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Photography Question 
James E. Narron, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2006
 

Occupations in photography


First off let me say I'm a newbie. I'm learning a lot by experience and I have a lot of people telling me my shots are great and I should be doing something with this talent. Now, I understand they could be blowing smoke up my arse, but I really do enjoy photography. I've never had any formal education on it though. i've never really considerred getting into it as an occupation until now. I was hoping someone who has "made it" into photofraphy professionally or knows how to start could point me in the right direction. I'd like to know if I should take an intro to photography at the local community college to see what I could potentially get into or is there something I could do as sort of a part time intern or be someone's assistant that would be a better route. Any suggestions or advice are apprecitated! Thanks!

Jim


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3/29/2007 12:14:33 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Hi Jim,
does any area intrest you more then another?
in other words do you like Portraiture, want to sell Nature Art?
there are so many careers in Photography, we'll need you to share a thought or two about what really intrests you.
But welcome, and there are alot of people who can help and are willing to share.
I hope this helps,
Debby


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3/29/2007 12:49:35 PM

 
James E. Narron, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2006
  I beleive I am better at nature shots, so sure a National Geographic photographer job would be awesome, but um...I'm certainly trying to remain realistic here.

My camera (Sony DSC H-2) is not a SLR which hurts my shots indoors or portraits, but I could see getting into that as well. I think I would enjoy outdoor photography more though. Recently I've really gotten into close-up photgraphy with the close-up lens I added to the camera. Most of the pictures I've taken that I'm happy with have been outdoors. The few portraits I've been happy with are adults that can hold the pose while my camera takes it's time to shoot.

Thanks for your reply and help.


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3/29/2007 1:10:11 PM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Hi James –

I can offer you some ideas, or at least tell you something of how I got started in serious photography. I think of myself primarily as a writer who has just recently started selling images. At first I just sold images to accompany my writing work – nature and travel. Very recently, I have started to sell some images separate from my writing assignments. Because I travel so much for my work, I couldn’t easily take classes locally. Also, the courses offered at our local community college really were not that great. I started out taking classes here at BP and continue to do so. I feel very strongly that these classes have been instrumental in helping me to become a better photographer and thus sell my work. Just participating on these forums is extremely helpful. Most people here are supportive and willing to help. Of-course, just like anywhere, online or off, you have to consider the source of the information and “feel it” to determine if it works for you.

Taking a quick look at your gallery I can see that you have an interest in much of the same area that I do – nature and wildlife. I can also see where you have room for improvement; this is not meant as a criticism, just my opinion and a chance for you to think about what you need to learn. BTW: the image labeled “owl at sunrise” is a red tail hawk. Just so you know, owls don’t have that coloring or that type beak. Anyway, learning about exposure and composition are, IMHO, the most important steps toward becoming a better photographer and entering into the highly competitive world of pros. If you’d like some detailed info on the courses I have taken here, let me know. Meanwhile, never forget that everyone, even the greatest, start at the same place; the beginning, knowing little and only having that passion. Good luck!

Irene


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3/29/2007 2:31:59 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Nature photography is a tough field.
There are ga-zillions of folks like yourself who take good (and even great) nature/landscape photographs aspiring to break in and attempt to compete with the very best photographers in the world.
I don't mean to sound negative but I'm a realist and would never heighten someone's dreams upon false hope.

The best advice I can offer is to accumulate the best equipment you can afford...(especially lenses) and get to know that equipment intimately.

Formal training will help gain a better understanding of the technical aspects but will not be as valuable to you as empirical knowledge...i.e., actual time spent behind your camera.

Become proficient and consistant and be your own worse critic.

Find a niche...something you can consistantly do well that's a little different than the norm.
And don't be immediately swayed by friends or family members who tell you how great an image looks if you know in your own heart that you could have made it better.

"Working photographers" are also shrewd business people who know how to market themselves effectively.
Do you really think those celebrity chefs you see on TV are better cooks than that guy or gal working 50 hours a week in that restaurant down the street?
Maybe yes...maybe no but it's all about marketing.

...Finally, start small and don't set un-attainable goals.
(The last time I checked...National Geographic wasn't hiring.) :(

Bob


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3/29/2007 2:47:12 PM

 
Jason R. Fortenbacher
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/11/2006
  Hello Jim and welcome to BP!

The advice the other posters have given is great. Find a niche and practice at it until you can consistantly get pictures to turn out exactally how you want them to. This includes proper exposure, framing, composition, post processing, etc. Consistancy is very important. Once you have that down you'll begin to develope your own personal style that will set your photos appart from everyone else. This is also important as people don't want to buy pictures that anyone else could go out and snap any time.

But at the same time, don't neglect other types of photography... I've been into aviation photography for several years. Due to reasons such as price of film etc. I never did anything but aviation. Now that I have digital I found that it really is incredibly fun to photograph birds as well! One professional photographer friend of mine told me that diversity is key. It's good to have one thing that you really do great at, but don't become a one trick pony.


That's all I have to offer for right now. Good luck and most of all, HAVE FUN! :)


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3/29/2007 8:53:51 PM

 
James E. Narron, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2006
  Wow! Thank you all so much for your input! I really wasn't expecting this kind of a response from my question. It's rather late and I'm just getting in for the night and have to be at work early..so just one quick note. The picture I have labled owl at sunrise has a story behind it. It was one of my very first times out at sunrise for a shoot and I had no intention of shooting up at the hawk. I was awaiting the sunrise over the rolling hills in front of me that had a dense fog rolling over. As the light came up, I looked up to see what else I could shoot and directly over me was a bird which I thought was an owl in the darkness. However as the sun light finally came over the hill, I saw it was in fact a hawk. I need to post more of my photos out here and want the criticism, so please don't think I'll be offended by that. I appreciate all criticism. Thanks again to all of you and I'll respond a bit more to the education side of the question tomorrow.


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3/29/2007 9:23:39 PM

 
James E. Narron, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2006
  <>

OK, first off let me start by saying thank you for correcting my on the type of bird. I did in fact know that it was a hawk, but am learning all about different types of birds now that I'm getting into photography. One that keeps teasing me that I have learned the call of is the kingfisher. I haven't gotten close enough to capture a good shot yet.

Again, I love criticism, so feel free to criticize at will. I understand that it will help me learn.

Thanks again!


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3/30/2007 8:11:57 AM

 
James E. Narron, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2006
  <>

I appreciate the honesty. I also am aware of this. If I could make enough money being maybe a photojournalist or even working at a photo studio doing portraits I feel I would grow as a photographer and enjoy that more than what I'm doing now.

<>

Q - I now have a Sony DSC H2, which I've had a blast with but I know it's not very high quality. I'm trying now to learn the basics but starting to become a bit frustrated, which is why I'm thinking a intro to photography class would help. In your opinion should I learn what I can from this camera before moving up to a SLR? I really can't afford to upgrade, but might be able to swing it.

<>

This is something I learned early on. I do have a lot of people telling me my photos are great and I should try to sell them etc. I know a lot of them could be a lot better. That's the reason I want the criticism out here.

<<"Working photographers" are also shrewd business people who know how to market themselves effectively. >>

This is something I feel I'm going to have a little bit of a problem with. I'm not a salesman, but would love to learn how to market my abillities when I'm ready.

<<...Finally, start small and don't set un-attainable goals.
(The last time I checked...National Geographic wasn't hiring.) :( >>

I couldn't agree more. Darn, Nat Geo isn't hiring? ;-)


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3/30/2007 8:24:39 AM

 
James E. Narron, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2006
  <>

Is there a good class you can recommend for me to get started or are there other details about my abilities and intrests that you would like to know first?

I was thinking the community college would be better bc I could do a lab and have someone show me hands on what I'm doing wrong and how to get certain results. What do you think about that?


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3/30/2007 8:28:52 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  James,
May I suggest ( if you haven't already) checking in first to Photography Clubs that may target your intrest?
I am sure this would be not only fun but a oppertunity to share your a like intrests and goals.
NOTHING is UN-attainable!!
Goodness people everyone starts somewhere and you never know who that someone WILL be that joins National Geo. or Enters a Gallery.
Only you can get beyond what people say or think and Get what you want!
Hope this helps,
Debby


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3/30/2007 9:54:12 AM

 
James E. Narron, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2006
  Thanks for the advice Debby. That sounds like a great idea. I will look into that.


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3/30/2007 10:22:05 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy Jim !

Yes, you've gotten some solid advice here, but I wanted to add my 2 cents worth as a working photojournalist.

First, I'm assuming you're a younger guy and that you haven't already pushed off on another career. If I'm wrong, excuse me.

Second, as you probably know, you've picked an extremely competitive field. And while experience and talent are all necessary in this business, both those qualities seem to abound these days and you're going to make it in this biz, you're going to need skills and talents in areas that require more formalized training. That's particularly so because these days, there are fewer publications, fewer editors willing to mentor, and more and more people competing for assignments.

What I recommend is that you start with a formal college education in a journalism program with a major in photojournalism. San Francisco State U. is a good place, U of Missouri at Columbia, Northwestern U., New York U and Columbia University in NYC are all excellent schools. Yes, there are essentially trade schools like Brooks in Santa Barbara, but to survive these days let alone prosper, you need more than that kind of program offers.

Aside from shooting a lot, honing your skills and gaining practical experience, you should have courses in at least business law, fundamental accounting, graphic design, art history, psychology, journalism, laws of mass communications, studio work, and marketing and perhaps even management.

Without intending to be discouraging but rather realistic, the competition for the few internships for staff photojournalists is pretty fierce. You need some educational background that will help set you apart from the rest of the herd. IMO a solid photographic and liberal arts background will go a long way toward doing that.

The other thing you should consider doing is joining the student sections of a couple of professional associations like National Press Photographers Association nppa.org and American Society of Magazine Photographers asmp.org and attend local chapter meetings to get info, start networking, looking for assistant gigs and learning business practices. You don't need to be enrolled in college to do that. Check'em out.
Best of luck to ya Jim.
Take it light.
Mark


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3/30/2007 10:50:32 AM

 
James E. Narron, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2006
  Mark - Thanks so much for your advice, however...I am very young at heart, but my body tells me otherwise. I am now 39 years old. I guess my question is simple. Is it too late to get into the biz in some way and still be able to make it?


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3/30/2007 11:18:27 AM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  [Is it too late to get into the biz in some way and still be able to make it?] Okay James, thems fighting words! In 2002, when I turned 50 (yep, I’m older than dirt) I left a career as a clinical social worker to follow my dream of writing and doing photography. I knew a lot about writing and actually have a degree in Journalism from Columbia (one of those top schools that Mark talks about) but, never did much with the degree. I had published a number of “trade” articles (social work) and felt reasonably secure in those skills. However, while I had always enjoying taking pictures, I quickly learned just how little I knew about photography. Because friends and family had admired my pictures, I felt ready for the pro circuit. What a rude awakening I had!

In some ways I was luckier than many; I had amassed a small nest egg that allowed me to work only part time for about a year. During that year I concentrated on making connections and getting work. Slowly I started getting small jobs and then larger ones and finally was able to consider myself employed as a writer. Most of my work has been for nature education and conservancy groups and for alternative tourism organizations. Starting from day one I tried to sell my images with my writing; however, it took about ten seconds to recognize that all those “great” pictures that friends and family liked, did not impress clients. So, I decided to take some classes. I took two classes locally, one at the community college and one at an art institute. Neither class offered me anything great. The college one was taught by someone who really did not inspire his students and who seemed totally bored with his material. The institute one was a little high brow for my taste. Eventually I found BP and have been happy here. I’ve learned an enormous amount and finally am selling some of my images. I am finishing up the largest job yet – this one for a state agency promoting environmental tourism. All the images have been done by me – some are great, many are still not, but they seem happy and that is what counts. I think that what convinces clients to employ me, versus someone with more experience and better skills (photography skills, I do believe that my writing skills are strong, although, of-course, there is always more to learn) is that I put everything I have into each job; I always finish on schedule and behind budget and I do what I tell people that I will do and more.

So, are you too old to start on a new path? NOPE NO WAY. In a nut shell here is my age philosophy: Life is about taking chances; trying new pathways and finding happiness. Whether you are 39 or my age (do the math, people) it is not too late to change course and follow a dream. We can’t stop aging (well… not and stay living!) so we may as well live life the fullest and best we can. If doing photography, of any genre, is your dream, then go for it and don’t let anyone stand in your way. Do you have the ability? Who knows? If you don’t even try, how will you ever know?


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3/30/2007 12:54:48 PM

 
Carolyn L. Fox
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2006
  Hi Jim!

It looks like you've received a lot of good advice. I'm not sure I can add that much, but did want to encourage you to find a good photography club. They usually don't cost much to join and, if you find a good one, you can learn a lot from the other members.

I agree with Irene that you're not too old. I'm quite a bit older than you too and, although I've been involved with photography for quite awhile, I'm just now trying to get serious about making money at it. So I'm working on getting submissions out to editors and trying to get better at taking more creative shots. My first love is nature photography but, as others have told you, it's one of the most competitive areas because everyone likes it and it's easy to get good nature shots. So, I'm trying to branch out and shoot other subjects. Next week I start taking the BP Stock Photography Book Camp class. I'm hoping that will help.

Anyway, don't give up on your dream. Figure out what you want to shoot, get all the education and help you can and practice, practice, practice. At some point you will have to market your work. It doesn't matter how good your photos are, if you don't market them, you won't make any money. There are some excellent books on that too so, when you're ready, you'll be able to handle that too.

Best of luck to you!


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3/31/2007 6:58:49 PM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Jim,
The problem with nature photography is that you will put out a lot of money making a group of photographs that you hope someone will buy.

Most of the photographs I take are for advertising. The companies pay me in a timely manner, usually with a deposit. They tell me what they want, and I have the skills to give it to them. My clients often come back several times a year. This is not the worst business model in existence. You might want to look at where photographs are used, rather than the kinds of photos you like to take.

I have had interns, from the Los Angeles City Schools. I felt that this was a service to my community. I have not worked with an inexperienced person, as an assistant or intern in another situation. When I began, as an intern, I had already taken photography classes, so I had some useful skills.

It’s not that you can’t do nature photography, or any thing else, but spending some time looking at the market place is definatgely a good idea.
Thanks, John Siskin


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4/1/2007 3:39:39 PM

 
Carolyn L. Fox
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2006
  John,

How did you get started with the ad agencies? I would love to work with them. That's why I'm trying to take pictures that I think will appeal to that market. In the past, I've most done nature photography, because that's what I really like. However, I know that to make money I have to shoot other things, particularly shots of people doing interesting things. Any suggestiong would be appreciated.


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4/1/2007 7:24:26 PM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
 
 
  Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson
I should have some video about shooting this soon!
© John H. Siskin
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Kodak DCS 14N Digi...
 
 
Hi Carolyn,
I have never done as much work with the agencies as I would like. Of course I would like to work for them 5 days a week. The big agencies used to review portfolios. Call up the agency tell them what you are doing and they will tell you when to bring the book. This can work, but more often it doesn’t work because they are looking for anything you haven’t got that week. I now use HTML mail and direct people t my website. This doesn’t seem to work either, but is a lot easier.

Calling the small to mid size agencies does work. It takes time but they often will give you a lot of work.

The best thing is a referral, often from a client. I have to say that I spend more time looking for direct clients than I do for agecy work. One reason for this is that my favorite work is architectural and product. There is more direct work than agency work in this area.

Good luck and get shoes with thick soles!
Thanks, John Siskin


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4/1/2007 8:13:44 PM

 
Carolyn L. Fox
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2006
  Thanks for the info, John.

Do you just contact the companies directly for your product and architectural work? I've been thinking about doing that. I also have a couple of contacts at ad agencies from a prior job, so I'm thinking about contacting them to see if I can set something up. Of course, I probably don't have what they're looking for, but you never know. I'll go buy some new shoes with very thick soles.


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4/1/2007 8:22:50 PM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  I contact companies directly all the time. Usually with postcards or by e-mail. I don't like doing cold calls on the phone, so I stay away from that most of the time.
Thanks,
John Siskin


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4/1/2007 10:33:37 PM

 
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