How do you learn more about photography and how do you make a living at it?
They're the two most frequently asked questions when serious photographers want to turn their talent into income.
As with almost anything, you can teach yourself photography through voracious reading and expensive trial-and-error practice. That takes more time than schooling does, and if you really want to earn your living from something that until now has only been a hobby, go to school and learn.
More than 800 American schools above the grade-school level offer courses in photography.
In a survey conducted for Eastman Kodak Company, Dr. C. William Horell found that during the last years the number of students in these courses had increased by 94 percent. During that period the number of schools offering photo courses increased 21 percent and the number of schools expanding programs in photography increased 53 percent.
The most popular areas of study after basics are color photography and photojournalism.
The five leading states with schools offering photography courses are California, 76; New York, 54; Texas 49; Pennsylvania, 48, and Illinois, 37.
In addition to education, photographers become professional and commercial successes "the hard way" -- meaning long hours, patience and hard work.
An ability to get along with others is a key ingredient, but a curious mind, a desire to learn, a need to create and considerable personal drive are nearly as important. It's impossible to "fake your way through" any phase of professional photography because what you do is a personal creation. There are no "layers" of people to protect you from your inadequacies -- which appear on film for the world to see.
It's estimated that about one-tenth of the professional advertising photographers make $50,000 a year and more. Portrait photographers -- those who work in studios -- many earn that sort of money if they own the studio, but the work gets pretty dull. Some find that while they think they're their own boss, they really aren't because they must produce pictures wanted by the people who're paying the bill. b
That's true, of course, to a lesser degree with advertising and commercial and journalism photography, but in any photographic pursuit, talent and creativity can shine.
Photographers earn from $15,000 to more than $30,000 a year on magazines and staffs of the larger newspapers, and a handful of free-lance photographers working on a "day rate" or "contract" basis earn up to $100,000 a year.
Anyone interested in pursuing a photography career can write for Opportunities in Photography by Bervin Johnson and Fred Schmidt, published by UGM Career Horizons, 8259 Niles Center Rd., Skokie, Ill. 60076. This book costs about $5, lists all the photography schools and details the avenues to careers in specific fields.