Ah, the great question: Do photographers need to go to photography school to be successful? If you’re like me, you’ve wondered about this more than a few times. It’s hard to know which path to take in order to create that photo life of your dreams. So join me in the library and let’s chat about it!
Watch the video now to see what we did, and what some of the pros and cons of photography school are.
Ok, here’s a rundown of the Pros and Cons of photography school!
Pros of Photo School
1. Structured Learning Environment
One of the biggest benefits of going to photography school is the structure. There’s both the careful organization of classes, with instructors presenting information to you in the right order, without missing anything critical. Then there’s the structure of school itself: you’re committed to going 5 days a week, for a couple years or more. That’s a lot of dedicated learning time! After you’ve spent some time working in your business, you’ll yearn for that kind of time to just read and talk about photography. Trust me.
2. Social Environment
There’s a reason photographers have so many conferences and meet-ups. It’s fun to hang out with each other! Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is both enjoyable, and also informative. The other students will have different ideas and interests than you, and being exposed to those new ways of thinking will help expand your brain!
You’ll also have the opportunity to make connections that could serve you well when you graduate. There’s a good chance you’ll meet someone to start a new studio with, refer work back and forth to, or become an assistant for. Your photography business won’t exist in a vaccuum, and knowing other photographers can be a big help!
Now you don’t need any credentials to be a photographer (at least not in North America, and I believe it’s similar around the world). But being able to say that you graduated from photography school shows clients that you’re dedicated to the art, and can help give them some reassurance that you know what you’re doing. This is primarily a psychological thing. Just because you have those credentials doesn’t make you a better photographer than someone without them. But from a clients’ view, it might be a bonus.
Cons of Photo School
1. More Photo than Business
Photo school is about photography, which is great! But to run a photography business requires a LOT of business knowledge. Now as far as I know, most photography schools do have business courses, so it’s not that you’ll be sent out into the world without any preparation to run your company. But the world of business changes FAST, and it will be such a huge part of your day to day life as a professional photographer. Really, the only way to learn the stuff is to actually DO IT.
School takes up time. A lot of time. Time that could be spent actually starting and running your business. Granted, you’ll have to learn the stuff one way or another, but many people find they learn faster when they are self-directed, and learning by experience rather than in a classroom.
School costs money! Generally it’s a lot of money! There’s a great quote in the movie Good Will Hunting:
You dropped 150 grand on an education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!
If you can teach yourself photography and business by using the library and the internet, you could save yourself a LOT of money. And it’s completely possible. There’s a reason we talk about the library all the time. This is what we did!
4. You’re Still Just At The Beginning
Once you’ve made it to the end of photo school, you’re still at the beginning of creating your photography business. And that’s where the real work starts. Building a portfolio. Branding. Making connections. Marketing yourself. Finding clients. Developing contracts. Actually shooting! Editing. Printing. Bookkeeping. Pricing. And continued learning. Always continued learning.
The workload doesn’t change whether you go to photo school or not. You still have to put in the time to make your business successful!
The Big Idea
Whether you go to photography school or not won’t determine whether you become a successful photographer. That will come down to whether you have the grit necessary to keep working at it for the years it takes to really be successful.
But should YOU go to photography school? Well, it simply comes down to what type of learning you prefer. If you’re the kind of person who can self-direct themselves through learning all the necessary parts of photography and business, and get out there and network on your own, then you may not need to go to school. But if the idea of totally immersing yourself in a photography learning world with other students for a couple years sounds like just what you’d need, then photo school could be a wonderful experience for you.
We didn’t go to photo school, and we haven’t regretted it for a second. But don’t get me wrong: if Hogwarts opened up a photography program I would be FIRST IN LINE.
Now I want to know what you think about this. Should photographers go to photography school? Are there any pros and cons that I’ve missed? What did YOU do?
Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts, I’m super interested to hear what YOU think!