Journalism alum, Zach Dobson, shares advice to student photographers below. Zach is a commercial photojournalist based out of Indianapolis, IN. His portfolio includes clients such as Coca-Cola, ZipCar, OrthoIndy, AARP, and Washington Post just to name a few. Often times, students email Zach to seek advice about pursuing a career in photography and a snapshot of his answers are compiled below. The full blog can be found here.
Find Your Voice
The most important advice I have for student photographers is to find your own unique point of view. This is the key to differentiating yourself from the thousands of other people trying to make a career in photography. Your voice is what you’re looking to convey with your work. It’s not something you sit and try to define in words. It’s primarily driven by the work you create.
The best way to find your voice as a photographer is to get out and shoot as much as possible. Think, “What am I interested in photographing?” It doesn’t need to be limited to a narrow category (sports, music, fashion, news, etc.). Try anything and everything that sounds compelling. As you shoot more, devote more time to the subjects you find most interesting. Here’s a good example of something I went out to shoot just because I found it interesting.
Shoot Your Interests
Don’t fall into the trap of chasing images you think other people might like or find impactful. Shooting what you find interesting will make more compelling images than shooting on trend or trying to convey what you perceive to be an important statement.
As a student photographer, you have access to a wealth of subjects to photograph. At any university there are many different departments and areas of study and any one of them would be thrilled to have someone taking their photo and highlighting the work they’re doing. Plus, being a student photographer or working for a student publication can get you access to all types of different events or people outside of school that you might want to photograph.
Studying other topics you’re interested in will greatly inform your photography. Learning about anything from sociology to dance can affect the direction you take with your work. Like I said, follow what interests you and that will help you find your voice, which is key to being a great photographer.
Build Your Community
School is also a great place for creating relationships. Good professors can be life-long mentors. Friendships will lead to all sorts of personal and professional opportunities you couldn’t even guess at this point. A network of alumni will be thrilled to meet with you, advise you, and hire you from here on out.
Getting involved in your local community of photographers. Professional organizations like the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) have gatherings where student photographers can meet pros with a lot of experience, hear them speak and ask them questions. When you get to know veteran photographers, you can ask them about assisting or shadowing them on a shoot, which is an excellent way to gain knowledge.
Many cities also have vibrant Instagram communities, where photographers meet up to shoot different events together, or have some friendly competition photographing a theme. In my area, two good examples would be Igers Indy and Igers Bloomington.
To sum it up, my advice for student photographers who would like to pursue a career in photography is to shoot all the time, share your images and build your network. If you develop an audience online throughout your time in college, that will be a HUGE help by the time your graduate.