I recently wrote a guest post over at my friend Doug's site, and thought I'd re-post it here as well.
Hi, my name is Alex Minkin, I’m a 2010 graduate of the Hallmark Institute of Photography where I concentrated on advertising and cinematic photography. My work has been published in ads in my hometown of Detroit, Best of College Photography Contest, and in various blogs for industry leaders. I’ve sold work to companies like Adidas and ad agencies nation wide, and shot still unit photography for Anthony Zuiker, the executive producer of CSI in Los Angeles.
By the time I left Hallmark, several extraordinary stokes of luck had positioned me further ahead of what I had ever imagined possible. Profoto’s blog had done a write-up about me, Adidas wanted to purchase the rights to a picture I had done, and my website was lighting up like crazy from my first direct mailer campaign.
Then, I realized I was moving to New York but had sent my mailers to California. Adidas was taking its time with the paperwork, and I had stopped using my equipment so I could pack up and move into a tiny bedroom almost off the edge of Manhattan.
So, nearly a year after school, I’m not quite doing exactly what I want to be. I’m taking shoots that aren’t even remotely interesting. I have a side job for a fine art consulting company, but every hour of every day, I’m working for myself. It’s at the same time the most rewarding and frustrating thing I’ve ever done in my life.
The dedication that’s necessary to be even a moderate success story in this field can be intimidating. It can be hard to throw yourself into it, to go for broke and screw the consequences. I thought that I was putting in a lot of work before I finished school, but now I’m spending my entire day making new mass email promos, doing market research, scouting new things to shoot, and writing emails trying to squeeze my way into something nobody wants to pay me to shoot.
I learned not to get discouraged when things take forever to accomplish, or if they fail to happen at all. I’ve made a nuisance of myself for one company for nearly a year before they finally agreed to set something up, a year of back and forth for one shoot. I’ve overpriced, underpriced, gotten rejected and been ignored, but I also learned that there’s nearly no mistake I can’t step away from and make it a positive move towards what I want to be doing.
And even though it was hard for me to believe, and maybe it is for others as well, I learned that other photographers are going to be a more valuable resource than a client that pays well and pays on time. We’re such a strange group of people, and overwhelmingly, we seem to love it when our friends get ahead.
Sure I’m jealous that Doug is shooting F/A-18’s while I shoot some interiors, but he lets me ask all sorts of stupid questions that they never fully explained in school. Questions like ‘how the %#($ do you build up a mailing list of 10,000+ people?’ or ‘where do I get insurance so I can rent a real studio instead of working in my living room?’ The photographers and companies I have been working for have been the best resource imaginable.
So, if you’re still at school and reading this, I have a few things that might help you out in a small way. Spend every waking moment shooting. Shoot everything you want to do and make it fit an assignment. Ask questions, even if it seems like everyone else knows the answer. You’re already a professional photographer; now make the portfolio to prove it. School will give you everything you put into it and more, but you still have to do the work first. And lastly, call or email the photographers you admire. You might get yelled at, but you might end up guest blogging for someone else down the road.
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