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Getting Photography Work Experience
Within the halls of a school dedicated to the study of photography, you'll be composing, snapping, and editing photographs in a blaze of artistic bliss. But as satisfying as this creative process can be for the budding photographer, it doesn't allow you to get a sense of the full scope of activities that a professional photographer must engage in. Before you leave photography school, try to get some solid photography work experience under your belt, because chances are, it will be quite unlike your previous classroom encounters.
Work. Study. (And Play)
Homework and a full courseload are no excuse for you to dismiss the idea of getting a photography job on the side. In fact, both work and study can be intertwined into a series of experiences that play off of and strengthen each other. Take your camera with you during your on campus job. You might get paid for taking photographs for a college dance group's spring show, become a photojournalist for the school newspaper, or work in the photography darkroom part-time after classes. There are always opportunities for an aspiring photographer to gain workplace experience, especially in the highly specialized and welcoming environment of an art school. Perhaps classmates will be asking you to take pictures of their pieces for their portfolio, for example, or a photography instructor whom you inspect is looking for an assistant. In fact, many of the jobs that campus photographers are recruited for have hidden perks. If a fraternity pays you to walk around taking pictures at their annual formal, for example, that means that you get a free invite and the chance to chat and eat in between snapping shots. Or if parties aren't your thing, what about pictures of a football game for the sports section of a local paper? Work, study, and play will never again be as compatible as they are during your years pursuing your photography degree, so grab your camera and take advantage of the fact!
Summer is a time to do more than just laze around and take trips to the beach. Or at least if those trips are a necessity, bring your camera along! One great way to get work experience during a school vacation is to find a magazine looking to hire travel photographers for their upcoming summer issue. Photographs of exotic locales are always in demand and hold a special place in any photographer's portfolio. For opportunities closer to home, begin your search by looking into your college's network for alumni and affiliated companies who might be hiring interns. Or simply scour online job-hunting websites and local classified for firms looking for a summer worker. If that search turns up no results, then take matters quite literally into your own hands. Nothing speaks more about your determination than actually visiting local photography studios and galleries on foot, with a resume and your portfolio on hand. Do you seek more first-hand experience from your summer occupation, and chafe at the idea of working under another photographer? Then see how running a summer business works out for you: sell originals and prints at art conventions or in an online shop, or hire yourself out as a freelancer to an organization that might need a few good photos. Wherever your college vacations take you, bring your camera along with an eye for both a good angle and a good opportunity.
Never let up. Make sure that you continually polish your out-of-classroom photography skills during your college experience. Learn how to network, how to haggle with printers, pick up business do's and don'ts from more experienced photographers. Keep yourself exposed to the photography industry, and the transition from school to work will be all the easier for you upon graduation.