How to Find Amazing Interns

How to Find Amazing Interns

Intro by Skip Cohen
Bring together the pandemic with business, social media, technology, how we communicate and share images, and EVERYTHING has changed. While your reach today is incredible and could be compared to what a small newspaper had just a decade ago, so many of you are still doing things the same old way. The results are often disappointing and so limited.

For example, you need to be active in social media. I believe you need both a website and a blog. Your website is about what you sell, and your blog is about what you share from your heart. And if you hate to write, for years I’ve been suggesting a visit to the local high school to find an “A” student in English who loves to write.

In this transcript from Sarah Petty’s podcast, Episode 41 was about finding good interns. She’s taken it a lot farther than just my idea to find a kid who loves to write. And while this post is a little longer than our usual to share, it’s jam-packed with solid ideas for you to think about.

Your time needs to be spent capturing and creating stunning images, along with marketing yourself and building your brand in the community. But most of you could use some help because you can’t do it all.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Old African Proverb


By Sarah Petty

One decision that has helped my business grow immensely is hiring interns. I’ve always loved mentoring teenagers, and two of my first ever interns, Andria and Erin now help run my two companies.

I’ve had a few different photography interns over the years. Some have been amazing, and some have shown me qualities that I’m not looking for in a long-term employee.

Today I’m sharing what makes a good intern, how to find interns for your photography business, and what interns are looking for before they say yes to working with you.

Meet My Interns!

I currently have two interns, Marley and Samantha.

Marley is finishing up her last semester at St. Louis University as a neuroscience major. This fall she’s moving to California for chiropractic school. I met Marley when she was a student in a program called CEO, which stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. It is a class where high school seniors start their own businesses.

I remember seeing her passion for Instagram and saying to her,

“We could use some help with social media, do you have any interest in that?”

She started with a few projects here and there and is now pretty much full time on my payroll when she’s not at school.

Marley has been with us for a few years through college and Sammy was a freshman in high school when we met her.

Sammy is currently a junior in high school who loves to make videos and has her own Youtube channel. I happened upon her Instagram and I saw the crazy, Hollywood-style makeup that she’s doing.I knew she was super creative and that she had a YouTube channel that had been getting hits.
I reached out and asked if she would want to do scary makeup for a Halloween marketing idea I had for the studio. She said yes and now she edits the Joycast, writes these show notes, makes Instagram Reels, and helps us with any video projects that may come up.

I love that Marley and Sam are curious and have a ‘yes’ attitude. Anything we ask them, they do.

Sammy’s more on the artistry, creative side, and Marley does marketing and content planning. They both have tough skin and are able to take any feedback that we give them.

At the end of the day, our content needs to communicate what we need it to, so if it isn’t meeting our standards, it has to be redone.

Marley and Sam could meltdown and cry, but instead they say,

“What needs to be changed?”

That is such an important skill that I look for when hiring interns.

The Good and Bad of Interns

We had an intern years ago who radiated creativity. She painted a door for us, and made us an amazing photo backdrop.

One time, she took a stack of tissue paper and made a giant wall of flowers that we used to shoot on. She had so many creative ideas that she would execute for us. It was amazing.

One the flip side, we had a student come in whom we told to find some maternity poses to use in an upcoming shoot. She came back five minutes later with two printouts and said, “That’s all there is.”

I remember thinking, “No, that’s not all there is.”

You could look at companies who sell maternity items, at stock photos, or check out other photographer’s websites. She had given up so quickly and it made me upset.

That’s why we test all any prospective interns with a few projects. We can see if they are going to quit, how they take feedback, and if they’re fun to be around.

How To Find Amazing Interns For Your Photography Business

Over the years, I’ve learned that when you need a new employee, they don’t magically appear. I try to always have my radar up in case I meet someone who would be a good fit in my business.

I met Erin, who runs Joy of Marketing, on a job shadow day 25 years ago. Andria, my studio manager, was an intern for a day, and never left.

To find the best interns, you have to have your radar up.

Keeping my radar up allowed me to overhear Marley talking passionately about instagram, and stumble onto Sammy’s YouTube channel.

There is always young talent who are looking for experience, you just have to keep your eyes peeled.

Hiring The Best Photography Interns

I try to hire for a cultural fit. I look at their attitude, work ethic, and our compatibility.

I think, would I want to hang out with this person? We’re a small company, so liking the people you work with is so important.

I also make sure they have training for the skills they need or are coachable.

Not everyone has the perfect skillset, but if they’re creative and they are able to learn, I’m fine investing in them.

Paying Photography Interns

I did a free internship when I was in college and it was amazing, but I just bounced around from room to room and socialized. I got perspective on what an ad agency does, but I didn’t learn much.

Now, as an entrepreneur with a small budget, I need every single person on my team to produce something. I want to find people who can contribute to my businesses.

Marley can write and she’s a marketing thinker. She’s come up with some quizzes and games for our students and runs some of our Pinterest and Instagram.
Sammy has the video skills: filming and editing.

Paying interns is worth it because they get me fired up. They bring in fresh perspective because they are young and haven’t been jaded by hating their jobs.

The right intern will be excited and will work hard for you. They are worth every penny.

I love this saying by Nelson Henderson:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit,”

That quote has come to life through mentoring young people.

Giving people an opportunity to learn, always comes back to you. Hiring an Intern allows you to see who you need on your team.

Yes, they will eventually leave, but you will have learned from each other and grown from the experience.

Keep your radar up and go hire some amazing interns!

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This article was written by
Sarah Petty

Sarah is a New York Times best-selling author, highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca Cola for 20 years and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand. Click on Sarah's photograph to visit her blog.

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