OPINION: A photojournalist’s guide to learning on the job, finding new work

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Olivia Bergmeier, multimedia editor for the Collegian, smiles for the camera. (Meg Shearer | Collegian Media Group)

Photography is more popular than ever thanks to social media, and over the past year and a half of learning on the job as a photojournalist for the Kansas State Collegian, here are a few tricks to help you pick up photography faster.

The number one thing I learned is don’t be afraid to copycat other photographers — their style, their equipment and so on. Having a different perspective on your subject is always helpful, and it can open your eyes to different angles and techniques you did not even think about.

To this day, when I see another photojournalist doing something that creates a fantastic image, I will copy their actions and the angles they are capturing. I later look at the image, and if it turned out well, I know to keep that angle in mind moving forward.

Another side to that is looking up your favorite photographers on social media platforms to see their style and attempt to replicate it. One of the photos I like to take is called the “Jim Richardson shot,” where I will go to the tallest place I can get to with the widest lens I have to capture a whole scene in one image.

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Stadiums are a popular subject for so-called "Jim Richardson shots." The K-State women's basketball team faced off against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs and lost 61-47 at Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 30, 2019. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

After a while of mimicking the photographers you enjoy the most, don’t be afraid to put your own spin on your images to capture something brand new.

The number two trick I learned is never be afraid to ask questions. This reaches back to my earlier point of mimicking other photographers; photojournalists love to talk and trade tips on how to use their gear better.

The most beneficial photographers for you to find are those that use your same equipment — Canon, Nikon, iPhones or what have you. I personally use Nikon equipment, so I try to find photographers who are fellow Nikon fans.

If they don’t use the same equipment as you, they still probably have enough understanding to answer your question, and will often offer an extra tidbit of knowledge for you to use.

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Collegian photographers Olivia Bergmeier (left) and Meg Shearer talk to each other at the Kansas State home football game on Sept. 1, 2018. (Emily Lenk | Collegian Media Group)

Tip number three is network, network, network! Networking and making connections is critical within the photojournalism community, or for anyone who wants to be a photographer.

One way networking assisted me with finding different opportunities was when I was invited by the organization Planet Forward from George Washington University to travel to California and write a story last fall about food loss on the production side of agriculture.

I now stay in touch with the organization and continue to write stories for their publication. Planet Forward has contacts with national publications, including National Geographic, Discovery, TerraCycle and NowThis.

Another way networking assisted me in my career was getting in contact with my hometown paper. When I go home over holidays, I have the ability to make an extra buck or two on newspaper photos.

The main point of these important tips is to emphasize that you shouldn’t be afraid to be outgoing and sociable. It can be taxing and hard to put yourself out there, but I can guarantee that the photojournalism community is more than open to new, budding photographers.

Be cautious, though! You may be stuck talking to good photographers for longer than anticipated; we love to talk.

Olivia Bergmeier is the multimedia editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in mass communications and conservation biology. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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