Gaining Experience

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Summer is prime time for burgeoning professional shutterbugs to snag photo internships. Many newspapers, magazines, and television stations offer unpaid internships to students looking to forge a career in photography. As a teen, I spent three consecutive summers shooting video for a local TV station in order to gain professional experience.

Back then, the Internet was practically nonexistent; rather, I was forced to rely on word of mouth and recommendations from teachers in order to snag my gig. Today, students can visit the National Press Photographers Association’s website which maintains a list of internship opportunities in the United States. Another way to find potential internship opportunities is to cold call local photo studios in the area. If you have the time, you could also visit photo studios in-person. Taking the initiative to do so could lead to something big. Even if the company doesn’t operate a formal internship program, the owner may be inspired by your enthusiasm, talent and perseverance and set-up something informally.

Once you have your foot in the door, make the most of your opportunity. During your internship, try to learn as many skills as possible, including working with a range of different equipment. Generally, internships allow amateur photographers their first opportunity to experiment with professional grade equipment. Learn as much as you can about pro DSLR gear, including accessories and lighting. Depending on how adept you are and how willing your employer is in allowing you to handle different tasks, you could potentially create a decent portfolio which you can shop around in order to score a paid job.

The object of any internship is to acquire new skills, add to your portfolio, and network with future business contacts. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to focus on compiling as many stellar shots as possible to show to potential employers. Your portfolio should highlight your expertise with a wide range of subjects. It should also feature images you hope to be shooting at some point in a professional capacity.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.