Virtually every photo grad that I speak to wishes they had more of the business classes in college that they questioned having to take while they were there. Courses in business practices can be boring and, in terms of their structure, frequently impractical. Photography programs need to find ways to better integrate professional practices into courses throughout the curriculum, incorporating them into daily assignments and applications from the first year onward. Separating professional practices from everyday application is problematic as we neither learn nor apply business practices in this manner as working professionals. This break in application, coupled with an increase in instructors who have spent less time working in a commercial or editorial practice, and a move away from teaching practical application toward more conceptually based curriculum, makes teaching business practices an increasingly difficult proposition. This does not mean that teaching professional skills is impractical, but that those lessons need to come from a multi-pronged approach that includes internships, integrated curriculum, and instructors who can function as mentors during school and after graduation.
Business aside, I wish my instructors had told me to continue to live the love for what we do, to continue experiment and evolve, to have fun and not lose myself in the day to day operations of my business. I wish that they had told me that self-doubt and self-assertion would be essential parts of my creative process and that my greatest struggles would come before my greatest breakthroughs. We work in a competitive field and good business practices are important, but if you lose your passion to create it becomes difficult to succeed.
The ability to make a living by creating imagery, still or moving, is a wonderful gift. The opportunity to indulge yourself in the creation of the visual language in multiple cultures is unparalleled. Focus on your business, utilize professional practices, but equally important, don’t lose site of the opportunity that you have been given, nor the pure pleasure that you feel when you create something new.