How to Get your First Graduation Photography Job

There are a lot of photographers out there making some pretty nice money from graduation photography gigs. They're fairly simple and easy to set up, and there is always a guarantee of customers wanting a photo of their son or daughter receiving the diploma they worked so hard for. It's a milestone in a person's life, and your camera captures that exact moment. So, how do you book your first graduation photography job?

How Graduation Photography Jobs Work

Before you try to get your first graduation photography job, you need to understand how the system works. A school only "hires" one photographer for a graduation event. This photographer isn't really hired in the traditional sense. Instead, he pays the school a fee or makes a donation to it. He is then allowed to exclusively do his thing on graduation day, which is cover the graduation event, get the shots of the handing of the diplomas, and even set up a small studio to shoot portraits of the graduates. The photographer takes the photos and then sells the prints to people interested in buying them.

Step 1: Start Small

College graduations are the best graduation gigs to get. They're also the hardest to come by. People hold these graduations to be the most important, which means that they're most likely to buy photos. Because it can be so lucrative, it's also very competitive. You shouldn't consider trying to get these until you've built your graduation portfolio up, because your competition already has years of experience on you. 

The area you live in will ultimately determine what type of graduation you should try to get as your first photography job. High schools are the most ideal because those are also a big deal. The more important the graduation, the more photos you will sell. Getting a high school photography job as your first is possible depending on the size of the high school and the competition in your area. If you live in a small town where you're the only photographer, then the job is yours, but if you're in a big area, then the competition might be a little stiff.

Step 2: Build a Portfolio

Your portfolio is going to play a large role in what jobs you will get. If you don't have any graduation photos already, then it's going to be pretty hard getting those jobs. No one wants to take a shot in the dark with their job and possibly hire someone who will be a disaster. They feel much more comfortable hiring a professional who has done the job they want before. Having a portfolio is that proof of qualification.

Step 3: Shoot Graduations for Free

Because you need to have graduation photographs in your portfolio in order to get your first job, you should consider shooting small graduations for free. See what's in your area and contact organizations that are having graduations. Explain to them what you're doing and offer to give the photographs to them when you're done. They'll be happy to get professional photographs of their event, and you'll be happy because you're going to start building the portfolio that will get you great jobs in the future.