One of the most important key to a successful career in photography is to get an internship with the right photographer. You will have the opportunity to learn on the job from a practicing professional without the headaches of actually running the business.
How to Get a Photography Internship
First things first, research your field of photography. If you’re a wedding photographer, you would want to intern with a wedding photographer, etc. Start out with local photographers then move onto the national and international level. Most of you will want to stay local because it requires less drastic changes such as relocating. After you have your list of photographers, go through their work and see if their work is the quality where you hope to elevate yours to.
Now that you have a list of photographers you want to contact, do a little more digging. There are lots of horror stories out there regarding photography internships. Certain photographers out there have a reputation of treating their interns poorly, make sure you know who these are. Contact their former or current interns and ask some questions.
After you’ve done your research, you are now ready to make the first contact. Email is best, whatever you do, do not call! Some people will recommend that you keep it short since professional photographers have a busy schedule, but personally I prefer to see your personality through your email. Personality is important because you’ll be working on a team, you’ll need to mesh in with the group. Photographers get many inquiries, so you need to make yourself stand out from the others. What’s special about you?
If you don’t hear back, it’s not because we don’t like you. Many times it’s because our email gets stacked up and yours gets lost in the mix. Don’t give up, let a couple weeks go by and send another inquiry. Persistence shows that you have the passion and the drive. Photography is all about knocking on doors, don’t get discourage from a few no’s.
Things I Look for in My Interns
These are the qualities that I look for in my interns, I’m pretty sure that these qualities will apply to other photographers as well.
Personality: Like I mentioned earlier, personality is important because you’ll be working in a team unit. You’ll need to have a positive attitude at all times. You’re also representing the photographer on-set, so you need to interact with the clients respect.
Drive/Passion: Let’s face it, if you knew it all you wouldn’t be applying for the internship, so let’s leave the ego at home. Come ready and wanting to learn. We can only help those who want to learn and are eager to advance their careers in photography.
Talent: I look for people who have potential. If you are a newbie, take some time and focus on learning the basics. Develop a portfolio and then contact me. It takes a lot of energy to mentor an intern, so I have to be choosy with my time investment. I want to help everyone but that’s not possible. I want to take those who are on the verge and get them to their potential.
Work Ethics: Photoshoots are not a walk in the park. You will be asked to work in extreme conditions. Long hours on set are likely. You will be asked to hustle. You will sweat. You will be thirsty. You will be hungry. You will have fun. When you’re not on set, you will be asked to scout locations, do research, run errands, don’t worry I don’t drink coffee so you won’t be asked to get coffee. Your errands will be photography related, so you won’t be picking up my dry cleaning any time soon. All these things that you do will help you with your own photography business down the road.
Discreteness: When you meet my clients on set, don’t go home and Facebook friend request them. Please respect their privacy. Social media is great, but please think twice before you put anything on blast. When on set, no cellphone pics or videos are permitted. Some campaigns are confidential until it actually is released to the public. I’m also a very private person, so please be discrete about my personal life.
Availability: Sometimes I’ll get last minute bookings, you’ll need to be flexible. Most of the time I’ll know way in advanced about shoots.
Responsiveness: If you get an email/text from my assistant or me, you need to respond quickly. Not the very next day. It’s a fast pace business.
An internship is only the first step in your photographic career. The next step is to turn the internship into an assistant position. In a later post, I will discuss what it takes to become a good photography assistant.