Finding Employment as a Photographer
Freelance vs. Staff Photographer?
Finding a job in this economy can be difficult. However, finding work as a photographer can be even more difficult.
Nevertheless, if you want to succeed in this business, you will make more opportunities than you find.
Photographers work in one of the following ways:
Freelance: Freelance photography is a difficult field to navigate. Working as a freelance photographer will yield you artistic freedom and a beautifully creative portfolio. Once you have established your name as a freelance photographer and have pooled together a sizeable list of clients, you will want to open up and operate from your own studio. Freelance photographers are also hustlers of sort. You will need to develop an attractive Web site that features only your best work, network with potential clients and other photographers and market your work like crazy.
Staff: Staff jobs are usually more stable than freelancing. Staff jobs also have the benefit of direct ladders to the top with hard work and perseverance. Nevertheless, do not be mistaken. Even most staff photographers will need to market their work and network with potential clients and other photographers. You never know where these connections will lead. Moreover, staff photographers stay abreast of current technologies and even teachers, curators and archivists continue to develop their personal portfolios.
Job Search Tips
Nothing will pay off more than experience. As soon as you have chosen your career path, get on the move. If your goal is become a photo editor at major fashion magazine, you will likely complete several internships. Jobs like this, in addition to teaching, curating and archiving often hire through the ranks. So, once you’re fresh out of college, the best way to get to dream job is to work your up to the top. This means internships, assistantships, research fellowships, etc. until you have acquired your dream career title.
Join an industry-appropriate organization or association. Organizations like the Advertising Photographers of America (APA) or the Society of Professional Education (SPE) exist to promote smart business practices and successful photographers. Luckily, many of them have student chapters (some of them are even localized to region and/or city), so memberships are available at discounted prices. These are excellent resources for photographers, so do not overlook them. They hold meetings, educational seminars, job search events and can often put you in direct contact with potential clients. They are also great networking tools since you will join the ranks of hundreds of other professional photographers.
Market: Regardless of your career field, it is important to market your work and keep your name out there. All the experience in the world and a listing on an organization’s Web site will not brings jobs to your doorstep. To market your work, you will need a marketing portfolio.
This will accompany your print portfolio. Your marketing portfolio should consist of the following: a well-designed Web site (working in such a visual medium implies that you will also have an immaculately-designed Web site); business cards and post cards with your name, contact information, Web site address. Also, consider writing a newsletter – have potential clients sign up for either an e-mail or print newsletter that you update on a weekly basis (this keeps your work fresh on the mind of potential clients and employers). Lastly, for personal records, build a list of all of your industry connections. This list will consist of gallery owners, professors, clients, museum directors and fellow photographers. As you start to build up a portfolio, update your Web site with new works.
Social Networking: Many photographers have joined the ranks of Twitter, Facebook and Blogger or WordPress to network with one another. Even universities and libraries blog about upcoming shows or recent events, and this will be so helpful to up-and-coming photographers. Many photographers write about personal projects that they are working on, in addition to new clients and new commissions. They post this information on their blogs. Again, this is all about keeping your name out there. The interesting thing about working as a freelance photographer, in any specialization, is that once potential clients see that you have been published, they are more likely to be interested in hiring you themselves.