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I want to be a photographer for a magazine or newspaper, would it be a good idea to persue a communications degree?

commuications degree or art degree?

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Charles’s Answer

If you look industry wide the print industry has really taken a hit to other forms of electronic communications. Photographers have become a dying breed. Those working at papers have had to become multi media experts. Editing video for an increasingly web based platform. To cut corners they are handling reporters iPhones. So not saying to study photography, I would major in video, web design, graphic arts on top of journalism and keep photography as a minor. As chances are you will end up writing. The photography gigs are put there but its a very competitive market, so you better develop your eye to be really good. A lot of photographers end up being freelance.

Many photographers do not have degrees. Some intern and assist other photographers. Develop a portfolio, freelance and develop their own agency clients

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Ellen’s Answer

Hi John:

Good advice already! Having a broad based knowledge of the field would be an advantage. Is there any chance that you could double major, or have a major in communications and a minor in photography? Or a major in photography and a minor in communications. Be aware that there is lots of competition for photography jobs, so having a communications major or minor could make you a little more versatile.

Is there someone at your school who you could talk to about this choice? Probably your English teacher , or whoever is the sponsor for the yearbook and school newspaper at your school, would be a good start; he or she might be able to give you some insights. Also, I hope you are active in any yearbook or school newspaper clubs; a great way for you to get some valuable experience for your future profession.

Best wishes.

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Barry’s Answer

Hi, John!

Thanks for the inquiry. It’s a very good question. The best way I can answer it is to say that in my 26 years at ESPN, I have seen our jobs evolve to where we have our hands in more disciplines than I ever thought possible when I graduated (back in the Stone Age).

Now, we’re being encouraged to edit our own stuff - for air, not just in rough form - rather than work with editors. That requires knowing how to edit, a skill I’m gradually acquiring but did not learn in school.

With the price of a serviceable camera coming down - a Canon 5D or 7D... heck, even an iPhone! - we producers now are asked to shoot some of our own stuff, also. Again, not a skill I learned in school and one I can hack away doing, but by no means am I a master.

For you, John, I think that either a communication minor or a dual major would certainly help. Understanding how photography fits in the larger scheme of communication seems nowadays to be a necessity.

Everyone takes pictures on phones and Instagram pages, but few really stand out. Everyone writes on blogs, social media, etc. Little stands out, and without that communications background, you’re more likely to get yourself in trouble - legally, ethically, etc.

Cast the widest umbrella you can now, while your academic educational story is being written. When you become an old fart like me (47), you’ll likely have other obligations (time, financial) that will prevent you from getting that degree you’ll wish you had.

Hope this helps! Good luck to you! Stay in touch.


Barry Abrams

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Marilyn’s Answer

I would say yes. This is a good choice as you need a broad education in many mass media areas. Look at the schools that have strong programs in this area, and remember that it is always less expensive if you attend locally or at least in your residing state. Also, you might look for internship programs during the summers with public relations firms, magazines or newspapers to give you experience and to help in your later job search. Best of luck!

Marilyn Balke-Lowry

College Guidance Consultants

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David’s Answer

Hi John,

I believe a communications degree is a good idea. Since you have indicated an interest in shooting for newspapers or magazines, you are going to want a strong understanding of still photography and video production as well. I agree with one of the other answers that pointed out that newspapers and magazines have taken a hit over the past decade or so. However, there is still opportunities for talented shooters to make a living. Keep in mind, you will be hired because your clients believe you can produce the images they require to illustrate the story you are working on. Your degree shows a good education and can provide you with an income as you become established as a photographer. But, your portfolio of stills, and or video clips, is what will get you work. And, you're only as good as your last assignment. Good luck!