Career Advice

Malcom Gladwell to aspiring journalists:

The issue is not writing. It's what you write about. One of my favorite columnists is Jonathan Weil, who writes for Bloomberg. He broke the Enron story, and he broke it because he's one of the very few mainstream journalists in America who really knows how to read a balance sheet. That means Jonathan Weil will always have a job, and will always be read, and will always have something interesting to say. He's unique. Most accountants don't write articles, and most journalists don't know anything about accounting. Aspiring journalists should stop going to journalism programs and go to some other kind of grad school. If I was studying today, I would go get a master's in statistics, and maybe do a bunch of accounting courses and then write from that perspective. I think that's the way to survive. The role of the generalist is diminishing. Journalism has to get smarter.

Gladwell's advice applies equally to photography. Forget film school.  Nature photographers are better served by graduate degrees in Genetics, Evolution, or Geology than anything from a generalized photography school. Know your subject, as they say.

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No, no. Obviously, today's photographers would be better doing statistics. Once you've done that, evolution and genetics are easy.

Good points. Lately, specializing has been on my mind as well. I currently have a scatter-gun approach to nature photography, and have been wondering if I should specialize somewhere in the macro area. Time for some serious pondering...

Well said, Alex. And quite true. Knowing the subject(s) you want to photograph is the only way you'll get the photos that count (dumb luck notwithstanding). You can know everything about cameras and lenses and still never photograph anything of interest--and all because you haven't a clue how to find and approach anything of interest.

This is why Mark Moffett is so successful with his nature photography, plus the fact that he's willing to hang from a tree limb 200 feet above the ground with only a bungee cord to support him.

By Dave General (not verified) on 23 Oct 2009 #permalink