Thoughts on Graduation

Having gone to Ryerson’s photo grad show – Maximum Exposure – last week, I was reminded that it has only been a year since I graduated. The past year has been an amazing learning experience and has made me realize the main benefits of school weren’t the technical skills or all the history and theory. But rather the greater institution that creates an environment conducive to creating work. In retrospect, there are a few key parts of school that I wish I still had and try to recreate on my own.

Support Network

In school there is an ongoing discussion about the work people are creating. You share project ideas, help find places and people to photograph, and work out artist statements. This community and constant dialogue can quickly disappear when you don’t share classes and workspaces with others. Be sure to keep in touch with both students and teachers so that you have someone to motivate you and turn to for advice. We talked about how to build this network in an earlier post, but it’s much easier to just keep it going right out of school than to rebuild it later.


Hate them or love them, critiques are essential to developing your work. While they’re hard to replicate out of school, services such as portfolio reviews and seminars is one way of getting vital feedback. An even better way is to organize regular meet-ups with like-minded friends to talk about work in progress and get a fresh perspective on your project.


Most likely your school had some sort of free rental program for cameras, lighting, studio space, etc. Now you’re on your own and updating that portfolio just got a whole lot harder. Freelancing is a business, so expect to spend some start-up money acquiring key pieces of equipments – a good computer, camera, tablet, tripod, stands, the list is endless. You won’t need everything right away, but it’s important to have a basic professional kit so get the essentials and prioritize everything else. If your work is studio based, consider renting studio space with a group of photographers or negotiating studio use with an established photographer on their off days. Also, if you assists someone regularly, often they will let you use their equipment for your own work at no cost!


A blessing and a curse, without deadlines very few things actually get done. Whether they are self-imposed or made by others (perhaps an exhibition date), it’s important to get into the rhythm of setting and meeting deadlines. Because days turn to weeks and all of a sudden it’s been months since you’ve contacted any photo editors about work.

Figuring out the best way to work once out of school doesn’t happen overnight and is different for everyone. Take your time but consider what motivated you to complete work while in school. There is probably more to take away than is initially clear.