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In an age where most of us are carrying a high-grade camera around in our pocket, you might wonder how much opportunity there is to make a living out of photography.
However studying photography in-depth will see your skills and knowledge skyrocket far above the casual iPhone snapper – and potentially launch you into an exciting career in a huge variety of industries.
And that ever-evolving technology means that the types of gear you use, the photos you take and the industries you’ll work in will shift throughout your career.
‘Photography is wonderful because it’s always in flux – the medium itself is always in flux,’ says Dr Anne Wilson, a senior lecturer in Deakin’s School of Communication and Creative Arts.
Partly, this is because of the digital culture we live in, she says.
‘We are confronted with all sorts of lens-based technologies that we are integrated into every day without even knowing. Cameras today can see better than our human eyes can see.’
Then there’s the enormous amount of imagery we encounter every day on our screens, much of it curated by artificial intelligence.
‘Without us realising it, it’s influencing how we read imagery and what connections we make with certain images – not to mention deep fakes.’
Dr Wilson says photography really is at the core of technological change.
‘It puts you right in the pocket of that ever-changing culture and gives you an understanding of what you use every day, such as your iPhone. It gives you an understanding of how images are used, how to read, edit and analyse images, and how to develop a visual vocabulary.’
Whether you’re an entrepreneurial type, or prefer being an employee, photography offers a wide range of career options, depending on your interests, adaptability and imagination.
For instance, one of Dr Wilson’s former students opened up a daguerreotype wedding photography business.
‘That’s where the image is pretty much a one-off – it’s chemically produced on to metal or glass,’ she says. ‘It makes it quite unique.’
Another has run their own workshop teaching analogue photography techniques, and many have opened galleries or worked as freelance photojournalists.
'Photography is wonderful because it’s always in flux – the medium itself is always in flux.'
Dr Anne Wilson,
School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University
You might be surprised at just how many different career options there are for budding photographers.
Dr Wilson says there’s still a big demand for photographers in the advertising industry.
‘Advertising uses photography all the time, so you might do food photography, and work in a professional studio and that’s what they specialise in.
‘To do that you need to have a deep understanding of lighting and all the technologies of the high-end, high resolution cameras – that’s for print media, for online media, for social networks and so forth.’
Some graduates create their own businesses in product development and marketing, or personal branding.
Journalism, wedding, pet and sports photography are popular career choices, as is corporate photography, where you might wind up taking corporate portraits, or event pics.
Then there’s science or medical photography, or for the stargazers – astrophotography.
Dr Wilson says after learning about the history of photography, and analogue technologies, students often get excited about the world of art photography.
‘That’s where you see a lot of experimentation going on and that’s often where ideas initiate from, is from the contemporary art world,’ she says.
There are also opportunities to work in the film industry as a continuity photographer.
‘If they (film-makers) shoot several takes of a scene and they go back to it a couple of hours later they’ve got to have everything exactly the same, so they’ve got to be able to make sure they’ve documented what happened, everything that’s in that scene.’
Graduates could also work towards specialising in a specific area of theatre photography such as dance or drama.
Or develop an interest in another highly specialised area, architectural photography.
Many photographers will find they wear lots of different hats throughout their career, doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Whatever path you choose to take, studying photography will help you make sense of the modern world, Dr Wilson says.
‘Young people today need to be able to discern what’s going on in imagery for all sorts of reasons – not just to be the best photographer out there and to be the most original photographer – but also to be able to reflect on the masses of imagery that they’re confronted with and what it means.’
Learning the art of photography will stand you in good stead in other ways too, Dr Wilson says.
‘You become creative, you become discerning and reflective and knowledgeable, and also you’ve got the technological skills that you need to navigate the ever-fluctuating developments in technology.’
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