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Archive 2013 · Career planning
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Career planning

I'm 16 and have been doing some career planning for my senior year of high school and past that. I'm looking to be a photographer and I have my senior year planned out with business and photo classes. I'm uncertain about college right now though. On almost every forum I have read that a photography degree is a waste of money and I should go for a business degree. At my local community college I heard that there is a business program where I can just take a business class without having to take all the other classes and having to pay full tuition and have as much time taken up. To me this seems great as I can focus on my sports photography and build up my portfolio to see if I can make some income off of sports photography. If I can't do this, I will go with doing portrait photography and wedding photography as my main source of income. I will be doing both but for the first 2 years after high school I think I am going to be doing more sports and seeing if I can land a job somewhere with sports photography. I am going to try it in the early years to see if I can do it, that way if it doesn't work out I can turn around and go the other direction without being too far in my life. The only thing is my mom says that I should go for the full degree in business and go that way. She says this because she said it gives employers something to hire me for, but I said that a strong portfolio speaks better than any degree and that I should concentrate on my portfolio and experience and just take a single class. I get that I am young and have a lot to learn and have found that most of my ideas are those of the typical teen and usually won't do for the real world, so help me out and point out any and all faults and suggestions would help. And has anyone not been hired for a photo related because they didn't have a degree and someone else did or vice versa(just to settle this argument between me and my mom and see who is right).

P.S. posting this in sports too since it relates to sports with my first plan.

Mar 08, 2013 at 08:55 PM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Career planning

Education first! No mater what happens with money jobs and what not education is never a bad thing.

Now that I have said that, don't think that education is the only thing. Personality and handwork I believe will get you far too but education only helps.

If I were in your shoes. Get a degree (one that it in your budget you don't want to be in debt for the rest of your life) and shoot at the same time. You can build a nice portfolio and go to school. Heck that could be a good start shoot for your school! Now if while your going to school you get a job offer that would require you to ditch school that's a bridge to cross then, but until then GO TO SCHOOL!

Mar 08, 2013 at 09:57 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Career planning

I went the business degree route.

You can learn anything you want as it relates to photography on the internet for free. If you don't know how much to charge to put food on the table... you're going to have a tough time making it as a full time photographer.

Mar 08, 2013 at 10:02 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Career planning

I got a business degree and later got an MFA in art. My advice is to get the business degree as no matter what you do in life you will be in business of some form or another.
Secondly. join PPA. They have a student membership that allows you access to all the tools and assets of PPA to help teach you photography AND the business side of the craft.
You can chat with REAL pros on their boards and get a sense of how others are facing the challenges of the business.

I also urge you to learn about other types of photography such as commercial and architecture. Sports is enormously competitive and few make any real money at it any more. Even those doing teams are seeing an erosion of the business. Having said that, if you really want to go forward in sports you can succeed if put in enough work and meet enough people.
Your portfolio is important but your personality and sales skills will make you way more money.

Your Mom is right about getting hired with a business degree, but she is talking about just getting a job which is of prime importance to parents. You are talking about getting hired for your skill at photography. The sad truth is that the average buying public sees photographers as interchangeable and shop price. There is always a fool who will be cheaper so you need to work on your craft so that what you make is unique and is desired by those who will pay real money for your work.

Try this experiment.
Add up all your expenses for one year assuming you are renting an apartment for yourself. Then divide that number by 350 and that is approximately how much money you need to bring in every working day to break even. Note that is a daunting number.

You will quickly realize that a photographer does not sell cheap stuff and hope to make it up in volume because the volumes needed are so great. School photographers do this volume but that is a very complex business and is more sweatshop than art.
Photographers are selling luxury goods. Once you know that you realize that your dreams cannot be built on selling your work to your neighbors (unless they are all millionaires).

Mar 09, 2013 at 12:20 AM
david debalko
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Career planning

The Art Institute I went to in the 80s didn't have many business courses and I wish they had. Not sure if they offer more of those courses now as part of a degree, but look into it. My wife went to a Pennsylvania state college as a commercial art major, and although she didn't take business courses, it is an option at a school like that. Kutztown is a PA school well known for it's art program, has a good photography department, and you can probably minor in business or take those courses as your electives at a similar school in your area. That is a 4 year bachelor's degree option, and the Art Institutes would be a good associate's degree option, but it does take 3 years if you plan to take summers off.

Mar 09, 2013 at 04:15 PM

Search in Used Dept. 

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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Career planning

I have never been asked about a photography/art degree except by a University that wanted me to teach photography. No one else thought it was important. I don't have one. Your plan for a business degree sounds good. Few photographers make it in this business because of the lack of business and marketing skills.

Mar 09, 2013 at 04:33 PM
david debalko
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Career planning

Good to get a photography degree for the sake of what you learn, not just who is asking about it. Business courses are a great plan for a future career and running your own photography business, but don't forego formal education in photography completely. It'll make a good businessman but not necessarily a good photographer. Some business courses are really crucial these days, and for someone less sure of the direction they want to go, start with business then add photography education. On my first job I spent 2 years assisting a busy industrial photographer-I now think of it as a continuation of my education

Mar 10, 2013 at 12:12 PM
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Career planning

I will tag on what others have said, yes you want a business degree. But I wouldn't just focus on taking all business class and no photography glass. I would still recommend you take some photography class as well so you don't burn yourself up. Also another reason to take photography class is to "network" with other students and teacher. I would skip on all of the "Intro" to photography class because they are a waste of time. They are usually filled with a bunch of people who just want to get an easy A to qualify for their art credential in there GE.

Get the know the photography teachers. Find out which teachers are still shooting commercially and be friends with them. Build your network with the working photographers in your area EVEN if they are not a sports photographer. Photographers knows other photographers. NETWORK.

On top of that, make sure you get your business degree as well.

Making money as a photographer isn't easy. But if you work hard enough you get a chance to make a living from something you love to do.

Mar 12, 2013 at 05:15 AM
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Career planning

You are 16. Do you have an job yet? If not get one in retail sales and get some real life experience in the business world. The best experience will come from working for a "mom and pop" type family business because that's the business model most photographers wind up following: total immersion and commitment, not a M-F 9-5 with a predictable paycheck.

Photography is not the type of profession where you'll find a job in the "help wanted" ads with or without a degree. The most successful photographers build their careers on networking, self-promotion, long hours and low pay in the early years until they get traction via being published or word-of-mouth referrals.

I stress getting a job, any job, in retail because the #1 trait I've observed in every successful photographer and any other successful small business isn't being great at their craft (which is a given) but having natural temperament, talent and love for dealing with people, sales and marketing. They also have what I call "entrepreneurial zeal"; the burning desire to be their own boss and plow their own furrow through life rather than becoming a 9-5 working drone; those boring guys with predictable incomes (banks like that when giving you a car loan or home mortgage) with paid vacations and retirement plans.

Summer is coming. Find a lawn care outfit to work for. Like photography its one of the few businesses anyone can start with no formal education, minimal capital (a lawn mover), marketing moxie, and hard work. Better yet start you own lawn care company and get a taste of reality competing in the business world with all the other guys who stick "Will cut your lawn for $20" flyers in mailboxes and you'll be forced the learn the same lessons that the local community college business class will teach with independent study.

Why lawn care and not free-lance photography over the summer? You have a better chance of actually making money to buy more photo gear by cutting lawns and it will teach you that the photography part is the least important ingredient to success. You'll need to learn how to identify market; who would pay to have their lawns cut vs. doing it themselves, then develop some marketing "hook" that will convince those people you hire you over more experienced crews. Then you'll want to seek word or mouth referrals which will lead to more business by asking "Do you know anyone else that might need yard work you can call for me as a reference?"

If by the end of the summer you have earned enough to replace Dad's lawn mover you wore out and buy that 500mm lens you've been lusting for you will probably be a success as a self-employed photographer. If by the end of the summer the lawn care business has been so successful you have hired 3-4 other guys to cut the lawns and mostly do the sales, marketing and supervision you might decide to keep the lawn care business going and do photography as a sideline. Either way, mom will be impressed and more likely to support your next move.

Mar 12, 2013 at 12:08 PM
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Career planning

Some great advice here... got my BFA in Graphic Arts... after 15 yrs. in that market (working in the printing/art trades) we opened our own portrait/wedding business nearly 30 years ago. Wish I had my BA in Marketing/Sales. Would choose that business degree and do an internship w/existing studio (summer). Experience is the most valuable teacher...sounds like you got your head on straight... Good Luck. Ed K.

Mar 14, 2013 at 11:32 PM

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