View Full Version : Are photography classes worth it?
15th of June 2009 (Mon), 14:12
That's my question. Are photography classes worth the time and money?
A bit of background about myself as a photographer. I'm not a professional. I would consider myself a semi-serious hobbyist. I'm not into studio photography. I really like and admire it but I don't have the time or resources to get into it.
I'm a geologist and I travel a lot for work. I've been to the high arctic, Greenland, the Amazon basin and Africa among other places. Most of my photography is related to work and travel.
What do you guys think? Would I benefit from taking classes or should I just pick up a few books instead?
15th of June 2009 (Mon), 14:57
That's like saying is buying X worth it? Very subjective. One person may get a great deal out of a particular course, while a second person views it as an utter waste.
I'm a relative newcomer to SLR photography. I bootstrapped myself as much as I thought I could do, then enrolled in an intro to traditional photography course as well as a photojournalism course at a local university. The traditional (film) course was frustrating, because there were many restrictions on how you could take a shot--this particular lens, this particular aperture, ISO, ambient light only, etc. But using film taught me to be much more judicious in my shot selection and composition, and working in an actual chemical darkroom gave me an understanding of the foundations of photography, with the added value of radically increasing my understanding of Photoshop. That class also showed me that film-oriented fine art photographers are in utter and complete denial regarding digital. Many of them are bitter dinosaurs--talented, true, but dinosaurs nonetheless--for whom the field of photography has largely passed them by.
The photojournalism course was a 180-degree turnaround: No film, strictly digital, here's how to turn it on and work the zoom lens, get out there and shoot today's assignment consisting of AT LEAST 50 distinct images of different subjects. And photojournalism is rapidly evolving into a mobile video production operation with the new video-capable DSLR cameras, so be aware that much of what you're learning today will be obsolete within a year! So be ready to adapt or perish! Now go shoot!
The Wife, on the other hand, had a background in photojournalism and was a pretty good photog way back when. But she drifted away from photography when we had kids and only recently got back into it after not picking up a SLR for close to 10 years. She enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography correspondence course because of its convenience and good word of mouth (at least, it seemed to have a decent rep online). Their curriculum was "recently revised" to include digital, but I only exaggerate a little when I say this revision amounts to "And I hear they have some newfangldy digital cameras that can take this here picture too." The people running NYIP are fine art photographers of the old school mold, see no need for digital and have no desire for anyone to enlighten them. The fact that most of their example photos in the instruction books are dated badly--circa 1970s and early 80s--adds to the impression of a fine layer of dust and cobwebs permeating the program. Which is a shame, because for a solid, introductory photography course it really is pretty thorough. Most of the information they share is fully applicable to digital as well as film, but the times they stumble over whether "memory cards" are the equivalent of film does their credibility no favors.
Bottom line is that you can get out of formal courses what you put into them. Do your research and homework before committing to any of them. Apprenticing with an established photographer in your area may be a more productive alternative. Personally, I got a lot out of the two courses I took and would like to go back and take digital and studio courses, but whether or not I'll ever be able to swing it remains debateable.
15th of June 2009 (Mon), 14:59
Based on your job I would say you have great opportunities to take great shots. There is no doubt that advancing your skill level in some form would be beneficial. Some people can read books and retain what they learn where others learn better from a class. You might also think about joining a photography club.
My suggestion is to look into some books or videos first before you commit to a class. Rick Sammon has a book called Digital Photography Secrets. He is right up your alley as he photographs arctic environments and other exotic places. Another book would be the Scott Kelby set The Digital Photography vol 1,2 and 3(New). An inspirational book you might look at is Joe McNally's The Moment it Clicks. These books are a great start, but I have learned more through online video tutorials than anything else. kelbytraining.com is a great tutorial website with all three of these authors giving video tutorials of their classes. Some of the videos are free if you want to check out the site and for 20.00 a month you get unlimited access. The good thing about this is if you have high speed access where ever you go, you can pop on at any time and get information that you need on the spot.
15th of June 2009 (Mon), 16:55
Forums and books IMO, you'll probably get more out of it per time invested if you are dedicated and willing to self teach.
15th of June 2009 (Mon), 21:53
If you have the drive to find the information yourself, then I don't think they are worth it. Everything you need is online, and anything can be learned by trying it out and being patient. I have people ask me where I studied photography, and they look pretty surprised when I say "I didn't."
16th of June 2009 (Tue), 09:29
Would I benefit from taking classes or should I just pick up a few books instead? Link us to a dozen of your best? Then maybe we'd have a clue? Everything you need is online I agree.
Photography School (Schools/Degrees/Bills/Aftermath = SCARY) Pro's? (http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=574329)
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