In an image-heavy world, where photos grace everything from social media feeds to Times Square billboards, photographers are needed now more than ever. But it’s still a remarkably competitive career path, with hordes of visual storytellers vying for spots in media production, photojournalism, the arts, and other industries.
As such, an overseas internship can help you hone your photographic style, setting you on the right path for a career in professional image-making. Not to mention, being in another country will provide you with exciting opportunities to flesh out your portfolio. The intrigue of an unfamiliar terrain, its foreign landscape and local culture, will make for a compelling photo story and well-rounded experience.
Students of photography, who are often eager to see and capture fresh subject material, will thrive in an international internship program.
It’s not unusual for photography to crossover into the world of filmmaking. Media production internships will often combine these elements, allowing you to diversify your portfolio with both video and still content. As you explore how the two intersect, you’ll gain firsthand knowledge of the behind-the-scenes elements that go into producing a visual story.
Opportunities to work on documentary projects or at production houses are common for media internships. Over at Connect-123, photography students can be placed in programs like this on five continents. You may also be able to capture imagery and footage for news stations, overlapping a bit with the photojournalism industry.
If your endgame is capturing newsworthy photos for a paper or magazine, you’ve come to the correct subheading. An overseas internship in photojournalism can place you both in the field participating on photoshoots as well as in the office, learning how to reconcile the resulting images with the publication’s visual style.
Magazines like National Geographic, famous for their world-renowned photographers, offer internships to students of the discipline. However, you might have a tougher time getting the internship than you would a job -- Nat Geo only offers one spot per year! Luckily, there are many publications around the globe in need of enthusiastic photography interns to learn the craft of reporting through a lens.
Marketing & Creative Direction
Interning on a marketing and creative team will help you get a foot in the door of commercial photography. Images are key for defining a brand’s identity, and companies need strong photos with a consistent style for outgoing content, like ads and social media. These types of internships might have you assisting in-house producers with the image making part or working with the marketing department on using them.
Either way, the experience will shed light on what elements sell a photo. Global Experiences has photography internships that place an emphasis on fashion advertising, based in major hubs like New York City and Florence, Italy. If you’re hoping to break into a specific genre of commercial photography, opportunities like this will be invaluable to your career development.
Should you be pursuing a career in fine art, a photography internship abroad in a gallery or museum is a natural segway. You can learn about curating picture exhibitions or work directly with an experienced photographer, observing how they use their medium to create impactful material. The Intern Group has programs in various fields, including art and photography, placing students in galleries overseas.
Where to Go
As an aspiring photographer, you’ll learn as much at your internship as you will going out to explore your destination. It’s vital to pick a place that’s got the program you’re looking for as well as the local charm to inspire side projects. Maybe you’ll want to do a portrait series on local artisans or capture historical sites and structures. Environment will be key to nailing down your style and figuring out what kinds of stories you want to tell with your camera.
With gothic towers and narrow side streets, Europe is practically a work of art in itself, so it’s no wonder why so many students of the arts pursue overseas internships here. For photography interns, art galleries in countries like Spain and the United Kingdom could have you assisting with gallery functions. You’ll learn how to successfully run a gallery and might even have the chance to help select and sequence images for a show.
On the weekends, you can jet off to explore other regions of this continent, camera in hand. Whether you’re looking to capture iconic sites or off-the-beaten-path towns, the smooth nature of European travel or unexpected moments of spontaneous decisions will provide you plenty of subject matter to explore.
Africa is a stunning destination for documentary photographers with an interest in local culture. In Tanzania, Projects Abroad has a unique program combining film production and journalism, allowing interns to gain experience shooting motion photography for news media distribution, all while working closely with the surrounding community. Connect-123’s ties in South Africa provide further opportunities for interns to work in film or even marketing.
In your free time, grab your camera and head to a wildlife reserve. From predatory mammals like cheetahs and lions to cool critters like giraffes and elephants, Africa has some of the most cherished fauna in the world, making it the ideal place to perfect your wildlife photography skills. Be sure to pack a telephoto lens though, because you won’t be getting up close with any of them (hopefully).
Travel overseas to Central America, where you can combine film, photography, and journalism at an internship with Experience Mamoní in Panama. You’ll capture the local community and natural surroundings and help create media materials and documentaries. For more photojournalism focused internships, programs in the United States can place you in positions at trade or consumer magazines.
In tropical destinations like Central America, you won’t have to travel far in your spare time to find further photo inspiration. The local scenery is sure to amaze, and you will have plenty of opportunities to add to your portfolio. The United States will also have you beefing up your documentary photography gallery with images of quintessential American sites.
Planning Your Trip
How to Choose a Photography Intern Program
There’s plenty to think about when choosing a photography internship abroad, from program type to destination to length and duration. Naturally, your area of study will probably line up with a career in visual storytelling. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be a photography major -- students of film and art can also land photography internships abroad.
Additionally, as programs are available year-round, your current student status will make a difference. Some internships are designed for undergraduates, while others accept post-grads or graduates. If you are a current student, you might even be able to do an internship for credit while participating in a semester abroad program. Or, you can always return to classes in the fall with incredible stories from your summer internship overseas.
Health & Safety
In general, photography internships are pretty safe programs to undertake. Other than regular precautions to take on a photo shoot, like securely setting up c-stands and various equipment, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about in regards to industry safety. As for location, be mindful of your destination when considering health. Photo shoots can send you outdoors, so make sure you have appropriate gear for the local climate and are up-to-date on vaccinations.
Other Need to Know
As always, being respectful of people and cultures is a must for interns overseas. For photography students, that means you have to sense the appropriate time to take the shot. Whether you’re in a rural community or a big city, a DSLR rarely goes unnoticed, and what’s deemed newsworthy or artsy to you is part of someone else’s life. Aim to get an in-depth understanding of what you’re capturing and how you can do it without being too intrusive.
Photography is a competitive choice of career, and an internship overseas is the key to setting yourself apart from other image makers. Living internationally will demonstrate a sense of wonder and adventure, characteristics that make for great photographers. Ultimately, the right program can be illuminating in figuring out what kind of photographer you want to be, and how you’ll fit into a global professional world.