BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Ashley  M. Reiher

Getting Started As A Professional

I am a junior in high school and I am very interested in becoming a portrait photographer. How much schooling is required? My dream is to own my own studio in my town. Is it possible to maybe work for someone and learn what is needed? Are there certifications that are required? Any information will be appreciated. Thank you very much.

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9/4/2002 10:16:12 AM

Tom Darmody   Ashley-

Absorb as much as you can. Read as much as you can about art and photography. Go to museums, galleries, and shows and look at all types of work, look at how the artist uses color, shapes,light and composition.

In school take as many art and photography classes as you can. Create a strong diverse foundation that you build on.

When your out photographing, think before you hit the shutter. Take the time to compose each frame and expose it properly. It's quality over quantity.

Then look at your work with a critical eye. Learn from each and every frame.

You don't need any certifications or a degree to be a photographer. But a degree will help with that foundation and give you a huge edge in a flooded market.

Stay away from "correspondence schools" and programs that churn out "picture takers". Look for strong art schools, like SVA, Parsons, The Tisch School, etc....

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9/4/2002 11:21:08 AM

Jeff S. Kennedy   How much schooling is required? None. The best way to learn is to assist an established photographer. Call some of the more successful studios in your area and ask if they need or would like an assistant to help out on shoots. Not only will you learn technique but you can also learn a lot about the business side which is the real key to the success of a studio.

Correspondence courses will help give you a good base of knowledge if you want to go that route. Beyond that, just shoot a lot, read a lot, experiment a lot, and develop your style and skill.

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9/4/2002 11:35:22 AM

Stephanie Adams
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/17/2001
  You can also sign up for one of the courses here at BetterPhoto, just to start learning what your own style is. They are helpful, fun, and will let you know if this is what you want to do in the future. I say that because they do make you work and think and some people realize that they don't enjoy photography other than just doing it for themselves.

Like Jeff said, working with a professional is also a great way to get started!!!

Good luck!

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9/4/2002 3:20:21 PM

Teri Duff   Ashley,

I have worked for a portrait photographer based out of a studio for 12 years, two years before that for a wedding photographer who worked out of her house. I had no experience before then, just loved photography as a hobby.

The knowledge I have gained has been invaluable, hands on lessons that I really don't think I would have learned in a school. Over the years we have hired several young people who have "degrees in photography" or are taking courses in school. It it amazing to see what they don't learn about working in a studio or things about the camera that they haven't been taught. No doubt the schooling helps them in a lot of ways, but being out there in the real world and working with clients in itself, is a whole different thing. I have been lucky enough to work for someone who was self taught, but very smart in photgraphy as well as business smart.

I have been his studio manager for about 10 years and have held several programs in our studio. It is always amazing to talk to other established photgraphers who will ask us how we have become so successful... even the mastered photgraphers like learning new things about bettering their business.

I highly recommend trying to work for a photgrapher with a studio, beginning at the bottom and learning all the aspects of the business. You may have to work for several before you find a style that you like or combine different ideas from several to know how you would like to run your own studio. Piece of advise... it is a lot more work than just taking photgraphs... more than the average person is aware of, but very rewarding also!!

Most photographers do not like doing the production of their work... they just like creating it, so if that ends up being your style, find someone who does like that part of the job so you can compliment each other.

I will never be the portrait photographer my boss has become, but I know so much about running a photography business that I could teach it to potential studio owners if I had to. I have also learned a great deal about the actual photography working with him. Find one who doesn't mind sharing knowledge.

Good Luck!!!

Teri D.

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9/8/2002 4:16:09 PM

Leo Enriquez   Have you tought about writing a book based on what you are talking about Teri?... It might help you ($$$$) and others in learning too!

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9/8/2002 7:26:48 PM

Teri Duff   Wow... no I haven't. Just happy to share some advice if anyone is interested. Not sure I could put a whole book together.

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9/8/2002 10:15:04 PM

Lorraine Oates   Hi, I am a make-up artist and have worked with photographers. For many years I have created different looks and always the credit went to the photographer.
My friends have been telling me to start taking the photos, so to cut a long story short, I have left college where I teach a 'make-up artist diploma' (among many other things) have turned a garage into a studio (all white), bought myself a Canon Powershot G2 digital camera, tripod, 2 very expencive studio lights, and using my ex students as models, have been practicing at portfolio building, and to my great surpise not only do I love it, but am not too bad as a photographer. OK, I know I have loads to learn but I have a good eye for fashion and pose, I love shapes and lines, so this must be a good starting point!
I have enroled on 2 of the BetterPhoto courses, Understanding Exposure and Photoshop For Photographers. I can't believe I am doing this and eventually I would like to make lots of money (WELL ANY MONEY REALLY) from photography. Any advice at this time would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks to anyone who reads this.

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9/17/2002 10:50:35 AM

Teri Duff   Lorraine,

Sounds like you are one step ahead... you already have the knowledge and expertise of what you want to do. Now, figure out how to be smart "running the business". That's the part that can make or break you. Either, take the time to learn some of that or find someone who can compliment you in that area and is also trustworthy. Put the two together and you'll make it!!
Good Luck!!

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9/18/2002 12:09:57 AM

Lorraine Oates   Many thanks for your response, great advice Teri but where do I start?

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9/18/2002 4:27:02 AM

Jeff S. Kennedy   Terri's right. In my area we have a community college that is always offering courses in various aspects of business. There are also books about the business of photograhy. And as I mentioned before working as an assistant is a good way to learn about how to run a photography business.

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9/18/2002 11:45:11 AM

Lisa B   Hi Lorraine, I just wanted to tell you how I started my small business...I advertised! I created a brochure and disseminated as many as I could to private schools, churches, small businesses, family and friends (oh how friends can help spread the word.) I find that parents love photographs of their young go where there are children. Good luck!

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9/29/2002 9:29:37 PM

Sheena D. Stegent   Lots of great advice here! I am 27 years old and first started working at Sears Portait Studio when I was about 20 just to see what it was like! Then I realized I liked what I was doing, it was fun, and customers gave lots of good feedback about me AND I was getting paid for all this! I then went on to Olan Mills, where I found a little more freedom with backgrounds and props. Unfortunately that company is no longer run the same at all, and after working at several other non- photography related places found myself longing to go back, so here I am, right back where I started from! I am currently back at Sears with an enourmous desire to have my own studio!! To do what I already know I love and am good at, with the freedom of my own creativity! And with the help of a sister who is taking necessary business courses in college to help lead the way! Wish me much luck!!

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12/19/2002 10:53:39 PM

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