Both. My father was a photographer. Studied in art school before I was born.
When I was about ten years old, he loaded up a camera with film, handed it to me and said, "If you break this, I'll break YOU." He kicked me in the butt and sent me off to take pictures.
He showed me how to develop and print in the darkroom but never had real experience. I just did as Dad said.
I took some photography classes in high school. (That was back in the old days when kids used to learn stuff in school.)
I did a lot of my own developing but very little printing during the time between high school and college.
Second year of college, I took some more photography classes.
Since college, I've learned mostly everything on my own.
Combination. Community College photography program, some workshops, lots of "self-directed learning." But most importantly person to person and online relationships with other great photographers on this site and other places who have so freely shared their knowledge.
Oh, and Photostock. I learned lots of bad habits from hanging out with incorrigibles, malcontents, and general rabble-rousers there.
i took photography classes in high school ( 3 years ) then -
college ( 7 semesters --- directed studies where i was making my own emulsions and coating glass plates )
architectural drafting and painting too .. ( and lots of art history classes )
i also assisted architectural and lifestyle photographers before i apprenticed with a portrait photographer trained herself in the 20s+30s.
other stuff i taught myself ...
No one can claim with any authenticity that they are 100% self-taught. I've learned lots about photography by reading books, but I don't consider myself self-taught. Just because I took the initiative to read books on the subject and then apply that knowledge, doesn't mean I'm self-taught. I learned from the people who wrote the books. If you've ever learned something here on APUG, then you're not self-taught, you learned from the helpful people here.
I think most people use the term "self-taught" to mean "no formal education" and that learning something without a formal education is a badge of honor. Whether you learn from attending a class or from a book, or a combination, what does it matter? Learning takes work no matter how you do it.
My father taught me the basics of using a manual camera when I was a kid, then I took photography all four years of high school and went on to Indiana University for my BFA in Photography. I've had years of formal education, but schooling is just a framework upon which you have to build. You will never learn everything in school, even if you get a PhD, so I have also learned a lot on my own.
Although my interest in photography started when about 6 or 7 years of age (POP paper exposed on a window ledge), I later became an assistant photographer at 17 to a guy called Eric Penn (not the fashion photographer). At the same time I was doing a college course but then went on to study photography full time for three years at Art College. Here they made me do studio work for long periods of time, using medium and large format. However, when I could, I would take my Leica I out to photograph street stuff. Eric Penn taught me more in a year than I learned in all my time at college. It was only years later that I discovered images by photographers like HCB.
I took one high school class in 95/96. Everything from then on has been self taught, the bulk of which I've learned, and relearned over the last 4-5 years.
I have a BFA and MFA in photography.
Both. No one is totally self-taught, IMO. Follow a set of instructions -- someone else just showed you the way. Read a book -- someone else is teaching you. Look at someone else's print, then that person just taught you something.
The self-taught and the self-made person is a pleasant myth.
We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us... except those who don't realize it or cannot admit to that.
Originally Posted by Vaughn