SMC student photographers take shots at balancing school and business
By Katherine Waters
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2018 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
Freshman Kimberly Wynn plans to one day become an art therapist, with a little help from her psychology degree
and her experience working in photography.
“Photography has been a really good way for me to have an outlet,” says Wynn. “If I’m feeling sad or angry, I can go get my camera and take some self-portraits and there’s art in that. I’ll definitely recommend it to patients that like photography. I’ll try to tell people that if they can’t really understand their emotions to just go take some pictures and it really helps.”
Wynn’s love of photography, which she says started when she was around 6 years old, has morphed into her own business. Her first clients were some friends from her homeschool community who offered to pay her for photo shoots.
“A lot of my friends really liked to take pictures, so we would take pictures of each other, and then some of them said ‘I’ll pay you if you’d take pictures of my family,’” recalls Wynn, “and I thought ‘that’s actually a really good idea,’ so I started doing it and really loved it.”
Freshman Amanda Cannon, fine arts major, also fell in love with photography at a young age, but her business focuses on showcasing her perspective on the world.
“I was obsessed with National Geographic. I love to watch planet earth and things like that,” says Cannon. “I grew up with a Christian background, and I liked how photography can show people how I view the world.”
Census data show that 52% of college students work at least 27 weeks each year, but there is no data showing how many own their own businesses. A part-time student may have an easier time working while in school, even with a full-time job, but full-time students have to balance a busy course schedule on top of any working time.
Susannah Coleman, SMC freshman and future cinematography major, says that time management is by far the most difficult part of being a full-time student and part-time photographer and videographer. Her Spartanburg- based business, Hub City Visuals, keeps her running between classes and work assignments. When Coleman’s Spanish teacher told her she needed to spend more time outside of class working on the course, the straight-A student says she realized her business was taking too much time away from her studies.
“I had a miniature meltdown,” she says. “I knew I had to figure out time management. Students should manage their time well, but don’t let studies stop you from doing both, because you can.”
But even if schoolwork and photography can be balanced, owning a business is itself difficult for a young student. Planning and developing a business — including setting prices, finding clients, and marketing — is a burden all on its own.
Mentors and role models can serve a vital role to a business owner, especially a college student who may not yet have formal education in their field. Wynn attributes much of her knowledge to Michael Lamb, a professional photographer located in Spartanburg who has taught her everything from how to use a camera to tips on running her business.
“I took some classes with him, and he recommended that I charge more than $25 per shoot, because I was cheating myself,” she says. “So I looked at what other people charged. I definitely want to be a cheaper option because it would allow me to gain more customers.”
SMC’s Vice President for Professional Development and Design, Courtney Shelton, says that college allows for flexibility with time and money, and students have the least at stake in case their ideas fail or take some time to get started, making it the perfect environment for a student to start their own business.
“College students literally spend every day at an incubator full of experts in every field if they choose to see it that way and have the self-discipline to use their free time like an investment,” says Shelton.
According to a survey conducted by Citi and Seventeen Magazine, only 18 percent of students who hold jobs while in school use the money that they make to pay for their education. Wynn says that she has used photography money for school-related items, particularly books and gas to commute, but doesn’t limit her earnings to tuition.
“Sometimes I’ll use the money for eating out with friends or going to a movie, but I’m more of a saver than a spender. I do have business-related expenses such as flash drives, editing software, and camera equipment.”
Despite the challenges, Wynn wouldn’t discourage a student from starting their own business.
“I would say just go ahead and go for it,” she says. “A lot of people will say ‘I want to do this kind of business’ and then never end up doing it, so my best advice would be to run with it.”