Do you really need photo school to be a pro?

Discussion in 'Industry News' started by Mainecoonmaniac, Mar 20, 2013.

  1. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  2. Felinik

    Felinik Member

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    Of course not, but if you are about to chose an education anyway and are already decided that your goal is to work with photography, it would be a bit stupid to take on an education to become a doctor...

    :smile:
     
  3. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Over here up to recently one was only allowed offering commercial photography after having gained a diploma in one of three formal trainings (vocational school, universities of applied sciences).
     
  4. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I believe it helps, I have a three year degree form a community college program , I sure as hell wish I had continued and got my Masters.
     
  5. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    In US anyway, you can get into any occupation that does not involve professional licensing or certification with no formal education or training. However, getting such training may be the easiest way to get into one and convince potential clients you can do the job. (which is not always true...)
     
  6. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    No, more than anything you need the talent and drive to rise above your competition...

    In the late 80's, I was working with a rather well known figure in aviation photography on a book. At first, I just wanted to assist him but he asked to see my work and upon reviewing some Kodachromes in a sheet of 20, he asked me if I wanted to co-illustrate the book. As we worked together, I told him I wanted to go to Brooks Institute in Santa Barbra, CA.

    He said he did not think it would give me much since I already had what a lot of the students did not, a good eye and to instead just get busy getting to work.

    He was right and here I am 22 years later still going strong.

    RIP my mentor and good friend George Hall....
     
  7. batwister

    batwister Member

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    If you don't have any people skills, yes. The drinking and sleeping around will help a great deal. I'm guessing everything else you can do on your own with a bit of networking, common sense and hard work. That's what I'm working on.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 20, 2013
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    It think it's great remembering your mentors

    I still remember all my mentors. So far, none has passed on yet. I'm still grateful for their advice that school doesn't teach us. Most of them went to Art Center in Pasadena.
     
  9. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Only if you have the business sense, which is exactly what I lack and I think what I need from school, and that's my main fault, I can take a picture, but I can't sell it... haha, so sometimes you DO need school, if nothing else for contacts...
     
  10. ToddB

    ToddB Member

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    I did.. I recieved a BFA in photo in 98. I figured it's another feather in cap.

    ToddB
     
  11. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Yes it's a feather in your cap. But art directors and art buyers also like portfolios and tear sheets. I have a BA in photography and when I was looking for work freelancing, no one asked to see my degree.
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    But if they asked you if you could photograph in the style of Sudek for a particular project , the schooling would have helped.
    If you said who is Sudek I doubt you would get the job.
     
  13. jspillane

    jspillane Member

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    A knowledge of Josef Sudek's work is available through other means than a photography program. Furthermore, I wouldn't surprised if there are plenty of photo BA/BFA/MFA's floating around who have no idea who he is at all-- or perhaps know the name, but wouldn't have the first clue as to what his work is like (much less how to imitate it).

    Knowledge and skill are things that, ultimately, one gives to oneself.
     
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  15. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Probably true. It's my hope that some will hire me for my style instead of a derivative style of another photographer.
     
  16. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    We are in the internet age, and even so I doubt I am smart enough to find Sudek on my own, guidance by wonderful teachers at a critical point in my life opened my eyes to a broader scope of current and past artists that I would never have found on my own.
    Even though my career has panned out pretty well, and yes a lot of self taught , school of hard knocks have gone on, the best info I get is by informed mentors who help guide me through the useless info on the net.
    I wish I could have just stayed on at a University after my three years of practical photo school and got as much background/guidance before I started my journey down the wormhole we call photography. I think I made every dam mistake possible. I would also include a heavy dose of business courses, and chemistry as well to help in future years , running a small business.
    I respect those here with their MFA, PHD's for their dedication to get the degrees.


     
  17. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Yes I agree, but my point is if you are the photographer with less knowledge about photography styles than the art director you are at a severe disadvantage in your negotiations or even possibliity of landing the job.

     
  18. AgX

    AgX Member

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    What about the customers interests in dealing with a commercial photographer?

    Especially those of the private customer.


    Those rules about restricting commercial photography (and other crafts) to officially trained photographers were sure in first instance installed to safeguard the intersts of those already in the businees (based on that guild idea).

    And one could argue, that the customer could ask for proofs of work. But would that be enough?
     
  19. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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  20. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    This has in no way ever affected my ability to land a contract, assignment or sale, the number one reason in 100% of the cases of my ability to get work as a photographer has been the level of talent shown in my portfolio. In simple terms, show better work than your competition in a market that highly values that quality and you can set your terms, your price and people will talk. I am only now getting around to launching a new website after not having one for 7 years and I have been very busy over that time frame.

    There is a very good reason that not everyone that has been an ace at marketing or went to Brooks is earning a living at photography and that reason is whether or not a high level of talent and vision is shown in the work.
     
  21. ToddB

    ToddB Member

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    I got a Job shooting for AF and I'm still here. I'm convinced, that if I didnt have my piece of paper, that I would of be just another Joe that likes to take picture. This was back in the early 2000's thow. Things have might of changed.

    ToddB
     
  22. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I remember assisting in LA and it was a mixed bag. Some assistants went to school, some got in by being a gopher then started assisting. Same for photographers I worked for. Some were schooled and some just assisted. I think a degree can't hurt, but nothing beats experience and an updated portfolio with tearsheets.
     
  23. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Talent will get you through if you have enough common sense. However with the right attitude a degrree from the right course will be very useful.

    One of my friends, we worked alongside each other in the late 70's and 80's, was a highly successful Commercial and advertising photographer, he had some major UK accounts. He had a Degree from a course that was particularly good and almost all the students did well.

    I was his landlord, he rented his studio from me (he was there as a sublet when I rented the whole building). Later the property owners son came and did voluntary work with us in his school holidays, then he went to one of the best photohraphy Degree course (at the time) in the UK, he knew exactly what he wanted from the course and made sure he got it. Within a year he'd also gained major International clients and hasn't looked back.

    On the other hand I have friends who went on the same courses who are struggling.

    Ian
     
  24. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    My degree in fine art/photography major unsurprisingly for that time (1991-1994) included a stream in traditional brush art, colour visualisation and execution — some of this had relevance to photography (but I found it boring!) e.g. selection of one film over another for accentuating colour is the same as selecting base tints and mixing them to arrive at a desired hue/depth, or abstracts in B&W (charcoal drawing). Where a traditional school approach to photography is valuable is in the business and financial area. I learnt that a Trust Fund was the best way of investing for the future, with a subsidiary cash fund for ad-hoc drawdowns. Never had an overdraft at all when running the business (though plenty, plenty of lean, mean times chiefly with the horrors of dealing with Ilfochrome distribution). More important than all this however is a natural aptitude and motivation for photography, people skills and a keen interest in the world around you, but very especially mastering your chosen subject and making it your trademark. At no time was I viewed or referred to as a fancy "commercial" photographer, just a professional with a prime interest in landscape/scenic work, and nothing else.
     
  25. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    In common parlance, a 'professional' photographer means someone who earns their living through making images at the behest of a client (whether this is directly or indirectly - as in the case of stock photographers). The key to being successful at this is (a) to consistently deliver the results that meet your clients' expectations and (b) knowing how to keep your clients happy (there is always someone just as able who is willing to undercut your prices!!).

    My experience of over 30 years of commercial photography (always with the aim of supporting my own personal image making) is that 90% is keeping your customers sweet (oh god - all of those interminable late evenings in restaurants being pleasant to people I would not otherwise have spent any time with) and, a very very important 10% ALWAYS delivering the goods requested.

    I learnt the hard way on my own (with supposedly loyal clients who suddenly left despite the fact that they were always very happy with my work until one assignment was 'deemed' to be 'substandard' despite the fact that I had delivered outstanding results to vague briefs over many many years) but, observing friends who were in the higher echelons and being able to observe how their assistants fared, being someone's assistant was the best route to sustained success.

    My personal observation is that, apart from core technique which, if taught correctly, can be learned in a few weeks, the area where an art/photography school can really excel is in either awaking you to the work of exemplary photographers' work that you were previously unaware of) or teaching you to formulate the nom-culture (in my personal view I would define this as bullshit) necessary to building a career where your 'clients' are galleries, funders and the wider art world.

    Maybe I am just a dinosaur cynic but, having pursued my own work for the past 10 years and having had moderate success in gaining exhibitions and private collectors, I personally would like to return to the time when 'professional' meant more about your approach to your work and your knowledge of the subject rather than whether it defines how you earn the money to pay the bills.

    So, after these rather unfocused ramblings, no, you do not need to go to school to be a photographer who wants to earn his/her living through photography but it might well help you in becoming a better (personal photography focused) photographer if your interest is in PHOTOGRAPHY as a medium rather than as an income stream.

    Bests,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i don't think you need a degree, but you need to know what you are doing.
    that said ... education is never wasted time or money. emersion is priceless
    ( whether that emersion is in a "school setting" or as an apprentice to someone who has a clue.