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Feta's avatar

What can I do with a photography degree?

Asked by Feta (895 points ) November 26th, 2013

My love is documentary photography…like the photos featured in articles.

But I’m also capable of architectural and staged fine art photography and even fashion.

I used to want to be a photojournalist, but now I don’t think that’s the route I want to take. I want to eventually teach photography but I feel like I need to be successful before I teach (like Gregory Crewdson).

I’m just not sure how to get there…but I think I must be pretty good at it.

I’ve had my work in some student galleries and I guess my photos stood out; I watched and people would glance at the others but gravitate to mine and actually talk about it.

But I’m worried about my competition. A lot of the kids I take classes with, their parents have more money and they can buy more equipment than I can…and also a better education.

I’m just not sure how you make money doing photography??

And real photography, not working taking family pictures in the outdoors…anyone can do that.

Fortunately photography isn’t the only thing in my toolbox. I’m also good at illustration. People tend to love the things I draw but they’re few and far between. I have friends that draw all the time…but a great idea will come to me, I’ll draw it, it looks great and then I won’t get another for sometimes months.

I also have an interest in psychology…but I don’t really want to go to school to be a psychologist.
I like it, but I don’t love it. The people in that field aren’t the same. I want to be around other artists.

And this would be a shot in the dark but I could also try modeling. I’m tall enough and I can get thin enough. I’ve got thick skin and can take criticism but I’ve been told several times that I could be a model so I think it’s worth giving it a shot, I wouldn’t rely on it though…but if it worked out, I could use it to substantiate income while being a photographer.

Also, I would like to live in NYC. Pipe dreams, right?
It’s the only place I’ve ever been truly happy. I have severe depression but I’ve never been depressed in the city.

Sorry this is long, I used to know exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but now that it’s coming down to it I’m beginning to worry about making the wrong choices. I just don’t want to be unhappy or stuck. I felt like going to the college I wanted to go to (Ringling in Florida) would make me feel trapped in a state I hate for at least 4 years.
I’m now looking at NYU.

Am I choosing the wrong career path? A financial assistant I talked to said that you have to do what makes you happy, not to do something you hate for the money. But what if what you love doesn’t make much money at all?

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9 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

One of my many talented nephews spent two years in a traditional liberal arts degree program at the University of Vermont. Then he transferred to Parson School of Design in NYC, got his degree in photography and has had an ongoing stunning career as a high-end fashion photographer.

His web page He works about an 80 hour week, travels all over the world and is about 41 now. More info

glacial's avatar

I think the smartest thing you could do is to put together a portfolio (if you haven’t already) and go to a couple of nearby colleges with photography programs. Make appointments with people who are teaching. Make appointments with people who are working as photographers. Talk about what you want to do, show them your work, and ask them what they think.

These are hard times for photojournalists, and harder times are still to come. This means that not only will you have a tough time getting work, but you’ll be in competition with others who used to get work and are finding it harder.

But unless there are any professional photographers here, all we can offer is a “sense” of how easy or hard it will be for you. Talk to some people who are doing it right now. Not everyone will take your call, and not all of those will meet you, but some will. It’s flattering, for a start, and some will really want to help you.

Regarding depression and cities and modelling, my advice is that if you are prone to depression, skip the modelling thing entirely. Don’t start playing games with your weight to please other people for a job you don’t really even want; that’s a recipe for disaster. And I think, live where you think you’ll be happier. I’m one of those people for whom place matters a lot. The same work in two different cities will create two completely different experiences for me. I would choose crappier work in a better city every time – but not everyone would make the same choice. You’ll have to weigh that for yourself.

Feta's avatar

@gailcalled Thanks for the link to that school. It actually looks interesting.
And also your nephew’s website. His work is amazing.

@glacial I’m working on a portfolio. Some of the images I’m not happy with though, I have all these great ideas but most require a studio and I don’t have anything like that…so I’m just kind of taking pictures that can at least get me into college.

I know it won’t be easy. Nobody does photography or any art for the money…but you have to live somehow.

As for the modeling, my depression is based on my location. I can’t stand this town and the people in it and my parents aren’t interested in me…it’s like an “I don’t belong” type of depression. Not an “I hate myself” type of depression that being criticized and picked over would worsen. I wouldn’t have to lose much weight anyway so it wouldn’t be drastic or bad for my health.
I used to want to be a model really bad so I could meet the photographers. Modeling isn’t something I would dread, I’m just saying it’s not the career I would want my life to depend on.

pleiades's avatar

documentary photography

JimTurner's avatar

I would have loved to be a photographer and like every other father I have taken my share of pictures over the years.

To do it professionally I would have wanted to own my own studio and dark room. Most of the income I suppose would have had to come from weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs and seasonal advents such as high school proms and graduations.

Good luck on your career.

tobycrabtree's avatar

You can become a professional photographer with this degree.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Contact Nat Geo.

present's avatar

In my opinion, any job can make money if you’re really better than most of people, at least the salary is enough for you and your family. You said you love photography and psychology and maybe have the chance to be a model. I think it’s fantastic. Psychology can reduce your depression in some extent and modelling maybe creat an opportunity to make some friends who have the experience in photography career. Most time, you can’t figure it out except you do it. So just do it.

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