Photography student has questions

a.girl.named.maxJanuary 26, 2011

I'm new to this forum. Are there professional photographers that frequent this site?

Thank you

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    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 7:07PM
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Due to health and age(60), I'm in the middle of a career change. The results of vocational rehab testing showed I had well above average rankings for business and artistic endeavors. (Hmmm...I can't draw a straight line.)

My next career can't be too stressful, has to have some scheduling flexibility, and I need some interaction with people. I'm located in Minnesota but hope to do some traveling. I want to earn $30,000+ per year.

I've chosen to go back to school for an Associate Degree in Professional Photography. I'm looking thoughts/advice on this decision.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 8:24AM
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I would caution you to think your project over very carefully.

Go to any college or technical school and you will find a course which guarantees to make you a professional photographer, don't you believe it.

First off, what is a professional photographer? Technically speaking it is one who derives their livelyhood through photography, but, (and here is the catch).

What branch of photography are you going to work in?
Press Photography (newspaper and TV)
Sports Photography
Wedding Photography
Nature & Wildlife Photography
Travel & Landscape Photography
Fashion Photography
Advertising Photography
Commercial Photography
Forensic Photography
Industrial Photography
Aerial Photography
Under Water Photography,
and the list goes on and on and on...

In photoghraphy when one applies for a job a resume and a degree in photography might give you a leg up to get an interview, but in the real world, you would be hired from your portfolio. It is not enough to be able to take good pictures, you have to be able to show a portfolio of good pictures directly related to the interest of the respective employer, by example, if you are applying to the advertising department of an airline the last thing they want to see is your cute pictures of kids, dogs or flowers.

Many people think it would be fun to be a staff photographer for a newspaper, but I can tell you first hand, that is just slightly more fun than getting a root canal. Keep in mind that they already have a full staff of photographers who they are familiar with. You can be sure those guys get the interesting news stories. As a Cub photographer you will get the mundane assignments like going to the local garden club and shooting pics of their annual award ceremonies, which may or may not get printed, depending upon how busy the news is that day.

And even if you were fortunate enough to be on the "A Team" you will quickly learn that news photography is not what you think it is. One would think that you go to a news worthy event and document what is happening, but such is not the case. Before you leave the office the editor will tell you what is happening and what slant they want you to put on the story.

Maybe they put you on the sports photography team. Well, you can forget getting a press pass to the super bowl. You will more likely be standing in the rain on the sidelines of your local high school football game.

Do you have the right equipment?
For press & sports photograpy you will need a profesional grade DSLR and a fair collection of lenses, however if you want to move up to Wedding, Portrait or fashion photography as a minimum you will need a medium format DSLR and the cheapest one of those that I have see lately is the Pentax 645d at a mere $10,000 for the body plus another $2,000+ for each lens. Fortunately for me, I have a Pentax 645 film camera and I can use my lenses on either the film or digital body.

For high end fashion photography or landscape photography many magazines require you shoot 4x5 film negatives. In this case the cameras and lenses are readily available and if one is willing to use an older camera they are comparatively cheap, but finding a source for 4x5 film is becoming more and more difficult, and finding a processor is nearly impossible unless you live in New York or Chicago.

I read recently that there is a big trend in home decorating to use large photo prints as wall hangings. With that in mind you might have some success in shooting photos and either selling them directly to a publisher or you could have them enlarged and sell them on commission through a gallery, but that is a very iffy way to make a living.

Now if you want to shoot paparazi still, most insurance companies and many prominent lawers have freelance photographers on staff that follow ppl around trying to catch them working while they are pursuing a fraudulent disability insurance claim. Some of those photos can be quite lucrative, but keep in mind that for insurance claims or forensics most courts require you to shoot film and submit the negatives as evidence. (You may make digital prints from the negatives).

Now if you would be willing to haul a portable studio around in a minivan from one Kmart to another and shoot pictures of children you could easily land a job in photography.

Do I regret one moment of my 40 years experience in photography? Not on your life, but for most of that 40 years I have maintained another source of income which left me free to shoot what I want to and if ppl want to buy it fine, and if they don't like it, thats fine too, because I do it for my own enjoyment.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 1:17PM
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That is exactly the type of in your face input that I need.

Hopefully you will be available for additional words of wisdom as I pursue this career path.


A girl named Max.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 5:52PM
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Lazypup, wonderful reply with great information!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 11:14AM
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If anyone has aspirations of getting into press or paparazi style photography there are a couple of books that I would strongly encourage you to read.

"Photography and the Law"
There are many legal aspects of photography that the average amateur knows nothing about. By example, we may shoot any picture that portrays a current newsworthy event providing that we are on a public thoroughfare when shooting the picture. Climb a tree or Step one foot onto the individuals property and snap a picture of their house or someone in their yard or house and you can be arrested for invasion of privacy.

Shoot a non-newsworthy event human interest type photo of someone on the street and you are required to get a signed "Press Release" before you can publish the photo.

Hire a model and shoot fashion in your own studio, and you are required to have the model sign a press release before you can sell the photos.

Talk about frivalous lawsuits, there was a case in New Jersey where a photographer was shooting ppls pictures for hire in a nightclub. As he shot a photo of a couple another patron in the room called the cops and had the photographer arrested for "Technical Assault" claiming that the photo flash had temporarily blinded them, thus causing injury. Silly as that may seem, when it went to court the court upheld the claim and the photographer was fined and sentenced to 10 days in jail.

The second book is:
"The Herman Goebels Diary"
Herman Goebels was the propaganda minister for Adolph Hitlers 3rd Reich during WWII. In his book Herman Goebels goes into great detail explaining that the press must not, and cannot legally tell a lie, but, they can certainly be selective about what news they care to report.

As an example in the latter part of WWII the allied bombers flying out of England were daylight bombing Germany nearly every day. Goebels stated that it would be impossible to tell the public that the enemy can't reach us because all the have to do is look up and see the bombers or look at their neighborhood in rubble. Rather than try to deny it was happening, he reported that the allies were coming over with 1000 bombers a day in a despeate attempt to give it their best shot, but all they are hitting is areas that were previously devastated and they are currently having little to no impact on our efforts.

Now let us put Goebels theories to the test.

Grab your camera and imagine that you are a staff photographer for your local hometown paper. Here are two assignments as would be presented to by your editor.

Assignment #1
Obama just published his state of the union address and says things are improving. I want you to head out and get me a lead photo and 5 backups showing how the economy is improving our community. (here is a tip, just because you think a photo is worthy of a pulitzer prize, that doesn't mean the editor will accept it, to insure the 6 photos he wants you better come back with 25 -50.)

Assingment #2
Despite what Obama is telling us, our economy is still in the toilet. Get me a lead photo and 5 followups showing the depressed state of our local economy.

Keep in mind, your photos have to factually report the truth, but you now have the assignment to select which truth your going to present.

Tomarrow I will post how to fulfill both those assingments. In the mean time, see if you can meet the assignment, or at least outline what your approach would be.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 10:17AM
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I can speak form the Nikon side of things.

To start with, get a basic dSLR. Doesn't have to be amazing or new. You just want to be able to shot in the varying modes, full manual, shutter priority, aperture priority, etc.

You can get a reasonable use dSLR for $400-$500 plus a couple of hundred more for a kit lens or two, the basic 18-70 and 70-300 will do you fine.

When I started I used a Nikon D70s, then a D90. About $800 for the camera body. I was using generic kit lenses, roughly $300 for them. Not good fast glass, but decent enough.

Use those during your photography education. You'll either figure out that this is something you want to pursue, or that you really don't want to get into photography as a profession.

Go to the park. Shoot wildlife. Shoot nature. Go to local high school games and shoot outdoor sports. To shot indoor without a flash you'll probably need faster $$$ glass.

When I started I used a Nikon D70s, then a D90. About $800 for the camera body. I was using generic kit lenses, roughly $300 for them. Not good fast glass, but decent enough.

There are numerous websites that you can register with a post your sports photos there. People can order them through the sports site and buy prints for a few dollars, soon the $1, $10, $80, it adds up.

When you get serious, it'll be time to pic a line. Generally Nikon or Canon. I went Nikon for varying reasons.

"Serious" means for the most part investing in a full-frame sensor camera. Generally $2000-$7000 for the body only.

Then getting good fast glass. I shoot mostly with two zooms, a Nikon 24-70 F2.8 and a Nikon 70-200 F2.8, each was around $1500.

Then a couple of fixed prime lenses.

It really depends on what type of shooting you'll be doing.

If doing indoor portraiture or weddings/parties, then you'll get into flash systems.

But step-by-step. And start with trade-ins you'll be buying used gear at a discount.

Oh, the humanity!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 9:22PM
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I suspect I will identify a "niche" and a way to "brand" myself while I'm in school. It seems like the baby and wedding photographers in the Minneapolis area are giving their work away. Any suggestions for starting a profitable photography business? I have space for an in- home studio but after I get my AA degree I would like to do some traveling in the US.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 9:29AM
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