Photography School Options - GASP! Stone might finally learn something!
The past few months have been really rough for me, I have lost a bunch of family, a long-term relationship, my place of living, my place of employment, and have really been in relatively rough shape.
Anyway I'm trying to pick myself back up and do what is right for my next steps in life, I've been up applying to certain places and unfortunately many of the places insist on a minimum of an Associates Degree. They don't even seem to care what kind, as long as I have the paper.
So naturally I'm looking at going to school for photography. I found a local school of art that has a photography AFA degree that focuses on both the digital workflow and believe it or not mostly traditional photography techniques!
However I'd like to get a good idea of what others whom actually possibly might have gone to these schools, and or other schools, as well as just general information, I would for to hear from people whom actually either work in the education system, went to the actual schools, or hire people who go to various schools etc. Please don't flame me, this is a big step for me.
I called around to the various state colleges and community colleges in my area and none of them have any serious photography focuses.
-Southern CT State University in New Haven, CT is one that offers an art degree with a focus on photography, but even that only has five maybe six courses that are photo related and the rest are all normal academia and non-photo related art. And only offers a 4 year degree when I'm only looking at a 2 year degree at this point. TOTAL 2 year COST $25,000+materials cost and no degree or 4 year total of $50,000.
-Paier College of Art, in Hamden, CT is a TINY little art school, but they seen to offer an associates with all the really important photo classes and my friend already goes there and she said it's a wonderful school, all the professors are working professionals who own their own photo studios etc, none are JUST teachers.
And they offer a 4 year Bachelors if I want to continue after my 2 year. TOTAL 2 year COST $25,000+course materials cost
I also spoke to one photographer that owns a random photo studio in my area who went to ...
Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, it's farther from me and I would have to get housing, and they don't really offer and actual associates degree they only offer a certificate after two years of schooling, the guy I spoke to sounded like a real salesman, and he kept repeating that they were one of the top three photography schools in the world, something that I just had a hard time believing when there's places like RISD (which I couldn't afford) but he also mentioned that they did have a lot of job placement programs, and that 90% of their students get placed directly out of that program right out of school which on the surface sounded nice. TOTAL 2 year COST $50,000+housing+course materials costs.
What I am weighing is the idea of going to school for photography and learning photography as a trade which would allow me to find and understand the working world of photography so that I can work in that field after I learn at the school, but also I'm weighing the option that Photography might not be the only thing that I should look at in terms of actually supporting myself after school is over, so the idea of getting an actual associates degree that is accredited is a little more appealing then if I go to school that just focuses on photography but only gives you a certificate and not an actual degree. In the art world your skills and your portfolio really are the main focus in terms of getting a job, but it doesn't hurt to have a backup plan and actual degree at the end.
Price is also obviously a factor for me, and I would rather not have to have a tremendous scholastic debt while trying to start working in a field that already isn't exactly the best for many people in terms of financial stability, I am certainly open to other schools, but then the housing expense comes into play a lot and being away from the area in which I am used to living, I am certainly not academically skilled enough (my grades weren't great in school) and my portfolio probably isn't good enough to apply to a place like RISD or anything, but I'm open to considering a "reach" if it would make the difference somehow.
The Paier place sounds like the best bet for both, and I would learn a lot and a much higher focus on traditional techniques... But I would like YOUR feedback please.
(PS mods I wasn't sure where to put this, feel free to move it to the right place).
I am older than dirt and if there is one thing I can tell you from a long life of being a working stiff in photography and being a freelance photographer -- you need to get your hands on one of those dumb pieces of paper. If not you will work for a lot of Bozos who don't know a Leica from a Looney Tunes cartoon. You need to go to a place that is accredited. And, if you get a two-year degree you will be within a reasonable distance of getting a four-year one later if you think you need it.
I never got a stupid degree and it cost me plenty. I once worked for a guy who did not know there were camera lenses that weren't zooms. I told him about my 50mm f1.4 Nikkor and he said "50mm to what?" He graduated from journalism college. With a minor in Dumb but he got more bucks than I did.
I went into college equally liking computers and photography and could have went either way. I ended up starting but not finishing computer science, started an Internet business, dropped out, and do photography for fun now and think I've chosen the right path for me. I would be suspicious of an idea to get a good paying job with a photography degree alone. Photography seems undervalued these days and making a living at it seems like an uphill battle unless you want to be in academia or have established a business in photography, or you marry well.
I'd suggest getting an associates at a local community college or state college branch in business or something equally versatile and employable. Then get the training you want in photography, and put the two together as you see fit or conditions allow. Check out Maine Media Workshops and Maine College of Art to see what they offer for your needs. I am not familiar with the schools you have listed. RIT is an option too, but it's probably not cheap.
You already know how to take good photos. You could probably teach at some of those places. I would work odd jobs to make ends meet while you start your own photography business. The last thing you want is $50K in debt.
You seem to want to stay on the East coast. Brooks in Santa Barbara does not require degrees beforehand (at least they did not at one time) and they offer some very good courses.
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From everything I've heard from pros who own studios, having a degree in photography is not particularly important. What they care about is: are you a hard worker who shows up on time, knows how to use a light meter, knows how to set lighting ratios, pays attention to things like wrinkles in fabric, stray hairs, dirt on the backdrop, etc. Having a decent portfolio will help convince them you can do these things, but you don't have to go to school to develop said portfolio. In today's working studio, while having wet darkroom skills may impress on a personal level, not having very solid, demonstrable Photoshop skills will be the kiss of death. More helpful would be to have an Associates in business management (because that's the part of the business the pro photog doesn't want to be doing him/herself) along with a serious portfolio.
Given that you're in the New York metro area, I'd start assisting freelance, and build a portfolio of work out of the assisting gigs, while doing the AA degree in business management, or getting a full Bachelor's in something. You can do this at a state school or even a community college where you can do it a lot cheaper than $25-50K, and you can get academic scholarships to reduce the cost even further. Many community colleges have photography courses and even wet darkroom facilities where you can keep practicing your wet darkroom skills and building a portfolio while you get the other general skills.
You don't have to have a degree in your career field in order to succeed in that field - I'm an IT professional and have been for 15 years now, but my undergrad degree? English Lit.
If you are going for a piece of paper, make it worth your money. I recommend getting a degree in business management, and utilize that. You can always open your own studio and then you will have the knowledge to run it properly. support yourself while in school by taking photos. If the self employment route doesn't work, the degree will get your foot in many doors.
Buy a plain ticket.... then come here.....
no degree is nessecary - no degree is issued as we are a school without exams..
Photography course - optional classes- room to live in - fellow students from all over the world (15 different contries as we speak) - all the food you can eat - coffee you can drink or develop film in - study trip to Prague (this fall).. and more
For far less than 25K
Hi stone, I just want to share that I too had been in a similar situation a few years ago: straight out of film school I owned a business (sfx studio) and was actually so busy I had to turn down work. About a year ago that all changed. I lost my business, and could barely find work as a camera operator/lighting specialist, (I even ended up working in a kitchen for a bit just to pay my bills) It was a truly humbling experience. Thankfully I returned back to school (journalism major/photography minor) and now find myself happier than when I thought I had it all. I think Rudyard Kipling put it best in "If:" (a bit of paraphrasing)
"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;"
"Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools...
Yours is the Earth and everything thats in it."
In short, a place like Paier sounds like an ideal school, its curriculum looks very well structured and there is the added advantage of having professors have hands-on-knowledge of the trade. That is priceless. I used to have lunches with a headhunter who worked in the finacial industry for high-level positions (CFOs, VPs, etc; ) and what I discovered was that in the 'art world' as much as the corporate, what is most desired the in a potential candidate is a) real-world experience vs not only theoritcal and b) persistence. And b is clearly seen when you show on your cv that you returned to school. I wish you the best of luck and I praise you for determination.
Forgot to mention: the associates degree is important, having a college degree puts you on an equal playing field.
Last edited by yurisrey; 05-16-2014 at 04:30 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"The real work was thinking, just thinking." - Charles Chaplin
Originally Posted by gandolfi
sounds like a great situation, and a great way to learn photography.