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Turn Your Photography Hobby Into A Career

Woman in beanie holding a camera
Kylie Armistead found her passion

Kylie Armistead knew she had an eye for a good image and she took beautiful pictures. But she also knew that in order to secure her dream job she would need to back up her natural talent with a strong grounding of skills and knowledge.

So she studied the Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging at Melbourne Polytechnic and is now continuing with the Diploma – while already working as a professional photographer.

Kylie picked up part-time work capturing real estate images for a photographic agency while still working through the subjects she needs to compete her qualification.

She juggles work, study and family duties and couldn’t be happier.

Hobby to profession 

‘I’ve only just taken up photography in the last five years, I did it initially as a hobby but I’ve been told I’ve got an eye for it and I’m good at it,’ Kylie says.

‘I found that once I went into it I realised that I didn’t know much about photography at all.

‘It’s not just about snapping a camera, there’s a lot to learn. Taking photos is one thing, it’s being able to talk the lingo of photography, to understand when you go in and they start talking about exposure and aperture and f-stops and things like that the average person pre going to school wouldn’t know.

‘It’s knowing the industry and understanding what’s required.

‘I’m now doing some work in real estate photography and I never would have been able to walk into it. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go in and I didn’t have enough understanding of what was required.’

Everything a photographer needs 

The courses run across the Fairfield and Prahran campuses and students have access to two very different workspaces and forms of equipment. At Prahran there is a new studio, computer lab and gallery space which simulates a professional photographers’ commercial studio, so students are able to work in a professional environment during class and within out of hours access.

Kylie says her passion started as a landscape photographer selling her own images as prints. She hopes to continue doing real estate photography, then later maybe move into architectural and commercial work for builders.

As Melbourne Polytechnic photography acting program leader Natalie Morawski says, the courses give students the opportunity to try out many different styles so they can find their niche in the industry.

Foundation in industry 

Foundation skills are built in the Certificate IV, then in the Diploma year they go into more specialised areas, such as building a business, meeting clients, family portraiture, pet photography, weddings, the commercial side, and studio classes where they look at developing a brief to a professional level, building mood boards and concept ideas, pitching the idea and presenting that in a body of work.

Natalie says: ‘The purpose of study for photography is to be able to develop the skill, it’s an art form, a technical art form, so understanding the camera, the studio, the process, how to work a studio space, safety, and understanding technique, especially in post-production.

Fundamentals are fine, process is important

‘There are so many important fundamentals in photography that sure, you can pick it up on the way, but understanding the right processes is really important.’

Students prepare a folio of 20 to 30 images then display them in a final exhibition that runs for a week at the Prahan campus in late November.

‘The course really helps them build an amazing folio, gives them really great language and the skill set to be able to go in and integrate into any roles comfortably,’ Natalie says.

‘It’s very hands on, it really gives them the opportunity to be able to showcase their best skills, not just in conceptual ideas but the practical application.’

Teachers often take calls from people wanting photography for a range of things such as events, weddings and new businesses, so they have set up a forum to match students with opportunities, then help them with how to pitch for the work, quote and invoice for the jobs.

Kylie appreciates the backing of her teachers: ‘The ongoing support is the main thing, having them in your corner all the time is fantastic.’