How to Become a Photographer

Brooklyn, the New York borough that houses more than its fair share of gifted artists, also shelters noteworthy shutterbug Amy Lombard. After training at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and a gig with TIME Magazine, Ms. Lombard continues to craft challenging photos with her lens. Our interview with her will help developing artists and creatives get out of the darkroom and learn what it takes to be a photographer.

Can you recall the moment when you decided to commit to photography professionally?

From the moment I picked up a camera! From day one it was the only thing that made sense. The decision to create a career for myself in the photography world was an obvious choice.

Life as a photographer, indeed as any variety of artist, can be vexing at times. What are the unique hurdles someone faces with a photography career? In contrast, what are the advantages also unique to the profession?

Absolutely. It’s pretty safe to say not many people go into an art-related field hoping to make “the big bucks.” I mean, sure, that’s a plus for those who find success in this field. But artists go into this field because they are passionate about what they do. That said, I find that for people just starting out, my peers and self included, specifically with the internet more often than not, people expect to use your work or do things for free. Being put in this position is one of the biggest challenges in making a living for yourself working as a freelance photographer.

For our students’ benefit, could you outline a typical day-in-the-life as a top photographer?

I think that depends on how you define a top photographer. A top photographer to me is someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes photography — wakes up to emails from editors and travels all over the world making work. Here is the cold hard truth: It’s not always that glamorous. Some photographers who I look up to tremendously still have to work a 9-5 job in order to fund their personal work. A typical day for them would include working eight hours and then coming home and working some more on their photography.

Which classes in college (or high school) have proven the most relevant to your job today?

Any class that involved hours and hours of critiquing (though admittedly at the time felt long and painful) have proven to be the most important to where I am at today. Being able to talk freely and open about your work is a tremendous and important skill to have.

What personality traits could help, or hinder, someone from success in professional photography?

Confidence is key in anything you hope to pursue. If you don’t believe in yourself and your own work, why should collectors or editors?

What are the common misconceptions of photography (both as an art form and a career) that you’d like to dispel?

“Nobody shoots film anymore.” When people says this it makes me cringe. Kodak might not be doing so well, but people do still shoot film.

Some people believe that photography requires talent that cannot be taught. What is the value, or detriment, of pursuing a formal education in photography?

The thing [about] an education in photography is that people aren’t waiting till you graduate to hand you a job. Having a bachelor’s degree in photography isn’t some golden ticket. What it comes down to is this: you either have it or you don’t. That statement isn’t meant to undermine the importance of a formal education in photography. For me, it has been valuable beyond words. It helped me fully develop my vision and figure out what I wanted to say, and how I would express it. Whether you’re traveling the world or in a classroom, everyone learns in different ways.

Your Web presence immediately catches and maintains our attention. (Students: Visit her site, www.amylombard.com, asap!) How has social media played an impact on your career?

I am very grateful for social media. Without [it], people probably wouldn’t know my work at all. I should mention it’s also because of social media that I was able to fund my first book! (I recently successfully funded a Kickstarter project to produce a book of my work, “Happy Inside.”) In addition, the Internet has given me the chance to connect with photographers from all over the world that I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to talk to.