after graduation....what next?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by billy_mabrey, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. (I apologize ahead for the long post)

    When I was in college, for whatever reason I never looked too far ahead into
    the future. I was never the boozing party goer, much more of a bookworm type. I
    always excelled at what I did and cranked out As left and right. Come
    graduation, it felt as if I was slowly rolling in my car toward a cliff, soon
    to plummit to my demise. I realized as the end of my Senior year approached,
    that I had no idea whatsoever what I could do after I recieved my Bachelors of
    Fine arts in one hand, and student loan bills in the other. Here 18 months
    later, I am still in the very same predicament.

    I majored in Studio art, and during school I was always concerned about the
    works of art of my own, fellow students, works of artists in history, or often
    only that paper due in 3 days. I concentrated in photography and intaglio
    printmaking (as opposed to sculpture or painting).
    Almost never was it mentioned anywhere: what to do after college in the arts?

    Much to my dismay, I found that the only way to generate money was to deliver
    pizza for tips, one short step up from panhandling. When I told people that I
    was a college graduate, I was met with suprise and confusion until I mentioned
    that i had majored in art. Then the came the moment of "ah ha!" in their their eyes, I might have well jammed the mony spent on college into
    the garbage disposal. Friends of mine, who graduated later than I, already have
    30k - 52k jobs in engineering and science.

    So, what can a photographer / fine artist really do? I have no experience or
    desire to shoot babies, brides, or beasts, and inspite of applying to a few
    photography studios to be an assistant, they always went with the guy who once
    shot portraits at the wallmart previously. The photographers market looks to be
    not far from vultures or hyenas ravaging a carcas for survival in the
    wilderness. I have no buisness experience, and it seems as though that should
    be a prerequisite for becoming an artist?

    I have devoted time in making my own website, fully functional and a showcase
    of my work, with works for sale. Plenty of visits from the US, UK, France, and
    Russia. No sales since they too are photographers looking mostly to learn and
    browse. I still attend to my work and I joined a Young artists gallery which
    will be having a show within the week.

    on sites like monster, there are no positions posted for people in
    the "creative markets" other then advertizing firms looking for qualifications
    i cannot match without going back to school to get into advertizing.

    On the winds, i have often heard of artist grants, or grants for
    photographers, "free" money to assist in the development of fine art. Do they
    really exist? Do you have to battle head to head for a piece? I'm not looking
    for some free ride or anything, but a chance to really focus on the art alone,
    how I was able to do during school, before i went off that cliff into the real
  2. hi
    i graduated from photography school, brooks institute, in california, just a year ago. i
    found myself in the same situation. you spend lots of money for an education and then
    start at the bottom. well you have to be self driven in photography careers, you can
    suceed as much as you want or not.
    i have learned that even though i took busines and marketing clasess at school, nothing
    can prepare you for the realworld and what you have to learn by trial/error and

    i wanted to do fine art and get a day job assisting for cashflow, it evolved into opening a
    studio, and i shoot all things portrait-product-architecture etc... i never photographed
    people in school, hated it. i am just happy to have a career in photography i guess,
    everything is new now and fun.

    commercial photography is very competative, fine art is even more so. art is really
    personal, subjective and it requires a high class, refined, intellegent, and usually rich

    it would be nice if our profession were like those getting a science degree and immediatly
    get hired for good money right out of school. thats boring though, why be like the others?
    be artist...exactly why you are here. others will have their 'job' - what they do
    for money and then have their offtime/hobbies, you will have your 'passion' (if it is so) to
    create art which is rewarding regardledss of if its selling or not. but money is nice :)
  3. "Going to school for photography feels like going to school for building model airplanes."

    Too bad it took me three and a half semesters to figure that one out on my own. But think of all the beer I drank!
  4. "i have often heard of artist grants, or grants for photographers, "free" money to assist in the development of fine art."...."I'm not looking for some free ride or anything, but a chance to really focus on the art alone,"
    Your statements are self contradictory here. First you want a grant (which is nothing more than someone else's money - mine if it comes from the government) so you can sit around and focus on art alone versus being a productive contributing member of society. But at the same time you profess not to want a 'free ride'?
    Sorry, but you can't have it both ways! 'Free money' and a 'free ride' are the same thing. Maybe you want to consider relocating somewhere where you can find a wealthy patron to finance your artistic life - 17th century Europe comes to mind. However, if you choose to live in a society that expects people to pay their own way (most of the civilized world) I guess you're just going to have to suck it up and pay your own way. That's the economic reality.
  5. Billy,

    I'm on the opposite end of the life spectrum. I'm almost done. Here is a bit of what I've

    You may not want to photograph babies or do weddings but photography is all about light
    and how it hits the subject, regardless of the photo segment you work in.

    Expect to take about fifteen years to really master the business.

    Keep pushing toward your objective.

    Read the books again and again.

    Keep your objectives small. Sell one piece of art at a time.

    Feed the mayo to the tuna.

    good luck
  6. The very first lesson they should teach, as far back as high school even, but certainly when you enter college should be ... Work is not fun.

    Work is about paying the bills ... So you can have fun.

    I've been extremely lucky in my professional career, in that I've been able to switch careers three times and still have been able to pay the bills ... And I'm about to press my luck and switch a fouth.

    Ultimately though ... One of my career changes gave me an opportunity to do something I loved as a hobby professionally ... And what was a hobby (golf of all things), immediately became work and was no longer "fun".

    Oh it was satisfying ... When the money flowed. As had been working in the IT Industry ... And owning my own businesses ... And I'm sure so too will be photography (when I take that plunge in the next couple years, though it'll be a semi-retired kinda thing). But in order to make the money flow you have to do things you may or may not WANT to do. Like hit a million balls a day till your hands are raw or learning a programming language you aren't particularly interested in so you can fulfill a need in the organization or carrying a line of merchandise that you aren't going to make a large margin on, simply to increase store traffic so you might be able to sell things you do make a larger margin on ... All these things have to be done.

    I'm not particularly interested in doing portraits or weddings or comercial work ... But in order to be able to what you want, you have to do what you must ... And our business plan involves us doing portraits, weddings, and comercial work right out of the box ... And our trips to shoot landscaps and nature will allow us to keep the "Hobby"/fun aspect of photography alive ...

    Not to sound mean, cause I'm really only trying to help ... I promise I am ...

    But welcome to the real world ... Where you have to support yourself first and do what you want second.
  7. To make money doing what you like to do, try macrame, ceramics, flower arranging, origami, or tie-dye next time. To make money (honestly) in this vale of tears, you must produce a product or service that people need, want, or both, and are willing to payfor. Few plunk down much real money for fine art or decorative photography, trust me. Like aspiring actors, wannabe photographers are bussing dishes, parking cars, delivering pizzas,
    waiting tables, and walking dogs, all waiting for that big break which rarely comes. Get real. Unless you are brilliant and driven, which your posting puts a lie to, you have to get in line just like everybody else. Try applying for one of the many grants that are about, and you'll soon learn the meaning of competition. Your posting is little more than one big complaint, and if there's anything people hate it's a complainer.
  8. thanks for the response everyone.

    I had hoped not to come off as complaining too much, but I guess that I kinda did, and my questions were lost in the mix.
    Perhaps a clearer concise question will do better.

    I am more then willing to work, as long as it generates some money. Delivering pizza and the like, i'm sorry but it can't make enough to cover the cost of living, unless you work 50-60+ hours a week, live with your parents, or take two jobs. Then there's little time or energy left to even touch the camera, let alone look for a better career. It was a great job for college summer vacations....but thats about it.

    What kinds of Day jobs do other photographers have? I understand the prospect of making fine art and being "discovered" are about as slim as playing scratch of cards for a living. Are there real careers in photography besides lurking around weddings or opening your own studios? And if so, whats a good resource to find these jobs?
  9. I kind of don't get your question Billy. I mean you've covered it all pretty much.

    You can get yourself an assistant job, which just takes a combination of being in the right place at the right time, hanging out at a local photo store or studio, or wherever and getting to know photographers who are likely to need a hand, and just being persistant till you get one ...

    You can bite the bullet and shoot weddings and portraits and whatever else someone will pay you for ... After all, it's about making money.

    You can try to freelance and sell photos to media outlets ...

    Or, you can find completely different job that pays the bills (after all you have a degree right? How about teaching ... Not fun, but it's money), and do the art thing in your spare time.

    I think the problem is that you don't want to do what it is you already know you need to do.
  10. Ive been assisting for about 5 years now and im just starting to shoot on my own.

    Something ive learned over the years is you have to be a jack of all trades. Ive shot
    weddings, high school portraits, sports, and yes babies and I didn't like any of it, but i
    learned a lot from shooting those jobs.

    You have to take every opportunity that comes your way, even though it may not be
    something you enjoy you can still learn something from it. It takes time and a lot of hard
    work to start a successful business and 18 months is hardly anytime at all.
  11. First, in response to the posting by Art, it's a "veil" of tears, not a "vale" of tears, though I suppose in some cases that may be appropriate, too. The visualization is supposed to be of a person walking along and the tears are streaming down so hard that they form a veil behind him or her as they fall.

    For Billy, I can tell you that colleges do a hideous job of preparing art students for commercial success (tell me true, when's the last time you met an art professor who could make it in the real world?). I learned more in three days of assisting for a studio pro than I did in a semester of college. And after college I worked as an assistant for an entire year for no pay. Now, granted it was for a Playboy contributing photographer-- few people would call standing next to stunningly beautiful naked female models while holding a reflector, or pouring water over them, or spritzing them with glycerine, or... I'd better stop there, getting too nostalgic. But while few people would call that work and lots would pay for the priviledge, I learned a tremendous amount of practical application from the experience.

    You learn attitude, and you learn how good of a job you can do compared to other people, which in turn makes you know what your efforts are worth. You learn how to negotiate, and how to tell when things are going well and when they aren't.

    But the main thing you have to learn now is that as a profession photography is a PEOPLE business-- and in fact, just about every business is. Photography IS NOT your product. Your product is how people feel when they look at a photograph you took.

    And when you get right down to it, feelings are what everybody sells. A financial manager sells the feelings that the customer gets when he generates profits from investments. An insurance salesperson sells the sense of security one gets from knowing that one is protected financially from various mishaps. I could think of thousands of additional examples, but you get the picture (so to speak).

    When you stop thinking of photography as pictures and start thinking of photography as a means of human interaction, it all changes around. Talking with people and interacting with people can be tons of fun, and often for me a camera is merely a tool to facilitate that.

    Also, the very best photographers I know of have a substantial background in sales (I sold bicycles on commission to work my way through college). In my opinion, a talent for sales will help enable people to do pretty much anything they want to in life. Get a job that requires you to try to sell something to ten or twenty people a day, and keep that up for a year or so. After that, IF you have worked at it properly, your sales reflexes will be in top shape, and like riding a bicycle you'll keep much of them for the rest of your days.

    My 11-year-old daughter borrowed my equipment before Valentine's Day last year, and ended up making well over $100 in a few days by producing custom Valentine's Day cards. She even got hired for family portraits and such (the little bugger undercut my prices). Could they have gotten better pictures? Maybe, but the people still talk to me about what a hoot it was having a little girl with a big professional attitude (and trust me, she does have one of those) directing them through a photo shoot. They remember it for a long time and are looking forward to having more shots done next year.

    Now, what ends up on the paper or in the pixels should be as fine as you can make it, but don't ever forget that in the end, your product is really YOU.

    Best of luck. -BC-
  12. thanks Bill, that helps much actually! Some things to think about...
  13. Hi All,

    I was given this guys site as advice on Travel Photography and found the advice on the business aspects on photography very valuable. I certainly believe and have seen so many people end up destroying there hobby of photography by trying to make money out of it, I think you really have to figure out if your trying to enter the industry to make money or you want to remain a keen hobbyist.

    The fine Art industry in my opinion is one of the most difficult industries to make a living from, best of luck to you anyway.

    nic :)
  14. "Photography IS NOT your product. Your product is how people feel when they look at a photograph you took." - thanks, Bill. I am going to stick those words on my wall.

    Ponder also, for a second, the words attributed to Charles Revson, founder of Revlon about their products: "In our factories we make perfume - but in our shops we sell hope."

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