From education to employment

Photography Students take the Paparazzi Challenge

Nescot’s brightest photography students were tested to the limit when the Nikon/Calumet Roadshow came to the college on Thursday March 5th. Alongside experts from the photographic equipment firms, David Robbins of Nikon and Calumet’s James Zierold, the day was hosted by top editorial snapper Tom Miles, whose glossy magazine covershoots, for the likes of Maxim and Mens Health, command a hefty fee.

Miles, who began his career with a course at his local college, shared insider secrets and vividly described the glamorous, frustrating, exciting and exhausting reality of life as a magazine photographer. He then went on to issue the students with a selection of briefs, based on real life demands of editorial picture editors.

Electrified by the prospect of a detailed critique from the great man, the students were sent out with just three hours to find, frame, capture, select and edit images to fulfil their chosen brief. The resulting work would be judged against editorial criteria to meet three standards: delighted picture editor will now use you regularly; editor is relieved to have adequate images and will call when desperate; editor is appalled and has to buy stock shots from an image library.

With the three o’clock deadline approaching, students were given a real taste of the discipline, drive and focus needed to turn their talent into a profession. Tension ratcheted up to breaking point as, sombre faced, the professionals thanked the learners for their submissions and asked them to leave the room for the judging to take place.

Robbins explained that the roadshow, which is only open to colleges with Nikon Academy status, originally consisted of just eight challenges, but that demand and standards have been so high it has been extended to 13.

"This has been so popular that colleges are beginning to incorporate similar challenges into their curriculum. It’s designed to give bring a real sense of commercial awareness to their work and is very different to the usual style of teaching," he said.

Miles, whose colourful demonstration of commercial demands and techniques brought such energy to the challenge, clearly enjoys the interaction with learners and the chance to bring them into his world. "It’s refreshing to meet these people, they’re engaged and enthusiastic and some of the work they’ve produced today has been stunning, among the best I’ve seen in any group so far," he said.

All three experts had been delighted with the quality of work submitted. ‘It’s never the ones you expect to do well when you first come in," said Zierold. "There have been times where a first year student just blows away the field."

Exhausted and exhilarated, students left the event with a new understanding of commercial photography. Harry Kellermann, 22, found the exercise had stretched him, despite already having had some sector experience, "It’s been extremely interesting and I liked the way the day was structured. Tom’s talk made you want to go out and try things, then came the challenge which was harder than I thought. The restrictions imposed by the brief and the timescale force you to be creative to make up for what you lose in quality. You need to know how to use the technology and what is available to have the edge." he said.

While the structure, challenge and drama of the day clearly lend themselves to competition, the experts pointed out that this was not yet a shoot to kill tournament.

"We’d all love to turn it into something more formal but we have busy jobs and, as things stand, we don’t have the time or resources," said Robbins. "All the entries do however go into a draw at the end of the year for photographic equipment from both Nikon and Calumet and, at the moment, we try and encourage a collaborative atmosphere in the groups," he added.



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