It comes as a bit of a shock when I realize it has been over five years since I graduated from PUC with a 4-year degree in photography. I have fond memories of PUC – walking the trails of the Angwin hills, enjoying Napa Valley’s many treats, and exploring the Northern California coast with friends. Long before graduation, I set my sights on living and working in Hawaii. Right after graduation, I did just that.
For the past five years I have been working at Pacific Stock Photography on the island of Oahu, Hawaii - starting out as an intern and eventually moving on to become director of art content. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “stock photography,” chances are you have heard of Corbis and/or Getty Images. Pacific Stock is the largest stock photo agency in Hawaii and specializes in images of Hawaii, Asia and the Pacific. I work with about 50 contributing professional photographers and artists – directing photo shoots, organizing image submissions, performing all image retouching/color-corrections and uploading the images to the website...and these are just a few of my tasks.
In my spare time, I have gradually worked on jumpstarting my personal photography career. I still have a long way to go, but it’s coming along. There is such an amazing beauty to the Hawaiian Islands – being able to explore places that tourists never see and experience a part of the Hawaiian culture – it’s impossible not to be inspired. Last year I had nine of my original Hawaii photos featured in a mainstream art gallery in Honolulu. I have also begun selling prints commercially to local businesses for wall art.
Having a career in photography and/or art can be extremely challenging, so here are a few things I would suggest to those majoring in Photography or other art degree:
Know what you want MOST. Figure out what’s most important to your happiness and massage the rest of your life around that. For me, living location is very important – I decided Hawaii was where I wanted to live after school, so I molded the rest of my life around that.
Start searching early. Look for jobs LONG before you graduate to get a feel for what’s out there. I started looking a year before I graduated, and that’s how I ended up getting connected with Pacific Stock.
Find a niche. Your professors have probably ingrained this into your heads already, but the world of art and photography is VERY competitive, increasingly every year. If you want to become successful, one of the key elements is being able to create something unique.
Double major. If you’re majoring in photography, pick up graphic design as a minor or second major. This is something I didn’t do, and I often wish I would have. While Photography classes include a few graphic design-related courses, it’s not enough to make a possible second-career choice if needed. Double-majoring gives you more options in the workforce.
Internships. Get an internship in your field! Yes, many photography and art-related internships aren’t paid, but I cannot stress enough how important it could be for your career...this is how I got mine! Hands-on experience is KEY in learning the important aspects of a photography career. If you do well at your internship, you have a fantastic referral, experience in the workforce and possibly a job offer.
Connections. It’s all about connections! GPA is one thing, but having a good referral is better. Stay in touch with your teachers, photographers you meet, fellow-students and old employers; keep your contacts aware of what you’ve “been up to”...you never know when a job might come up that you can fulfill!
Get it out there. Marketing your art can start with simply putting your work online, but you need to find some avenue to getting your work seen. Social networking online is the most modern and simple form.
Eager, not ego. Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you’re automatically an expert. Keep an open mind and focus the first couple years (at least) of your career on learning from others. However, don’t forget to stay true to yourself.
Live Simply. Ever heard the term “starving artist”? Well, there are so many ways to live on a tight budget. I pay an arm and a leg for food and rent, but I find life affordable by cutting out things like paper towels and other disposable items...helps the environment too.
Know Adobe. The entire suite...Photoshop is most useful for photographers, but it also helps to have extensive knowledge of Illustrator, InDesign and also Dreamweaver/Flash. The more you can do yourself, the less you will have to outsource.
Go Digital. Even if you still shoot film (which I happen to love), make sure to digitize everything in a quality format. If you use a digital camera, only shoot in RAW and learn how to process your images from start to finish without degrading the quality. If you’re a fine artist, have your artworks professionally photographed or scanned, so you will be able to reproduce your originals if need be.
I wish everyone the best of luck!
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