More often than not, I have conversations with people who live in small towns who want to live their dreams but don’t think they can because of their location. One profession always seems to be at the top of the list though -- photography. Here’s a dozen different ideas to start living the dream today!
- Connect with local photographers. Almost every town has a photo studio or a person who everyone knows is a photographer. Seek out these individuals for an internship/part-time job or just to pick their brain. Even if you’re not interested in working for that person, it’s always beneficial to let them know of your interest...which leads to #2 in the list.
- Network, network, network. Try finding freelance photography artists to collaborate with. Work hard at these relationships as they will lead to great assignments and jobs down the road. And when talking with your network fellows, do your best to be a giver, not always a taker. Learn how to write good comments on blogs, be willing to help out on a project, and connect them with others when appropriate.
- Carry your camera everywhere. This is one of the greatest tips of all time for developing your craft. If you Google “carry your camera everywhere”, you’ll find a bunch of great essays giving you ample reason to do this. Also, I had the privilege of being photographed by Reader’s Digest for an upcoming issue and the photographer told me he did this and helped him see the world differently. I have a hunch it will do the same for you.
- Volunteer your talent with a charity. I spent 2010 traveling through the 48 contiguous United States doing volunteer/service work and learned a ton about volunteer organizations. One of the many things I learned was the severe need for photographers to give of their talents to charities. Figure out what cause you’re passionate about and then go do some good with your camera.
- Take advantage of online education. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take a class or two, or go to college for an art degree, but don’t limit yourself to the traditional means of learning. I have two handfuls of friends who started their own studios without ever setting foot in classroom, they simply were self taught. Surround yourself with successful artists online...there are plenty of them to attach yourself to. iTunes U, TEDtalks, Smashing Magazine, Pixiq, PhotoTuts Plus, eHow, and Digital Photography School are all great places to start.
- Set up a Flickr account. Actually, you can use whatever online photo sharing site you feel most comfortable with, just make sure you set one up. Flickr happens to be the largest one on the web, which gives it some advantages over the others: sharing options, copyright settings, and implementation into other websites. (Click here for A Newbie's Guide to Flickr.)
- Submit everywhere. You might not get paid for your work now, but you might down the road. The old adage of “you miss 100% of the shots never taken” couldn’t be more true. Submission quick list: yearbook, newspapers, magazines, websites, tv stations, contests, fairs, chamber of commerce, businesses/organizations, etc. All of these forementioned places are constantly looking for good pics, and coming from a small town, you might have the niche they want.
- Host an exhibit. If you’ve got enough--great--otherwise pool together some of the local talent. Check with your local library/museum to see if they’d be willing to let you set up shop for a month. Even if it’s not exclusively yours, getting exhibit experience is worth the effort of having a couple of pieces up. You can also consider setting up a smaller exhibit at farmer’s markets or festivals for a very small price.
- Partner with local businesses. Head downtown and introduce yourself to a few businesses with storefront windows and ask them if they’d be interested in having your work be featured in their workspace. Dental offices, hospitals, and coffee shops are a great places to check with if they want to display local art.
- Become the expert. I’ve always been told that anyone can become an expert if they read three books on the subject...and have a feeling their is a lot of truth to that. Once you know even the basics, go out and teach that to others. Great outlets in your area include community education courses and after school programs. Considering being a photo mentor or coach to someone younger or just starting out.
- Create a press pass. The need for photo journalists in your community is probably great. Why not tell the stories of your town by using pictures? Check out this TEDtalk with David Griffin (photo director at National Geographic) about how photography connects us, if you need the inspiration.
- Don’t forget fun. Do what makes you happy and be sure to share it with others. If you love taking pictures, spend as much of your energy as possible taking pictures...but don’t ever lose the fun element. If you’re enjoying it, not much else matters.
Care to add a suggestion? Do so below. Also, I’ve put a couple of helpful links below to motivate you even more to go after your photography dreams...even if you’re in a small town.