Something that really ticks me off with photography education in the U.S.A is the lack of practical business preparation young photographers receive from universities. These wonderful institutions of higher education always come up short when the issue is real-life knowledge of our business. Workshops and industry seminars are absent from their lecture halls in supplying students with any sense of what the business side of photography looks like.
The “find your voice” stuff is important, but schools are ripping off photographers if that’s the only thing they tell them. Anyone can speak to that concept once you get your monologue down. We deserve more from these schools and from the professors who teach there. My question would be: “I now have a voice and now I can see–what do I do next?” In most cases photographers are left to their own devises to figure that part out. As we all know, this can take years and cost lots of money in miscalculations. Photographers (and sometimes their parents) pay a small fortune to schools, but students leave with only a camera in their hand.
By no fault of their own photographers have no concept on how to run a studio. How to market their craft to the right people? Who to see at an ad agency? What is a pro bono account? Students entering our business don’t have a chance! Academia must engage our industry to partner as part of their core curriculum. Recently, I was a reviewer at SPE (Society of Photographic Education) convention in Baltimore. I was shocked to see that neither the students nor the educators have a clue about our business and the environment with which we work, nor the wherewithal to figure it out. It’s a shame and extremely disheartening.
Here’s a sampling of classes that I believe should be offered at every university and photographic workshop:
How does a gallery work?
What does a producer do?
What are the practical publishing deadlines of a magazine?
Do I need a photo representative?
How to estimate a job?
How to manage studio expenses?
How to market myself to different client, i.e. advertising agencies, publishing companies, magazines etc..?
I feel confident to say most of the professors that I’ve met couldn’t teach any of these classes. However, if you want to only imagine shooting on the moon, they can help. As we all know the landscape of photography today is extremely competitive. It seems rather shallow that learning institutions have not recognized this fact and are sending students out into the world without the basic tools needed to survive. Students should request it, tuition-paying parents should demand it and student loan officers must require that business classes be an offered to all students of photography.
About the Author: Frank Meo is the founder of thephotocloser.com an online global search engine that connects photographers to art buyers, editors and clients. Currently thephotocloser.com represents 200+ photographers and video directors in 80 cities around the world. He has worked for Getty Images as Director of Photo Assignments, USA Sales. For 25 years, he has represented photographers that include Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalists in securing highly valued commercial assignments. He has worked on hundreds of company photo libraries and campaigns for clients such as American Express, Acura Motor Sports, US Coast Guard, Xerox, ESPN, Citi Bank, Nike and others.