Offering advice to young graduates is a tricky business, especially for those going into a profession that is particularly fraught with challenges, but here are a few suggestions :
1) Back up: be prepared to devise additional income streams, ideally related to photography. There are diverse opportunities in related fields, such as retouching, CGI, photo editing, styling, and curatorial & archivist positions, to name a few.
2) Be a mentee: intern or find a seasoned photographer who’s willing to give guidance. Many magazines, newspapers, museums, galleries and studios offer internships. Independent photographers also have internship positions, but you’ve got to come with skills, especially technical and administrative!
3) Join a photography community/organization where diverse learning and networking opportunities abound. Here’s where you’re going to find experienced photographers who might become mentors or who will share invaluable information with you. Don’t underestimate the value of hangin’ with these colleagues!
4) Hone your writing and communication skills. You will be cultivating and negotiating with clients, perhaps writing project descriptions or grant proposals to foundations, as well as setting up business paperwork like licensing and contracts.
5) Understand not only technology but the industry-wide trends you must navigate. While you no doubt are graduating with a handle on social media and the technical demands of your craft, you also need to pay attention to what’s trending, what photographers/developers world-wide are responding to, and what might be coming next in the ever-changing world of digital and media.
6) Understand the value of and be prepared to protect your copyright/intellectual property. Your imagery is potentially money in the bank, and you don’t want someone else spending it…. Safeguard that potential. If you’re not familiar with Copyright or registration requirements,ASMP’s copyright tutorial can help.
7) Read, read, read – new ideas will serve you! Whether it’s newspapers, blogs, magazines, the “great books” or contemporary literature, reading keeps your mind sharp and significantly feeds your vision.
8) Borrowing from New York Times columnist David Brooks, “Cultivate your strengths….confront your weaknesses….” Anyone would benefit from this exhortation, but since photography is often a solo endeavor, a reminder for self-improvement is not a bad thing.
9) Give back. Here’s more advice of a universal nature, but contributing your work and vision as a photographer can be enriching and also lead to future opportunities.
10) Celebrate the opportunity to live a creative life. There is nothing so fulfilling as to have choices and to express oneself creatively. Appreciate the wealth of possibility.