Notes from a talk to students at the AUCB – The Arts University College Bournemouth
Feb 23, 2012

Last month (January 2012) we were invited by David Hazel – Course leader for Photography at the Arts University College Bournemouth, to come in for an evening and talk to a group of his BA Photography students.

Having graduated from the AUCB three years ago, how could we possibly say no! 

One of the overriding topics considered when thinking our presentation, was what would be beneficial to the students who came to listen. It’s not easy to switch from a creative business mindset to an educational one. We decided if nothing else, we’d just tell our story so far, with some handy tips and advice that might both inform and inspire.

Our presentation centered around 3 top tips:

1) Work out what you do well… and just do it!

2) Use what’s available to you… and use it well.

3) Get as much experience as possible.

Looking back at what we said to the students it’s pretty clear that our advice is universal to anybody looking at entering the photographic industry, whether in Bournemouth or elsewhere. Whether you’re looking to convince a photographic agency that they should get you on board, or you’re going to go solo, it’s probably a good idea to work out what you do well… and just do it!

Sounds pretty obvious I guess, but so often photographers are all lumped together, we have and always are refining our services to give our clients an obvious choice, and this stems from learning what we do well as we continue to grow as a company.

For example, if a couple looking for a wedding photographer looked at our website, they are unlikely to call us. Our portfolio is aimed at commercial businesses and creative agencies in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset: it’s full of advertising, brochure and website photography that helps other businesses advertise what they do – it’s not going to entice the public at all!

By tailoring what we do, inevitably we’ve tailored our equipment. The tools of the trade are wide ranging, so keep them specific to your practice, ours are mainly for studio use – studio work is what we do well so it’s what we are set up for.

Use what’s available to you, and use it to it’s fullest. This point is particularly applicable to students – at university you are surrounded by thousands of pounds of equipment and resources, so why not get stuck in. We realized very quickly that it’s not easy building a kit bag, let alone filling up a studio! You’ll miss it when it’s gone and probably wont have the chance to buy it straight away, so gain some experience with anything the institution has to offer.

If you’re not enrolled on a tuition course of some sort then our advice would be to start small, and use your equipment to its fullest potential whenever you pick it up. Work out what you want to be able to do but perhaps can’t just yet, then you’ve got a good indication of what you might want to invest in next…

We don’t think there is much point investing lots of money into things you don’t need, old 5×4 cameras aren’t too much money and they teach you so much about manual photography, the downside however is they are no good for a photojournalist. If you have some free time, do a bit of research, get it right and build up kit when you need to.

Get experience. This might sound a bit obvious but it’s essential to take any and all opportunities that come your way, approach them with an open mind (even if it’s not your preferred genre), and learn from them.

Don’t be afraid to dive in at the deep end and get things wrong, chances are the photographer you’re working for has been there at some stage and will help you improve quickly. It’s a good idea to focus your time and energy towards getting something right first time, don’t become a sucker to digital cameras, work hard for a photograph and ‘make it’ rather than ‘take it’.

Good ideas are behind great photography, anybody can read a camera manual, it’s knowing how to interact with models, arrange a studio lighting set-up and thinking about how to inspire the end user that will get noticed – so learning from others is a sure bet in progressing.

A concise, well edited portfolio that sells your skills is better than displaying lots of things that you think look cool, get some advice on your portfolio and take it on board.

You can download a copy of our presentation here: AUCB PRESENTATION.pdf