Why pros should help students and young professionals starting out

Robin Nelson speaks to the photojournalism class at Kennesaw State University on Thusday, June 16, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3200, ƒ/4, 1/100]

Clay Asbury, lecturer for photojournalism at Kennesaw State University, asked Robin Nelson and myself to speak to his photojournalism class.

Clay has been a working professional, but now since his role is that of faculty he knows that the students will not listen to him as much as professionals working at the moment in the industry. This is why he asked Robin and I to share our work and tips for the students.

Making sure that there is indeed a connection between what the students are learning in the classroom and the skills of professionals is key to students having a real chance at making an impact in the industry after graduating.

Clay Asbury is giving his students the assignment to write about what is the subject that they are passionate about and tell him why they are passionate about it. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 14400, ƒ/8, 1/100]

When industry professionals connect with a classroom, not only can they share with students about the skills they need, they can serve as a role model and inspire students to reach for the moon. Think about what you wouldn’t have given to get a glimpse of the real world when you were a student yourself.

Today’s Journalism schools are not the same as yesterday’s curriculum. Programs are changing to prepare the students to be cross-trained in writing, design, video, audio, and photography with all this falling under the purpose of storytelling. Often these programs are now being renamed to media storytelling or some variance of this.

Stanley talks to the students about needing to have their images evoke emotions in the audience. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/4, 1/100 photo made by Robin Nelson]

I shared with the students the importance of visual literacy. Not so much the technology of making a photo but the understanding of body language and how composition can help convey emotions and pull the audience into the story through imagery–moving and stills.

I talked about how I review portfolios, because I hire visual communicators for projects on a pretty regular basis. I wanted them to know I need to have images that communicate a message and not just cool images.

I talked to the students about dissecting photos. [link to blog on topic] I talked to them about storytelling must involve conflict. [link to blog on the topic] I also talked about the stages of composition photographers go through. [link on blog post]

Robin Nelson brought the class into a close circle and took questions from the students. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/100]

The reason I agreed to do this for no pay is more than just paying it forward. Yes other pros had helped me, but this is just creating competition.

If pros do not take the time to help students have a good foundation for entering the profession those students will damage the industry.

I have watched so many college students and people who just buy camera gear and are self taught help to destroy the industry before they must quit because they cannot make a living any more.

I want the new professionals to do things right so that the clients we all serve are excited to hire visual communicators over and over. So many come out and do such a bad job that those who hired them want nothing to do with visual communicators again. They just figure they can do the work themselves better than any pro.

Another problem is that these newbies don’t price their work to where over time they can pay all their bills for their business as well as pay all the bills for their household. They don’t know business practices.

Because they don’t charge realistic prices then those clients think that since they hire someone before for a certain rate that they can get professional work for that rate. Sadly there are another crop of newbies who also don’t know good business practices and slowly over time not only do the newbies leave the industry because they cannot pay their bills they erode the prices for those who were charging more of a livable wage.

I also know that over time I cannot always do jobs for my clients. There will be conflicts in scheduling. I would love to have other colleagues who are true professionals in all aspects of the industry that I can refer my clients to using.

If you are starting out the best place to meet other pros and get those tips like these students have in the classroom is through organizations like ASMP and NPPA. Join them for some of the reasons I have outlined here. There are many other reasons as well.

If you are a pro take the time to mentor young professionals and students. It will only help the industry as a whole.