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I've spotted a job vacancy for a photographic assistant at a large online retailer - so basically, product photography in a studio. I have all but one of the 'desirables' on the listing, namely photographic studio experience.

I've been taking photographs for ten years, mainly landscapes, but I have some experience in just about every genre going. I currently work as a kind of marketing/web dev/general office drone: I have 12 years experience in 'business', and I am a quick study. So basically, what I'm trying to say is I know photography, I have a lot of general work experience, and I'm not an idiot, so I know I can almost certainly do the job.

My question is, how can I convey that in my application/resume/cover letter; basically, that my professional experience is broad but not strictly relevant to photography, and that my photographic experience is likewise broad but non-professional. How can I 'spin' it to give me the best chance of getting an interview? Or am I just kidding myself?

The position isn't brilliantly well paid - in fact I would be taking a pay cut, slightly offset by reduced travel costs. So I get the impression that it is very much an entry-level position. However, since there is no chance of progression at my current job because reasons, I figure it's better being at the bottom of a ladder I want to climb rather than halfway up one that leads nowhere.

Thanks in advance.

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    Do you have a photography portfolio you could demonstrate in an interview – Brandin Sep 17 '15 at 12:51
  • @Brandin Yes, but it is mainly landscape photography, ie not really relevant other than as a demonstration that I know photography. The fact that it's an assistant position also makes me wary about crowing too much about the creative side of things. I probably wouldn't be taking photos myself, I would be processing photos the lead photographer took, and setting up the actual products for shooting. – ElendilTheTall Sep 17 '15 at 13:07
  • @ElendilTheTall, You need to take some portraits and put them in a portfolio along with photos of the lighting set-up. You want to show that you have knowledge of how to set up the lighting for portraits not just take pictures. Portrait photography is very different from landscape photography. If you are on Facebook, there is a group called Strobist which will help you learn this sort of thing and has examples of what I am talking about concerning the lighting set up photos. – HLGEM Sep 17 '15 at 14:55
  • @HLGEM it's not a portrait studio, it's products. I will not be the photographer, I will be the guy processing the photos ready to go online. – ElendilTheTall Sep 17 '15 at 15:20
  • Then do some product photos and show the set up for those. What you are trying to prove with the portfoliio isn't that you can take a decent picture but that you already know how to set up the lighting – HLGEM Sep 17 '15 at 15:31
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To get past the cover-letter/résumé phase, I think the best advice is to not only tell but to show. Especially SHOW. Everyone wants work experience these days--whether it's actually realistic or not--so in lieu of that I think it would be great to create a simple webpage that the potential employer can view that will demonstrate your abilities. I've done the same thing with my coding side-interest. Code is one thing, but with your profession being so visual, this is critical. You should put the link to your webpage at the top of your résumé and mentioned in your cover letter.

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I think you should just make the case, as you've done here, and hope for the best. Just demonstrate that you have photography skills, and that you have business skills, and you're really passionate about becoming a photographer full-time.

Working in a studio, you'll likely need to show that you are able to manage time effectively, because studios bill by the hour. It's also possible that you might not qualify for more than an internship, since you'll be learning basics. Maybe just state that you're eager and enthusiastic, and willing to keep your options open.

The one thing you'll have to prove is that you want to stay working in a photography studio and not go back to "marketing/web dev/general office drone" jobs. It should be clear that you're passionate about making photography your profession and you're not just doing this just on a whim.

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When applying for a job in the arts, you need to demonstrate that you have talent. If you were an actor or a musician, you would perform at auditions. For the visual arts, you need a portfolio. You need to show that you have a good eye, and that you understand the "rules" and the technical aspects of photography.

In your situation, skill is less important than talent. The most important thing is to show you know your way around a camera, and you have a good eye for content. That's the hard part of being a good photographer. If they like that, they will train you how to do studio work.

The simplest thing for you is to set up a website with your work, and provide a URL, both in your cover letter, and on your resume. Protect your work with watermarks and copyrights. It's not only a wise thing to do, but also an extra professional touch.

Plenty of artists have other jobs, and no one really cares what they are. Anyone looking to hire you as a photographer won't really care if you are currently a waiter or an office drone.

  • I absolutely agree with you. However, this job is photography assistant. I probably won't touch the camera. And the subject will be products - accuracy will be more important than creative flair. I believe the main responsibility will be setting up the products and processing them efficiently ready to go on the website. – ElendilTheTall Sep 17 '15 at 16:00
  • Today you are the assistant. Tomorrow you are the photographer. The first step is to get in the door, and that is a lot more likely to happen if you demonstrate an aptitude and passion for the field. Who are they more likely to hire, someone who is a good photographer, or someone who just wants a job? They will want someone who can get up to speed quickly. You are guaranteed to spend some amount of time doing menial work, because you don't have studio experience. Your training will be on the job. But the day will come when you will be promoted or you will strike out on your own. – Mohair Sep 17 '15 at 16:07
  • A good point well made. – ElendilTheTall Sep 17 '15 at 16:56

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