So, I have finally made it to the end of my University life! After 4 long years of studying in Yorkshire, my final deadline is now within reach and I will soon be able to move back to the Lake District and begin my career as a fully qualified photographer. In some ways it feels like only yesterday when I moved to Huddersfield as a fresher, getting the bus to uni nearly everyday, spending hours stressing over 1500 word essays (does that even count as an essay?) and struggling to imagine being a graduate someday. But now the time has come and I can’t even imagine not being a student anymore!
Everyone always told me that the last year of uni goes really fast, but I never really believed them. But how right they were! These last 8 months have flown by and when I look back to those first weeks of final year in September, I can see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve achieved since then.
Alongside researching and creating our final projects, we have also had a dissertation to write, and this blog to update. At first, the blog (making up part of our theory module) seemed like the easiest task in the world and I couldn’t see how it was really relevant, but as time has gone on I’ve realised the true importance of keeping up with blogging and using it as a platform for research and personal development.
The main aim of this blog was to not only share my experience of creating my FMP but to help me identify an area of photography to get involved with after university, and explore different options for work when my student life ends. I have significantly developed my wedding photography business by updating my logo, website, and business cards, listing myself on Google Maps, trying out new USB products and getting featured in a wedding magazine. I have also written up a wedding contract to make things more formal and professional when people book with me, and have learnt the importance of building a trusting relationship with couples before the big day arrives. I have made extra efforts to provide useful info on my website so potential clients have all the details they need before contacting me about booking, and I’ve also gone to extra lengths to meet couples where and when they need to in cases where they have queries or are a bit nervous about certain aspects of the day that they want to run through with me. Because of this, I have been able to build up great relationships with my past, present and future clients and gained some really lovely feedback and reviews on my website. Hopefully the word will continue to spread and it seems to be working, as I’ve already got more bookings this year than any other year so far! This has given me more confidence in myself that this business will continue to develop after university and I will hopefully become more well-known in the wedding photography industry within Cumbria.
Alongside developing my wedding photography, I have also been looking at trying to promote my landscape and wildlife work a bit more by entering competitions. I have entered Africa Geographic, Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Lakeland Photography Prize – I didn’t win any of these but my image got a special mention in the Lakeland Photography Prize which again has helped me gain a bit more confidence in myself. I found the experience of entering competitions quite challenging. It can be difficult to decide which images to submit – there’s usually a maximum number that you are allowed to send in, and if there are different categories it can often be tricky deciding where your images fit best. Doing this has taught me to really consider my images and be harsh with myself when choosing – if I like an image but it doesn’t fit with the competition theme then there is no point entering it and I should choose a stronger, more suitable image instead. I have found it’s always useful to look at other entries (if the competition allows this) or look at past winners and runners up to get an idea of what the organisation is looking for, and the standard of work they expect to see. This can be quite difficult and I’m really bad for comparing my work to others and putting myself down, but I really need to learn not to do this! If I’m not confident in the work that I’m entering then why should the judges be confident in picking it out as a winner? Whenever I enter a competition now, I have a look at other entries then pick work of my own that is unique and that I believe will stand out from the crowd. The main lesson I have learnt with competitions is that if you don’t enter, you’ll never know if you could have won or not so you might as well go for it!
Finally, on top of developing the practical side of things, I’ve used this blog to research extra qualifications I could gain on top of my degree to help me stand out when applying for jobs. I think the BIPP qualification will be a really good one to have under my belt and I plan to submit a wedding portfolio. I think that having a qualification from such a well recognised and respected company like the BIPP will give people a lot more confidence when booking with me in the future, so hopefully by gaining that qualification I will be helping myself out a lot in the long run. I have also looked into the Adobe Certified Associate qualification to become a recognised expert in Photoshop. This will look great on my CV and will let employers know that I can work to a professional standard using the software.
Overall, the Professional Practice module that is behind this blog has been incredibly useful for me in helping to set me up for life after uni, where there’s no safety net of going back to studying after the holidays are over. From now on, I’m on my own (not literally, I still have friends) but it’s down to me to set out and find where my work can fit into the photographic industry. Without this module it would have been quite easy for me to get so caught up in my FMP and dissertation that by the end of the year I’d be really unprepared for leaving uni! Writing this blog has encouraged me to look for opportunities to either develop my skills, get my work noticed, or earn some money from my photography, all of which I will now continue to do when I finally leave Huddersfield. I have also been a part of our 2 interim exhibitions this year and was in charge of a Kickstarter fundraising page for our final exhibition catalogue. This was a great experience and has opened my eyes to the work that goes into creating an exhibition, from finding a space, to printing the work, to advertising the show, and then the actual running of it! It has definitely made me think more about exhibiting my work after uni (maybe it’s time for my first ever solo exhibition?) and has shown me different ways of funding projects like this, and the support that is available.
Now that the end is in sight I can look back on my time at University with pride, knowing how much my skills have improved and helped set me up for life as a professional photographer…