figure out what you need to do to make it work, and work hard at it.
Am I missing anything? Let me know in the comments, or find me on Instagram @meganbreukeman and shoot me a DM!