The Realities of being a Photography Graduate
In July 2018, I graduated from Falmouth University with a 2:1 degree in Marine & Natural History Photography. Up until that point, getting a job had been a breeze. Ever since I could get a job at the age of 15/16 I had one. I worked in a corner shop, a bakery, as a sports photographer, and throughout my degree I had a part time job (full time in the summer) as a waitress. I had never struggled to get any of these jobs so walking out of university I thought it would be exactly the same.
Let me tell you...
When you go to school and college, people are forever asking you 'what do you want to do when you leave?', 'are you going to go to University?' 'What will you study?". My truth is that I hated the idea of University. Apart from the final 2 years of school I can't say I enjoyed education so why would I want to continue in it, get myself into thousands of pounds worth of debt just to be handed a piece of paper at the end of it?
I ended up doing exactly that. I've got myself into thousands of pounds of debt (luckily the kind where bailiffs won't be knocking at my door but still...) and I now have that piece of paper framed in my bedroom at home.
My train of thought was that if I went to University I'd be 'fast-tracked' into the world of photography. At the time, my focus was on wildlife photography and so the degree would be perfect. I'd leave Falmouth, the BBC and David Attenborough would be there welcoming me with open arms (ok...slight exaggeration) and I'd be set up for life.
One of the issues (well, it's a life choice, not an issue) is that I've chosen to stay down in Cornwall instead of moving back home to Hampshire or anywhere else in the UK. I am intent on making a career for myself in photography. I haven't got myself into said debt to just go and work in an office for the rest of my life. I'm a creative! I love creating things, being inspired by others, creating content for brands, capturing emotion etc that I'm not about to go and put the past 3 years of my life to waste.
If you follow me on Instagram, Youtube etc then you will see that there is not a lot of wildlife imagery on there anymore. I'm well aware that people do succeed in that industry and my god do I wish I was one of them but I want to make a living whilst still living in Cornwall so I decided to head down the lifestyle route.
If I'm honest with you all, I feel like I'm a lost child wandering around Cornwall trying to break into the photographic industry right now. At the end of October'18 I handed my notice in at work. The urge to quit that job had been there for about a year but I was too scared to leave with no other job to go to. The fear left after one of the worst shifts of my life and I genuinely just thought f*ck it, I can't do this anymore. I'm wasting my time and my life being here when I could be out there behind my camera. Now I know that some people genuinely can't leave the job they hate to go and chase their dreams. Everyone has rent or mortgages to pay and if you don't pay them you don't have a roof over your head. I was luckily in the position where I had savings behind me to enable me to leave, not to work for a couple of months and to go travelling, but I loved earning money and so to not have a purpose every morning, to not go and earn money everyday was a big thing for me.
That was, like I said, at the end of October. At the beginning of April I finally landed myself a job as a sales assistant in retail. Luckily the people I work with are super nice and also super supportive of my photography but do I feel like I've kinda just wasted the past 3 years of my life? Abso-frickin-lutely.
The reality is that degrees are great but they aren't the be all and end all. I've gone for countless interviews for jobs, some that aren't even to do with photography. I've applied for shop assistant work and they haven't even given me the opportunity for an interview. Being a graduate sucks.
'You haven't got quite enough experience' 'someone pipped you at the post as they had a years more experience than you' is LITERALLY the story of my life. How can we get that experience if people aren't giving us the opportunity too!
Since quitting in October I have spent the past few months building up my portfolio, doing COUNTLESS free shoots, and basically doing the stuff I should have done during my degree. The reason I didn't do those things during my degree was because, at the time, my focus wasn't on lifestyle.
Now I don't want this blog to be completely depressing. I am genuinely glad I went to University. I moved out, learnt how to be an 'adult', I grew as a person and I did in fact improve my photography. I travelled to some incredible places for the degree and met some equally incredible people along the way.
You may be a graduate reading this yourself, whilst your stood assisting a photographer on their shoot for Urban Outfitters or Vogue, and thinking what is this girl talking about? I landed this job the day after leaving uni but if I'm honest, I think that rarely happens.
All I'm saying is, don't expect a career to be handed to you on a silver platter (like I did just because I'd been to University). I have days where I wake up and just think what am I doing with my life and I know soooo many other graduates who feel exactly the same! But on the other hand, I know of people who graduated a year or so before me and are absolutely smashing it.
Don't put too much pressure on yourself but push yourself and your creativeness everyday and be the best photographer you can be. Take advantage of any contacts you have in the industry, and if you're still at university get to know Videographers, Stylists, MUA's because I guarantee you will need them or they will need you at some point in their career.
On that 'cheerful' note I'm going to end the blog here!
Thanks for reading and I promise next time the blog won't be so depressing!