I was contacted recently by a student who is going to be graduating this spring from Brooks. She included a survey and asked for answers so she could figure out her next move.
Tell me about yourself and your business.
Self-employed freelance print-production expert, with a sideline in photo
Where did you go to school?
Why did you choose that specific school?
A complicated story. There was no choice in the matter–my dad taught photo there, and with a faculty discount I paid (you’re not going to like this part) $79 a quarter (1973-77). However I had to cover all my own school expenses, while working nearly fulltime at his wife’s boarding stable. Much, much later I discovered that my grandparents had salted away money for my education…
What was your major?
How did you get started after school?
Looking for entry-level jobs. Got a job as a paste-up guy at a tiny magazine for $4.50/hr
Did your schooling prepare you for the industry?
What are your most effective methods in growing and sustaining your business?
Being adaptable, learning new skills, learning old-school techniques and processes. Showing up on time. Meeting deadlines. Not being a dick.
What was the greatest challenge in starting your business?
Overcoming the terror. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Is there any particular methods you would target and approach clients?
Be honest. Get a mentor
What are your favorite strategies of promoting yourself and your business?
Word of mouth. Social networking via LinkedIn/facebook. Its not surefire, but it helps.
What is your branding method or strategy?
Selling my experience.
What is the job market like in your market for new college graduates?
What is the competition like in the industry?
What is the competition like in your geographic area you promote and operate your business in?
Same as above
How do you determine your pricing?
1/ not being a CraigsList low-ball dick.
2/ realistically cover your costs, because this is a business
What would be your advice to a recent grad from a photography school about art direction for a career?
An effective art director is somebody who understands that looks alone are not going to make truly effective or interesting advertising.
I had a teacher who observed that fashion advertising is a world where the rules of gravity are suspended. I read W because the photography is alternately wonderful and horrifying, and gravity-free. Like the recent Marc Jacobs stuff where models are in a swirl of what appears to be mustard gas. Those are somewhat interesting images, but missed opportunities for art direction and design. By contrast there were some Chanel ads that were brilliant in their understated strength.
Are you growing as a business or entity?
I′m trying to grow my business as a specialty photographer using vintage cameras and film. Since my work is not insta-deadline driven, its a set of techniques like an illustrator
Would you recommend going to marketing classes or seminars?
depends on who’s teaching them. Get on a photo/designer list, ask questions, poke and pry. You’re trading money for talk.
Do you attend seminars?
Yes, very selectively
How is changing technology affecting your business?
Too numerous to mention. Suffice to say I watermark every image I post. Yes, its a dick move, but until I get paid for that image, its there, at 5% opacity, and meta-data’d as well.
What advice do you have for a student photographer desiring to enter the business?
Get ready to work very, very hard. Some joy, a fair amount of heartbreak. The stuff you thought was soul-deadening in school will probably pay your bills.
I mentioned my dad taught photography. Every quarter he‘d review the numbers for his Basic class:
450: annual number of students in Basic Photo [150 x 3 quarters]
100: number of students accepted into Intermediate, annually
25: number of students in Sr Class
10: number of students as graduate students
1: number of students making their living in photo, 5 years after graduation
This did not take into account the photo-journalism shooters, which was a different program. The numbers may have shifted over the years, I don‘t know.
I sincerely wish you the greatest success in your efforts. I really do. Hopefully the soundings I offer will help in some way, and not be discouraging. If I can be of any other assistance, let me know.