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People come into professional photography from a variety of directions and, even today, it is by no means a requirement that you have a degree to become a successful photographer. Equally some of today’s very top British photographers are graduates who didn’t go to art school. In this context the names Jason Bell and Tom Craig immediately spring to mind and there are many others.

If you are at university however, and you have the creativity, determination and commitment needed to become a photographer, you can give yourself a really good head start long before graduation. A very good way to start, no matter what degree you are taking is to try and shoot portraits for the university newspaper or magazine. Famous faces come to speak at all universities and are often featured in university publications. If you are the one sent to shoot those pictures you will find yourself building the beginnings of a professional portfolio by default, and as a student you may even find you are allocated slightly longer to get the shot than you will be in future as a hardened professional.

Throughout your course make the effort to expand and fine-tune your craft, your knowledge and areas of expertise, and to gain the sort of experience that will help you start to make a living on graduation. Internships for example are a very good introduction to the profession and many top end professionals are prepared to offer you a week or two’s unpaid work experience. It is of course your responsibility to yourself to make the absolute best of these opportunities and there is no harm whatsoever in setting a very high benchmark. Write yourself a short CV, think about the photographers whose work you most admire and contact them individually, via e-mail, to ask if they would be prepared to offer you any work experience. The keyword here incidentally is “individually”, very many students write a single, often misspelt, generic application which they pebbledash out to a large number of photographers; and then wonder why they get no response. A short well written e-mail, accompanied by a cv, explaining why you hope to generate work experience with that specific photographer however, will often open a door onto the working world, and can indeed lead to professional assisting after you graduate.

Internships can of course be costly, especially if, as will usually be the case, you aren’t getting paid. If internships are in London, minimise your costs by staying on people’s floors, or use a safe networking site like, which may also help build you a valuable base of friends you can return to.

After you finish, it is most important to stay in contact with any people you’ve met in the business, or those trying to make it. Freelance photography has a reputation for being a cut throat business but in our experience it’s not the case. Most freelances, although wholly self-employed, know and mix regularly with others in the business. The people you meet on the way up the ladder often become friends for life and will always be your first port of call for advice. To help you get a foot in the door, here are some guidelines on starting out in photography, including advice from some top freelancers....


Relocation, Relocation, Relocation

Moving to London is the essential first step into freelance photography.

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Accounts & Money:

Tips on how to lower costs and pool resources when starting out in freelance photography.

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How to get your name around, and build a network of contacts in the industry.

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Do your research, and start from the top. Assisting may be the most valuable experience you get.

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