When is School Necessary for a Photographer?

This guest post is contributed by Becky Patterson, who writes on the topic of Become a Photographer. She can be reached at beckypatterson89[@]gmail[.]com.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Will Hale

There are different schools of thought on this issue – while some people feel that education lays the foundation for success in any kind of profession, there are others who feel that creative jobs like photography don’t require a formal education and are best learned through experience and a good eye for detail. The jury’s still out on this one and I doubt there will ever be a verdict that’s unanimous; however, there are certain times when a formal education comes in handy when it forms a part of a photographer’s arsenal:

  • When an employer demands it as a pre-requisite for a job – it makes no sense to remain adamant against going to photography school if it’s a job that you really want.
  • When you don’t know the first thing about photography and are eager to learn everything there is to know about this field.
  • When you want to learn the technical aspects of photography and are unable to do so with the aid of self-help books and tutorials alone.
  • When you want a degree in photography even though you don’t really need it – you want to go to college even though you’ve already made up your mind to be a photographer; you would rather do a degree in photography than choose just any random major.
  • When you want to become a professor or teacher of photography – some established photographers choose this route as a way to change careers if they don’t want to travel much or if they are looking for a new way to stay on in the same field.
  • When you want to learn and become an expert in the finer aspects and more complicated techniques of photography – some skills are best picked up in school where you have experienced teachers to impart them to you.
  • When you want to study photography at a school that’s reputable and renowned for its degrees.
  • When you want to learn more about photography to augment and support all that you already know.

[tweetmeme]While an education in photography may be more relevant today, no matter how many degrees you hold in photography, and no matter how prestigious your school is and how good your grades are, you become a good photographer only with practice; it’s the most important thing for a photographer – the more you practice, the more experience you gain; and the more experience you gain, the better you become.

This guest post is contributed by Becky Patterson, who writes on the topic of Become a Photographer. She can be reached at beckypatterson89[@]gmail[.]com.

4 thoughts on “When is School Necessary for a Photographer?

  1. Janne

    The point of any form of formal education for a craft is that it makes you learn and consider aspects of the craft that are not immediately useful and that you would not learn on your own. If you self-study or learn on the job then you only learn the things that are useful to you.

    This may sound like a good thing, but it makes you a one-trick pony with experience only in a limited number of situations, and the lack of theory background means you’re working from a bag of tricks more than a coherent, interconnected skill set.

    This is the kind of thing you see in the craft of computer programming. Some people spend years studying computer science, mathematics and related fields, while others have seen it as useless and preferred to learn by experience. But technologies change, particular approaches and platforms come and go as they wax and wane in popularity, and far too many self-taught people are unable to keep up. They’ve spent years learning a particular platform but don’t have the background to easily adapt to other platforms or other types of jobs in the field.

  2. Sherman Unkefer

    I totally agree with Janne – education gives you a stronger platform across a broader base then experience by itself. Internships are a great start and much more effective when combined with theory and education.

  3. Orest

    Went to college on a 2 year photography program back in the 80s. What a waste of time that was. The program did not jive with reality.

  4. Andrew

    I went to college to study photography (in the UK) in the nineties. Complete waste of time for me, although some students (a minority) seemed to benefit from it. When I went, college was free in this country, but that has changed and now there are reports of students graduating with degrees and twenty to thirty thousand pounds of debt to pay back. This is not a good start to your professional career, especially in a field like photography which can be a precarious living for many. What no-one seems to mention is that that level of debt puts you behind ten years or more financially – an important consideration for any prospective photography students.

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