Start Your Career Even Before You Graduate | My First Paid Photoshoot
The journey to having a creative career almost never follows a linear roadmap. Unlike in professions like medicine, law, and engineering, where one thing (graduation) has to be over before the other (career) begins, that’s not the case with photography. To become a successful (hopefully) photographer, you need to start your career even before you graduate (out of a photography school, if you choose to get into one). Doing photography as a hobby in your own free time won’t serve the purpose.
Starting your career while you are still in school means actually working as a photographer while you study. This includes school-required-internships and internships that you find on your own. Don’t expect all of them to pay, and some may pay you less than you should be earning as a photographer.
The key is to put yourself out there, get to meet new people, experienced other established people in your field, get acquainted with how things are run as a photographer. And, of course, build your working experience for projects and assignments you may apply to in the future. This serves as a massive opportunity to build up your portfolio too.
You must know that photo-publishing agencies often set working experience as one of their major requirements when they hire someone. You improve your chances of getting hired for a job or a great internship placement when they can see that you have a lot of prior experience. However, when you start to take your first steps to get this working experience, you will need all the patience you can get because you may have to work for free for a while.
I click a lot of photos during the different cultural and technical events in my college. (I am a Biotechnology undergraduate at Heritage Institute Of Technology, Kolkata.) These photo-shoots are done for free, but it has helped me gain credibility as well as experience.
After the first stage, you can become careful and strategic about the kind of works you do and the clients you work with. you will get a clear idea about what pays well and what doesn’t. You will know what your strengths and weaknesses are as a photographer.
I clicked these photos in January 2019 while covering a small football match in Kolkata. I was in the first-year graduation in my college and this was my very first paid photo shoot.
Later on, I got booked for similar football matches in my neighborhood. Eventually, I got booked to cover corporate and classroom events as well. This helped me get clarity about how things are done on a professional scale.
Most of these photographs were clicked with a basic DSLR camera, Nikon D3300. (Another excuse that you are probably giving yourself for not covering paid photo-shoots.) The camera does matter (to some extent when you are starting out and are shooting with an entry-level camera). Clients have turned me down earlier when they got to know I have no experience with advanced level gear at that point in time in my career. And this will happen to you too when you put yourself out there.
Even then, you will still be able to shoot and start your career as a photographer if you look hard enough around you. You don’t need to shoot high-profile clients at this point in your career.
- Is there any event happening around me that I can shoot (even though nobody has asked me to do it)?
- Can I shoot headshots of my peers and charge them a few bucks?
- Is there any networking event going on that may prove helpful to my photography career?
- Can I offer a local cafe/restaurant to shoot for free?
- Can I tell people in my community that I am available if they need someone to shoot some special occasions in their lives?
- Can I shoot the festivals in my city and submit them to magazines?
- Can I do a photo-story myself and pitch it to a photo journaling agency?
See the 30-Days-Challenge here.