Joyful, fine art wedding photography for real couples. Serving Chicago, Washington DC and beyond.
Based in South Bend, Indiana. Available for travel.

Photography Internships – How to stand out from the crowd

Over the past few months, I’ve been getting more and more people asking if they could intern with my studio. They want to learn more about photography and figure that an internship with a successful studio is the way to do it. This is 100% true… real experience with a professional photographer far outweighs any book learning on the subject. Now that I think about it, I bet this is true for a lot of professions, not just photography. Always, as I was saying…

Working side by side with a professional gives you real world experience and often time and money saving tips to succeed even faster than your predecessors. It’s how I got started. I worked along side several photographers, one in particular, who drilled me on the importance of light. After all, photography is the study of light.

That being said, the people that reach out to me aren’t prepared for the questions and duties associated with such a responsibility. For that reason I thought I’d write this helpful post for anyone looking to intern with a photography studio. Be able to answer these 6 questions and you’ll be fully prepared and successful in your quest.

WHO – Very critical question! You MUST do your homework on the studio that you are contacting. I always ask why the person contacted me and so often the response I get back is either “I was just calling all the studios in the area.” or “Your work is cool.”. Neither of which will get you a coveted spot on my team or any other studio’s team. You’ll want to know who the lead photographer is, what’s their style, what types of photography do they do and does that match up with yours, etc… I’m not saying you can only contact one studio but you absolutely need to do your research on every single studio you contact. If you’re not willing to invest time into them, why would they invest their time into you?

WHAT – Once you’ve become an intern, what will do you with the opportunity? Will you go on to become a professional too, maybe own your business, work for a magazine, or perhaps just take great pictures of your adorable kids? Whatever the reason, you’ll need to know it because how can you fully commit yourself to something without knowing the end goal?

WHERE – Is the studio you’re calling local or worldwide? Travel is a huge part of what I do and some people are turned off by that. Due to busy schedules and life in general, some people prefer to have the studio they’re interning with be local to their area. Travel, no matter how awesome the destination, takes up a lot of additional time that the intern may not be prepared for or want to do. On the other hand, the constant travel maybe exactly what you’re looking for so make sure to do your homework and contact the right studios for you.

WHEN  How soon do you want this internship to start? Are you flexible on your start date or is the internship part of a college course and you need to start asap in order to finish in time? Often studios will only take on interns during a certain time of the year, most likely in their slower season. So do the research and find out who’s hiring and when. That way if your favorite studio only offers internships in the spring, you can plan your classes around that so you’re not out of luck time wise. Also consider how long you’d like to intern for. Just a semester, one wedding season or until the internship turns into a paying gig? Being prepared for this question will let the person you’re calling know if you’re a good fit for their future plans.

WHY – Probably the most obvious of all the questions is the why. Why are you seeking this internship? Did you take a photography course in high school and now can’t put your camera down? Are you looking for a fun hobby and love to travel? Or are you that person who was always asked to take pictures of their friends and family and suddenly realized that this might be your true profession (me)? Whatever your why, know it and believe it like the back of your hand.

Have you ever heard of the ‘elevator pitch’? It refers to the 30 second sales pitch all businesses should have about themselves in order to impress a perceptive client in the shortest time possible… like if you were on an elevator with them and you only had between floors 1 and 8 to sell them on your awesome new start up idea. Preparing your own elevator pitch is a terrific way to impress the person on the phone who most likely doesn’t have all day to hear your life’s story. Not that your story isn’t awesome, because it is, but a successful studio is a busy studio and that means they won’t have 20+ minutes to spare on the phone with you. Keep this in mind for emails too. Studios, myself included, get hundreds of emails a week so get right to the point with your why so that you stand out from the sea of other applicants.

HOW – Last but not least, the how. How are you going to make this internship a reality? Will you work harder than anyone has before? Will you be okay doing the grunt work in the beginning to show the photographer that you mean business? Or will you send the studio an email once a week until they finally agree to give you an interview because they admire your persistence. Whatever your how is, be prepared to show that you will do whatever it takes to learn from a true professional.

Did I scare you… no? Good! Now that you’re ready to get the internship at your favorite studio, send that email or make that call! I promise you that if you’re prepared with these 6 questions, you’ll blow your competition away. You would 100% get an interview with me and I’m sure any other studio in your area.

Good luck – S

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