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What it’s really like to be a photographer


Photo os a crowd by Andrew Laird.
ECU offers students a four-week international photojournalism workshop. Credit: Andrew Laird.

Digital cameras and smartphones may have lowered the barrier for entry into photography, but there is still strong demand for professionals who can make great images.

The growth of digital photography

The shift in the way we take photos and how we use them has been both diverse and dramatic. Traditional roles such as a newspaper photographer may be disappearing, but new opportunities are emerging.

Duncan Barnes, a professional photographer and the Course Coordinator of ECU’s Bachelor of Contemporary Arts Photomedia major says would-be photographers need to embrace new techniques to match changing trends.

“More traditional photography such as portraiture is less popular, but what we’re seeing is a wealth of other openings. Look at Instagram, and its success,” he says.

“New websites are coming online every day. Every new start-up business needs photographs and people are carving out their own niche photography.”

Why learn photography at university?

In ECU’s Photomedia major, students learn about all aspects of photography including lighting and studio work, creating images for social media and documentary visuals.

“We look at where photography has gone and where it’s headed. We have a darkroom so they’re taught traditional techniques, but there’s heavy emphasis on the digital sphere too,” Mr Barnes says.

“Most people can learn how to use a camera fairly quickly, so we’re looking at contemporary photography where you need a critical eye to make a photograph creative and engaging.”

A mix of students

The course has a real mix of students from all backgrounds and all ages. Some have a love of art and an interest in photography and see it as a creative outlet rather than conventional vocational training.

“One of our past students Graham Miller was a vet. During the day he was busy with veterinary work and he wanted to learn photography skills to help him relax and unwind,” Mr Barnes says.

“Now his photography is in demand. He has published work in art galleries, and lectures part time at ECU, and to think it only started out as a hobby.”

Who’s best suited to this career?

Like any other profession, there are many specialisations within the field of photography, including architecture, corporate and close-up photography.

“If you want to be a photographer you have to have a passion because it’s not a particularly stable industry,” Mr Barnes says.

“You have to love it, live it and breathe it and be prepared to be forward thinking and set up on your own.

“You need to have a critical eye and great vision.”

Creating your own pathway

Many of ECU’s past graduates are leveraging off social media. Former student Caleb Davenport is one such student.

“Caleb spent a lot of time in the US. He travels a lot and takes some great images while on his adventures,” Mr Barnes says.

“His Instagram account featured his lifestyle photography and his work is now in the public domain. He’s even received sponsorship from a beer company.”

Susie Blatchford with her exhibited work.
Susie Blatchford with her exhibited work.

A snapshot of life studying photomedia at ECU

The Photomedia major is offered at ECU’s Mount Lawley Campus within the new $5 million arts hub, which brings together design, visual art, fashion, broadcasting, animation, photography and film in the one area.

The course has a higher than average percentage of mature students – some are even in their seventies – proving that age is no barrier when it comes to making great images.

Final year photography students have the opportunity to participate in an international photography program. Graduate Susie Blatchford says it was one of the highlights of her studies.

“I was working in design and marketing for eight years, but it wasn’t for me. I joined this course and the lecturers became really invested in me, they’ve really helped me to grow my skills.”

“I took part in the Photojournalism and Documentary and Photography program in China which was a unique opportunity and it demonstrated that through photography I can make a difference in the world.”

Want to learn more?

For more information about studying photography at ECU, check out the Bachelor of Contemporary Arts Photomedia major course page.

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