Focus on the Photography Industry

By: Amanda Ray Filed under: Film & Production

November 6, 2012

camera overlay

The Afghan girl with the clear blue-green eyes. Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. The firefighter carrying an injured baby after the bombing in Oklahoma City. Three examples of famous photographs — images for the ages that helped define important events, people, and places in history. In the extremely competitive photography industry, photographers continuously vie for that perfect shot, the one that will be remembered forever.

“Good enough is just not really good enough,” says Jim DiVitale, who owns his own photography company and graduated from The Art Institute of Atlanta’s photography program in 1978. “Competition is very high at the top of the ladder. You have to treat it like the last client you’ll ever have on every job you ever do.”

One of the measures of a great photograph is winning the Pulitzer Prize, named for Joseph Pulitzer, a journalist who was the first person to advocate for journalism training on the university level.

Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, says that winning photographs must have more than just technical prowess.

“Above all, they must capture what great photographers call ‘defining moments’ — which can range from the tragic to the tender,” he says.

Good photographs should also illicit feelings in the viewer, according to Nicole Jacobs, a photography instructor at The Art Institute of Atlanta.

“The best qualities of a successful photograph are lighting which evokes mood, subject that is interesting, and the way you captured it with the composition,” she adds.

The personality of the photographer can also play a part in taking great pictures. Hester Esquenazi is a photographer and 2003 graduate of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. She says passion for the medium and a commitment to excellence are important qualities for great photography work.

The photographer’s role continues after capturing a shot if they choose to use digital image manipulation. While digitally altering a photo is not permitted for the Pulitzer competition, it is still a wildly popular tool in the photography industry. It’s also an important one, according to professionals.

“It goes hand in hand with our photography,” explains DiVitale, who graduated from The Art Institute of Atlanta. ”It’s a very big part of the industry that we didn’t have before.”

Esquenazi agrees, saying that digital manipulation is essential.

“It is the legitimate opportunity for the photographer to say exactly what he means and to demonstrate absolute control,” she adds.

In addition to the Pulitzer, there are other photography competitions, including ones specific to photography students. The Art Institutes sponsors a scholarship competition for budding photography students called Storytellers. Prospective students were asked to submit eight photos based on the theme “Storytelling Through the Lens.” Grand prize winners will each earn a tuition scholarship to a participating Art Institutes school.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for students who are already using photography to express themselves, to be involved with this competition,” says Jacobs, the photography instructor in Atlanta.

Preparing for a career as a photographer requires enthusiasm and dedication, Jacobs adds.

“You must live and breathe photography,” she says. “Being a photographer is a demanding job in which you need to be a businessperson, a perfect craftsman, and a creative photographer.”

Finding success can begin with an education, DiVitale says. He credits his education with helping him to get in the door, and suggests photography students get involved with trade associations.

“You learn from each other,” he adds. “We get better from watching other photographers work.”

Does the adage a picture says a thousand words still hold true? Do photographs convey a story better than words?

“Photographs are infinitely more eloquent than words,” Esquenazi says, “because they convey an immediate emotional response.”

For Gissler, the Pulitzer Prize official, one such photograph is a picture by Nat Fein of an ailing Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium. Ruth was receiving a standing ovation and the photographer took the picture from behind, showing the number three on his shirt, the number that was being retired.

“Other photographers were in front of Ruth,” he points out. “They probably got an okay picture. Fein got one for the ages.”

Learn more about our programs.

Get Brochure