Photography Degree..what does it mean today

scoobysmakscoobysmak Posts: 214Member
edited February 2013 in General Discussions
Just wonder in todays world with all the electronic gizmos that take pictures so everyone can be a photographer, what has changed to make a degree worth the money spent. I saw a yahoo answer of "you don't need a degree, just take a local community college course or two and start learning", this was the high rated answer for that question. In my mind when photography started you needed to "know" a lot more to take a picture. Now with program mode on all cameras made today its not as important to know the basics of how a camera works. Its also not as costly to make a bad picture, just hit the delete button and start over, before you had to wait until your negatives came back to know if that shot was a keeper or not. By then some had forgotten what settings were used and never learned from the mistake to repeat the process of buying film and getting it developed to find they wasted money again.

I do think everyone needs to take some form of training in photography to get better. I find that I get stuck in a rut of what I like to do but when a situation comes up that I don't like, I don't think outside the box for a better solution to the problem. Then I don't use all my resources to make something really creative out of something I thought would turn out bad. Some people have a gift of composition and might not need this but might lack in say lighting just as an example. Some might have all this but lack in post processing. I see this kinda like golf, people might excel in one area but weak in others, whats the point if you can hit the ball to the green in one shot but takes you ten more to put it in the hole.

What brings me to ask the question, from time to time I have spare time on my hands that I could put towards possibly an online degree program. I would prefer some program that I could get a bachelors degree that is nationally recongnized. I know that probably any online training could do but know I might not put forth the effort just for a certificate. What might make this difficult for me is the oportunity to actually take photos but then again I might have to get creative of the subjects I normally would not photgraph (I am in a country where I live and work in a limited area, to go outside this small area puts you in harms way...tire fires, IAD's and the risk of bodily harm increase significantly). This might make great photojournalism photography but I am not allowed to be or around this and I will get in trouble for even photographing this type of activity (an agreement made by the US to the nation I am in).

I figured I would see what the norm is for today, what programs have really helped you to improve. Are there any 4 year online degree programs that really stick out as excellent, I would love to hear about it.

Comments

  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    Online or not, there are a few different kinds of photography degrees, including:

    1. Fine Arts. This would typically be a 4-year Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts (BFA) Photography program. As the name implies, you're going to art school, learning things like art history, composition, color theory, contemporary arts, artistic process, etc., using photography as an art form.

    2. Trade / professional school. Either 2-year or 4-year degree. Emphasis on commercial photography, such as advertising, product photography, beauty / fashion, architectural, industrial, studio portraiture, etc. You'll also take courses in business, law (contracts, copyright), etc.

    3. Photojournalism. Also 2-year or 4-years. You'll be a journalist using photography as your main medium. Aside from photography courses you will learn about reporting, story telling, publishing, ethics, etc. There might be specialized topics such as sports photography, travel documentary, etc.

    So the first question is to ask yourself what type of photography interest you most?

    Whether having a degree will help you "in the real world" or not is a secondary question. As you know a degree is not required, and spending several years of your life learning about a craft you love is usually a worthwhile endeavor in itself.
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    edited March 2013
    photography is a business. i think if you were to go study something, business and marketing skills would serve you better imo. how to point a camera can be learned from youtube and practice.

    if you want to be a doctor, or a lawyer, an engineer perhaps, something like this with a good and CLEAR employment opportunity at the end of it, then go to university and make darn sure you get a first class degree, because graduate programs are way over subscribed (my friend told me today about one with 30,000 applicants to 150 places). if you are not sure if you should do it or not, then i say dont waste your time with uni.

    i am at the end of my 4 year degree and wish i had never started it. i took 2 years out halfway through to work, and that was time much better spent. i was earning, learning, and most importantly meeting people who would become future employers and business partners.

    i think that degrees really arent worth the paper they are printed on (i am only finishing mine because i have spent so much money to get it). every second person has a degree, the job market is saturated. i think its best to be a creator of jobs, rather than to be someone who is looking to land a job working for someone else. and what i mean by a creator of jobs, is i think its better to start your own business(s).

    learn self-reliance.

    just my opinion
    Post edited by Msmoto on
  • scoobysmakscoobysmak Posts: 214Member
    I figure I might clarify, I never plan to make photography a "bread winner" as they might say, maybe just a few dollars for my hobby to pay for itself (but honestly doubt it would do that even). This would be more because I have the opportunity to do it and the means to do so, many schools seem to discount tuition for military members. I just know that I am going to have to force myself to think outside the box if I want to learn/improve. I could eventually pick most of this up on my own, but think some type of learning program will speed up the process tremendously, and if I am going to pay for it figure I would at least ask about a 4 year degree before I start anything.

    I appreciate the comments
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi,

    It depends upon what you want to do.

    Journalists generally require 4 years of schooling in the US. I got into over 40 years ago before that was a requirement and taught both journalism and art photography in colleges and universities in the US where ever I've been assigned in the Army and subsequently since my retirement. There's more to filing stories than making sure the photo's levels are with standards. Journalists every where are similar.

    Education and training are vital. Part of maturing as a person and a professional requires more than some video DVDs or Internet instruction.

    Get the best knowledge and skill you can get - and how can that ever be bad advice?

    @scoobysmak As a part timer, you might want to consider the most economical local opportunities first - community colleges, local colleges, even a workshop at a nearby city. You can build on these experiences as they present themselves. Choose from the available offerings wisely and you'll be a better photographer, editor and marketer.

    My best,

    Mike
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    Mike, I have a feeling scoobysmak is working in a "hot" zone without much access to local schools... (at least not without wearing a lot of body armor)...

    You're right J-school in the US would typically be 4-years, but here in Canada at least, the most well-known Photojournalism program (Loyalist College) is a 2-year diploma, and many Loyalist graduates have gone on to pretty much all the top-tier newsrooms in the country (Globe and Mail, National Post, etc.)
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited March 2013
    @mikep: I totally disagree with your comment that a degree "arent worth the paper they are printed on." Not sure what subject you have chosen to get your degree in but that "paper" has a lot of value. The value of it has many forms of worth. A degree mean that you, as an individual, committed yourself to a task in order to better yourself; and as a result it show you have conviction in seeing it trough. The degree informs the employer seeking your employment that you are able to accomplish a task set before you. The grade you receive show how well you where able to accomplish that. Much like the final result of a shot you take...lots of things have to go right in order to have an image that has value...be it for yourself or those you share it with.

    @scoobysmak: Taking ones passion and turning into a money making professional occupation take time and lots of commitment. By all means find some classes, once you are in a setting that allows you to explore such an opportunities and see where it leads you. Your example of golfing is a good one, just keep in mind, that in order for the ball to get in the hole, one must get on the tee box and make a stroke. You may not even need your putter should you get the ball in the hole with one shot. The sport of golf is a very humbling one, and it teaches the golfer much about ones flaws and strength; perfecting ones game takes time and effort. Much like anything else in life. So by all means...be on time for your tee time, have a positive attitude and swing away....and if possible take your camera with you!
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
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  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    I agree with Golf about how worthwhile a degree is - in anything. 12 years out and I still recall information that I learned from the "why did I take this class" and the many hours learning my major that is used indirectly every day. I also do believe in the more traditional path of taking classes on campus rather than the online degrees. Sure there are people who are successful taking other paths, but the odds are not good and the opportunities a degree brings can't always be measured.

    @scoobysmak- Learning anything is a commitment. Whether you take formal classes at a 4-year degree, take classes at a community college, learn on your own, or even join local clubs are all paths. I would be careful of online degrees and believing they are truly accredited. 99% of them are not in all programs and they don't hold much water with the business community. That said, if you are just using them to pursue a hobby and not expecting a career move from them, they can be a good option for that.

    For me, I enjoy putting time aside each day to focus on learning something. I'm all self taught in photography. I just write down my goals of what I want to achieve, take a personal inventory of what I need to learn to achieve those, and focus on that. Some is easy to gain the knowledge, some is very hard to find an outlet that offers the learning, and much of it is figuring out where I need to go to find the information. There are many books out there, most not all that great but there are a few very good ones. Mostly for photography, it is just trial and error and making sure to take notes on what works.
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  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    IMHO, one can benefit from a few years of college level education in art, design, photography, etc., and courses which teach the fundamentals of the craft. WIthout this, it is difficult to grasp all the fine details of what is going on, yet these are essential if we are to really do good work.

    Once a base of knowledge is established, then the real learning goes on after one starts working in the field. And, as TTJ states, we need to learn something each day. Just in a short time on NRF, I have learned a lot. Some is scratching up old information i knew long ago, but all this digital stuff I have learned in just the past few years.

    And, as has been mentioned somewhere else, getting a job with a large company can allow one to glean information from many photographers. In the thread on wedding photographers we have discussed the unfortunate case that there are a lot out there who could not shoot their way out of a paper bag. And, this is due in many cases to their not having adequate training as a professional.
    Msmoto, mod
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member
    Photographic technology has always been evolving, albeit not at the present rate I admit. There is obviously a vital function within education for the teaching of current technical processes but more important than that is absorbing a broad base of understanding so that you can adapt to new technology. A firm understanding of how lenses work, exposure, depth of field, etc. is essential and once learned can be plugged in to new imaging systems as they come along.

    Arguably, all this technical stuff can be self-taught to some degree. There are huge resources these days available to accomplish this at little or no expense if you are resourceful. More difficult to access, perhaps, are the non-technical aspects- composition, aesthetics, ethics (that is an interesting one these days!), history of photography, knowledge of great photographers, art, graphics etc. I could go on. I am immensely grateful for my photography education which brilliantly spanned subjects as diverse as business studies and philosophy with a solid core of technical lectures and assignments.

    I am sorry to read of mikep's experience. I suppose all that can be said is that not all photographic courses are created equal. What is true though, is that no educational course, however good, past or present, can guarantee you a job. It might help though, and of course, education can be considered a life-enhancing end in itself, not necessarily a specific route to a particular job. Life often seems to have a winding and unpredictable path!
  • aquarian_lightaquarian_light Posts: 135Member
    IMHO, I sort of half agree. And art degree isnt worth the paper it's printed on. Not any more. You'll be just as poor and out of work with one as you are now (assuming you're poor and out of work.) You'll just ave a shiny piece of paper with your name and the letters BFA on it. Individual contractors never ever look at degrees, they look at portfolios. Sure an art degree can help get your portfolio even better. But lots of things can, and most of them besides 4 year universities cost much less that 10s of thousands. Sure take some photo courses to get your bases an help with a running start, but a 4 year BFA really very much is a waste of time and money. If you want to work for yourself, get a business degree. If you want to work for any news organization, get a journalism degree, if you want to work in adverts, get a commercial advertising and design degree. 99% of the photo veterans I've spoken to say, that photography degree's are easy ways for universities to get lots and lots of money from people teaching them what they could learn from a library and an internet connection. Many of them have freelanced for big corporations and have been featured across the world, and don't have a BFA in photography themselves. Seriously, everything you need to know, everything a university could possibly teach you about photography or editing is available on the internet or in books, and a lot of times for free. So unless you've got a spare 80-100grand sitting around, don't waste it on a photography BFA. Put it towards a more useful degree and learn your photography else where.
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  • WesleyWesley Posts: 67Member
    I would say a photography degree that is mainly fine art emphasis to be obsolete nowadays. There are BFAs out there that is focused more on the technical side and more emerging Bachelor of Science degrees. These are worth doing.

    There are benefits taking a photography degree in college that a self taught would never get or have a hard time gaining such as industry connections via instructors & alumni, access to expansive film or digital studio/equipment, and building some lifelong relationships with other passionate students. Photography is a "hands on" experience so you will be able to make mistakes and have your instructor teach you properly. I wouldn't recommend an online degree for the reasons above.

    Digital has created a huge boom of wannabe photographers and look how easy it has gotten. You can learn it on the internet.
    I'm assuming mostly all self employed as well like my father. I remember him telling me to get hired by a company if I can because most of his income seems to get eaten by taxes (USA).

    If you were applying to say a big commercial fashion company as a photographer. They require some form of a photography related degree. They know there is an influx of photographers. You can be self taught and have a fantastic portfolio but that hiring manager will pick the same skilled person with a degree instead just like any of their other positions within the company. Of course there will be exceptions that side step this because of connections and/or luck.

    My two cents.
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  • aquarian_lightaquarian_light Posts: 135Member

    If you were applying to say a big commercial fashion company as a photographer. They require some form of a photography related degree. They know there is an influx of photographers. You can be self taught and have a fantastic portfolio but that hiring manager will pick the same skilled person with a degree instead just like any of their other positions within the company.
    In that situation, if thats what you wanted to do, my suggestion would then get a fashion degree and maybe minor in photography.
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  • SquamishPhotoSquamishPhoto Posts: 608Member
    IMHO, I sort of half agree. And art degree isnt worth the paper it's printed on. Not any more. You'll be just as poor and out of work with one as you are now (assuming you're poor and out of work.) You'll just ave a shiny piece of paper with your name and the letters BFA on it. Individual contractors never ever look at degrees, they look at portfolios. Sure an art degree can help get your portfolio even better. But lots of things can, and most of them besides 4 year universities cost much less that 10s of thousands. Sure take some photo courses to get your bases an help with a running start, but a 4 year BFA really very much is a waste of time and money. If you want to work for yourself, get a business degree. If you want to work for any news organization, get a journalism degree, if you want to work in adverts, get a commercial advertising and design degree. 99% of the photo veterans I've spoken to say, that photography degree's are easy ways for universities to get lots and lots of money from people teaching them what they could learn from a library and an internet connection. Many of them have freelanced for big corporations and have been featured across the world, and don't have a BFA in photography themselves. Seriously, everything you need to know, everything a university could possibly teach you about photography or editing is available on the internet or in books, and a lot of times for free. So unless you've got a spare 80-100grand sitting around, don't waste it on a photography BFA. Put it towards a more useful degree and learn your photography else where.
    +1
    Mike
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  • WesleyWesley Posts: 67Member
    I think that would make more sense for a boutique owner.

    If you were applying to say a big commercial fashion company as a photographer. They require some form of a photography related degree. They know there is an influx of photographers. You can be self taught and have a fantastic portfolio but that hiring manager will pick the same skilled person with a degree instead just like any of their other positions within the company.
    In that situation, if thats what you wanted to do, my suggestion would then get a fashion degree and maybe minor in photography.
    That would make more sense for a boutique owner. I'm talking about taking pictures for franchise clothing or department stores. They require qualifications like any corporation regardless how easy the task may seem. The least I've seen is an associate degree in photography.

    I could learn Photoshop all day on the internet and with books but I see more universities offering graphic design than photography. How strange is that? =)
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  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    All the information is useful, and it may be the finances are the most important. Some business education is essential if you want to run your own business. And as I mentioned some art courses can bring an appreciation for self criticism. But, the absolutely most important part is one's portfolio. Along with this is the attitude one carries into a job. And, the willingness to sweep floors if necessary to begin the work as an apprentice will sometimes allow one to work with some of the great photographers.

    Possibly what one would be best advised to do is to talk with some of the HR departments in large studios, design groups, etc., approaching this with the same question posed here. Often, a straight forward approach via telephone to the head of HR will get you an interview and they will be happy to explain what they like to see in a photographer applying for employment. Most folks love to talk to individuals who are seeking their advice and help.
    Msmoto, mod
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    Any degree from an accredited school is way better than none at all. Some of the best technologists I know majored in English Literature, History, and Philosophy. Now some also majored in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of course. Regardless of your major, including BFA, you will be learning and immersed in a learning environment.

    What employers want to see is the commitment to learning and discipline. Just a hint too, when I'm hiring, anyone with military experience gets a boost in the lineup due to that clear line to discipline and leadership ability. I would leverage that as well. Just to bring this discussion full circle to another thread, it appears Walmart has the same philosophy as I do (as far as hiring veterans).
  • paulrpaulr Posts: 1,176Member
    I believe to say a degree in photography is a waste of time, would be a reckless statement, any form of qualification as to be a positive move,
    However, the photographic industry is going through hard times and studios in all countries are downsizing both with staff and premises. Universities and Colleges are teaching and training students who after 4 or so years qualify with a degree. Sadly, they find in the real world, the opportunities they have worked for are very rare to fulfil.

    With an abundance of experienced photographers out of work, and searching for new clients, and therefore offering to undercut established studios. New faces entering the industry really do struggle to break into the photographic scene. In as much that you might be the best new photographer around, it's probably more important that building contacts and have great communication skills are more important than your photography skills.
    From over 45 years experience of working in the industry, it would seem that clients, not all, are more keen on costs rather than quality,and even long term clients are very wary of rates and justification of costs. Such is the market today.
    My advice to anybody considering this industry would be to specialise in subject that are normally remote from the more popular photographic activities.

    I was told the same advice when I started, and it was far easy to get work then. Like all things in life, you have to test the water and if it's in your blood and you have an element of luck and timing {right place at the right time] you will succeed.
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  • scoobysmakscoobysmak Posts: 214Member
    Well figured I might clarify my current situation. I normally live a quite life but Uncle Sam recently deceided I needed a change of pace, not exactly what I had in mind but hey I have no complaints. I signed the line and have no problem "living on the edge" to support others that are already here.

    I normally would not get active duty discounts or any other type assistance unless I choose to use my GI Bill which I would rather save for a future generation if that comes to be. I probably will not be here long enough to complete a full degree but figured I would ask about it, if I can get more than 50% done I figure it would be a nice thing to have in my record.

    That brings me to why a nationally accredited program. The military has been doing cut backs after cut backs. Many jobs are now super competitive for promotion and any colloge credit can look good for a promotion board. It really doesn't matter the degree just that fact you completed it. Heck, an officer can have a degree in underwater basket weaving so long as its nationally accredited program. Many officers don't have a degree anything close to what there job is, this kinda goes hand in hand with earlier comments about just proving you can complete something. I just thought I might check into it, I enjoy photography and want to improve, so figured it couldn't hurt to inquire about it.

    Figure this could also help anyone thinking about this for a full time job as well, what is the best thing to do to protect your future?
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    A degree now is worth as much as it always has been worth. It has always been worth as much as you put into getting it, nothing more or nothing less. Work hard for it - you get a lot out of it, flitter your opportunity away, you waste your time and your money or someone else's.

    @Ade - I suspect your right about where Scoobysmak is working and the availability of schooling for him is. As for US requirements for journalists, the 4-year degree is 'relatively' new. When I got into news most of us were barely high school graduates. Plenty of the staff working on Stars and Stripes weren't. I certainly didn't start with a college degree, I doubt there is a requirement for the degree now, but it is a de facto requirement.

    While I'm much closer to Canada than I am to the University of Montana where my daughter teaches (as the crow flies), but I must admit my ignorance to the educational system for journalists. I have zero doubt that it's good. We go to Edmunton to see our beloved Oilers (it's inherited team, so please cut me some slack ;-) ) and visit our relatives there as often as we can.

    @Golf007sd - Worth will come in time. I done a lot of stuff, in the beginning it was big, but mostly not photography. That has been 'extra' stuff that I've enjoyed and pushed me forward. I was actually an infantry officer who was also the base newspaper editor or staff officer or commander. I was also several times a magazine editor for the government and a training officer and translator and overseas worked South America, but education played a significant role in all of it. In many of these jobs, photography weaved its way in big and small ways, with big and small shops. Along the way, even the smallest things can have the biggest impact.

    @TTJ I'm closer to 40 years out, and I hardly remember any of it, but then, breakfast is only an hour out and I hardly remember it,too... Pity.

    @scoobysmak - I took a lot of advantage of educational assistance in the Army. I took DANTEs courses in Vietnam, French in Saigon, and earned two years of college credit while in the Army. It served me well.

    Credit and competence are two different things, which goes back to the first part of this post. You'll get out of education what you put into it. Hard work in gets competence out.

    My best to you and good luck!

    Mike
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