How to start a career in photography

How to start a career in photography
How  to start a career in photography
photo by Moricette Schlosser

Wondering how to start a career in photography? My name is Clément BERNARD-GUILLERMINET, I’m 20. I was born near Lyon, France, and studying photography next to Paris in a well-known school named «  Ecole Nationale Supérieure Louis-Lumière » where we can learn Sound Engineering, Cinema, and Photography. In the end, we get a Master Degree, (five years of studies after passing A-levels) but only make 3 years here, I’ll explain it later, Here is my journey as a photographer. 

If you want to be selected you have to take an exam with the following subjects : Sciences—Mathematics—Physics; An essay; technical analysis and aesthetic analysis of 5 images each. If you pass this first part you take the second part of the exam which consists of making 5 photographs about a theme, this year it was « resilience ». Then you have to make an oral presentation of it + your motivation for your future and in what way this school could be useful for you.

I was a bit stressed before this interview, but it was through Zoom so I was more confident! I prepared notes of my portfolio, my motivations, etc. But it was only the mains ideas, you must not read your notes because I swear that you can feel it 🙂 And last but not least, I had a good sleep and ate a big breakfast. During my summer job, I met Rute, a very respectful woman that said: « someone who do not eat well won’t work well » When teachers were asking questions I answer without lying. I thought that if I’m able to go to this school I don’t have to lie. Just be honest and if you pass this exam for this school it’s because they want you, not your lies.

I still don’t know why I entered in that school, I always has been a medium student, not bad but not excellent either. I guess that my profiles interested teachers. At the end of my master degree have have to make a Mémoires which is a big study about one subject in particular such as : aerial photography or VR.  It must contains at least 90.000 characters and a translation of 800 characters in English. The goal is to deal with a mission of conception, subject mastery and realisation in perspective with something precisely.

You can only join this school if you had at least 2 years of studies before. I learned photography from 2018 to 2020 and I have a BTS ( 2—years degree in France ) in photography. I was near Strasbourg. I was amazed, I learned and discovered so much! 

Photography is a scary job for sure but when you are determined it’s easier to learn and find 3 internships in companies. I had 2 of them in Fine-Art Reproduction which is a very interesting niche. And now I’m interested in having a career in the field of colors or optics. I have to do 2 internships while I’m at Louis Lumière and I’ll try yo have one of them at DxO mark, Leica or Schneider Kreuznach.

There is two importants things that I learned during 3 years of studying photography : 

  1. Everything is possible if you want to. It might sound cheesy but it’s true.
  2. Y aller au culot which means go for it. I have a classmate who apply for an internships at l’Elysée ( the place where the French President stays ) and have now a picture with Emmanuel Macron! 

What I’m trying to say is that if you don’t ask you’ll never know and will never have your job / internships, there is nothing wrong with trying to have a great career. But you have to fight for it, have your own contacts, you own réseau.

Have a good CV, résumé, do not lie, write down things that are relevant for the job that you are applying for!

In France, A-levels is called Baccalauréat. You basically have 3 options : sciences—mathematics—physics; social—economy; literature.

I took literature so I had no maths or sciences at all. But everyone knows that photography implies a lot of those. But I worked hard for it during my last 2-years of photography studies and even more for the exam that you have to pass to go to Louis-Lumière.

My university time was ( and till now ) very great, I made a lot of good friends, I could work with few of them later. One of them entered in the equivalent of my school but more artistic in Arles, France : Ecole Nationale supérieure de la photographie.

I discovered an awesome app called « sleep cycle » which analysis your sleep and wake you up in a range of 15, 30 min or 1 hour when your are not in a deep sleep. I’m not paid to say that but I was waking up so rested it really helped me with sleep issues.

Photography became a passion when I was taking the A-V option during high-school, I was making short movies with friends with cameras but I was always taking pictures. And I also was in a Photo-club with very kind and peaceful people, mostly grand-father and grand-mother ! It’s in this kind of club that you learn to talk about your work in front of people and receive critics too.

Photography is a fast industry. I keep myself updated with newsletters of Canon and Leica, Youtube videos, Twitter and Instagram account of the company I like, such as Ilford and Kodak. And also my teachers. You don’t have to pay to learn by yourself. I started learning photography in my room late at night while my classmates where partying each week-end. Listen, take notes and the most important things is to go out and take photo. You won’t learn if you are only reading article and taking classes. Make mistakes, discover new places and try things. There is one book that really helped me that a great teacher lent me Platitudes : Une histoire de la photographie plate by Eric De Chassey which is an essay about « flat photography ». But photography is about learning but mostly trying things.

I hope that my story will help students that do not dare applying to photography studies. Do not think that this job is unapproachable.

My name is Clément BERNARD-GUILLERMINET, I was born in 2000 near Lyon, France. I have a Diploma Advanced Technician in photography (BTS photographie in French). I’m currently attending l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure Louis-Lumière in Saint-Denis next to Paris

Also read How I started my post-production studio

How to start a career in photography

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