College Connect Fall 2018: Growing a Photo Business as a Student

By Keller Austin

Most students at the University of Georgia have a goal to graduate and get a job. But junior Luke D’Agostino is already working as a photographer.

The public relations major takes photos for upcoming graduates and local concerts, and recently was asked to take wedding engagement photos. D’Agostino gets most of his business from graduation photos because of his location in a college town, but said he enjoys the challenge of other types of shoots.

“It’s so novel that I’m really figuring out as I go, but I like that feeling of being in a position where if you don’t come up with something, a shot idea or a pose, your client is going to be unhappy,” said D’Agostino. “I like that pressure. I kind of thrive on it. In those situations, I’m definitely growing as I go.”

Growing as a photographer is not D’Agostino’s only goal. He wants to grow his business as well.

“I’m reaching the point now of maybe hiring a freelance assistant. Maybe having other people on the team. With grad photos alone, I could make several thousand dollars a year,” he said. “So, that could almost be a point where I have some sort of sustainable income. I think there will be a decision to be made after I graduate.”

While D’Agostino wants to take his photography business as far as it can go before his schooling is finished, he realized it will not come easily.

“I feel like if I really grinded for six months, I could make what I needed to pay rent and eat in Athens. I feel like that is not incredibly far off. If you’re willing to work hard and not live sexy for a little while, it’s feasible,” he said.

Mark Johnson, a photojournalism professor at UGA, applauded D’Agostino’s work ethic, and advised him to not only focus on being a photographer, but also to consider the steps needed to establish his business.

“One of the biggest challenges folks have when they decide they want to create a photography business is that they think of themselves as photographers, not as business owners,” Johnson said. “With any business, you have to put the numbers first. So, I hope Luke would sit down and calculate the cost of business.”

Johnson encouraged D’Agostino to get involved with the Terry College of Business and take classes in entrepreneurship that explain how to run a business.

“Because regardless of what happens with the photography business, that skill set is something that will translate into other endeavors,” he said.

For now, D’Agostino reinvests his profits into his business, always looking to improve his product.

“I have always had something in mind of what my next purchase should be because there’s always a tool that can help you do your job better,” D’Agostino said. “But you can’t be too caught up in that mindset because a classic photographer saying is ‘the best camera is the one in your hands.’”

Keller Austin is a journalism student at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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