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Professional Contexts Blog

Career Plans

I wanted to save this post for the end of my dossier as at the beginning of the module, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after university. I wanted to be a photographer, but didn’t think that I had the confidence to network or that my work was of a good enough quality. During the second half of third year, I found a much clearer understanding of what I want to do and what my goals will be and have so much more confident in my ability. The first two career plans listed here are both ones that I will try to follow and the third is not one that interests me currently, but I know that it is a popular option for graduates to follow and may be something that interests me further down the line.

Editorial Photographer

My business plan and CV found within the dossier are mostly relevant to this career plan. I didn’t fully understand what the term editorial photographer meant until very recently, but when I understood, I thought that it would be ideal for me. My strengths in photography are portraits and I have been told by different tutors across my time at university that my work looked editorial, but I didn’t fully know what they meant by this. Following on from the style of my images that I have produced whilst at university and finally discovering my photographic style, trying to enter the editorial sector seems like the most natural progression for me.

As a lot of editorial photography will be seen in printed form, putting together a physical portfolio which may get called in when applying for work is really important. They are quite costly but a good investment if serious about this career path. It’s important to keep this updated as well as my online portfolio with any new images to show that I am still making work. With a physical portfolio, you can add in and remove any images as you like in order to suit the potential client. It is likely that I initially will be doing low-paid, small stories and work my way up to gaining the trust of the publications.

It would be a good idea to enter my personal work into competitions and awards as there may be cash prizes to fund my practice and if shortlisted, your images will have reached a wider audience. It’s important to keep updated with what’s going on in the wider world of photography and understand what the publications I want to work for are looking for and if my work fits. Reaching out to picture editors and art directors is the best way of entry into this field.

I would be working freelance, so would need to register as a sole trader and understand all that comes with this such as how to pay your taxes and what insurance I need. It would be a good idea to join professional bodies such as the AOP for guidence.

I have my own kit, so my start-up costs are likely to be quite low, but in the instance that I need one-off specialist equipment, it would be better to rent out equipment than to buy it. Costs are likely to be quite steady as I’d buy more and upgrade over time.

Being in the midlands may be an advantage for me as I would need to travel to photograph different stories, but would have a shorter distance to go than a photographer living in London who has a story to document in York. However, there aren’t a lot of opportunities in this area if a publication was looking for a local photographer.

Social Media Manager

This career plan is the most high-risk of the three career paths as my degree isn’t in business or marketing which puts me at a disadvantage. However, if I do gain enough knowledge some employers may see this as an advantage compared to other graduates as having creative ideas and skills may be something that other applicants lack. Creative ideas come easily to me and i have transferrable skills as a photographer, including knowledge of the Adobe suite.

I thought about going into postgraduate study to do a course relating to marketing, but social media and what is seen as contemporary brand design is changing all the time, so I may feel that this is a waste of money. Instead, I would much rather do online courses as there are some great paid ones that I have found as well as ones on LinkedIn Learning which I currently have free access to as a student. Social media platforms also offer courses themselves for their users to understand how to optimise their features.

If I learn enough about the industry, I may be a good choice of someone to hire as a business wouldn’t need to hire an additional photographer as I could also take photographs for them if it was something that I was comfortable that I could do a good job of. In terms of the brand design aspect of the job, a course in graphic design may be useful to do to widen my skills and make me more employable.

I spoke to someone who is working as a freelance social media manager giving advise to brands and she gave some really great advise. Despite having a business degree herself, she spent 6 months after graduating doing online courses before landing an internship and said that the most important thing is experience. She recommended volunteering to help small businesses with their brand design and offer to take charge of their online presence for a while. Much like my photography portfolio, I need to start building a portfolio of brands that I have worked with and their success stories. I had never heard of Hubspot, but it has some great free marketing resources. She recommended starting an Instagram or a blog where I can post about what I have learned so that when brands are looking for help with their online presence, they may come across your page and reach out. There are also lots of communities such as Girls in Marketing and other groups which I could join to go to for advice.

Assisting Photographer

This career option may be something that would interest me more in the future than it does at the moment, as I know that a lot of graduates chose to do this. The reason why this doesn’t appeal to me is because I enjoy working alone whilst photographing and don’t like being told off if I were to make a mistake, impacting the whole shoot. Because of covid, I haven’t had the opportunity to use equipment beyond what I own myself, so wouldn’t feel confident to set-up and work with equipment that I haven’t had much experience in using.

Assisting is usually a good option for if you are interested in wanting to do commercial work yourself, but I am not particularly interested in going into this sector. You would start out as a 3rd/4th assistant on a shoot and work your way up to being the 1st or only assistant. If you did your job well and earned the trust of the photographer, I am sure that assisting would bring you other opportunities. I imagine that assisting is also good for getting your work seen as even though assisting isn’t a networking opportunity, you may meet people on the job who eventually learn your name and find your personal work.

The job would involve anticipating the photographer’s needs, doing what you are asked and to a good standard. It would be a great way to learn more about the industry as you would be in the middle of it all. Assisting would be valuable to many different areas of photography and whilst I have plans of what I want to do, these could change and time spent assisting a photographer would not be time wasted because of the transferrable skills.

Assisting jobs may be listed on arts jobs websites such as the ones I have listed on my own database. Alternatively, reaching out to photographers who make work similar to my own could be a good idea. I imagine that trying to get assisting work would require you to be persistent and you would need to send out follow-up emails.

Minister, J., 2011. An insider's guide to becoming a photographer's assistant. The Guardian. Available at: (Accessed 20 May 2021)

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