In today’s world, where knowledge is available for free all over the Internet, is there still point spending one or two years in school and learn photography there? Also, are photography and lighting skills all the schools have to offer to make you a photographer? Jared Polin discusses all these questions in his latest video.
The news that Antonelli Institute is closing down was what triggered Jared to start this topic. After 80 years of working, this school is now educating their last generation of photographers and graphic designers. And it’s not the only school closing down in the past couple of years. So naturally, this raises a question – do we need photography schools any longer?
In my opinion – of course we do. But, it depends on the type of school, and what you want to learn. For me, learning something in school works better than learning it myself, at least when I’m just starting off. I attended a photography course in 2009; it was a kind of a crash course to learn the basics. I definitely needed it so I could start somewhere and get some directions. Before it, everything seemed so overwhelming! Of course, I’ve learned and explored a lot on my own since then, and I’ve learned tons of new things just writing for DIYP, not to mention reading this blog and the other great ones. But in my early days, I needed something structured, and someone to guide me through the first steps in the photography world.
Then, when it comes to schools, sometimes they offer you more opportunities than you could find yourself. In my case, I was a poor student, but at the course, I got to shoot in a professional studio, use pro gear and visit some places I would have no chance of visiting otherwise.
Another great thing with schools is the feedback you get from teachers and peers. You get real-time, constructive criticism and this helps you learn and improve. So for me, the course was really a great experience. The school “opened the door” to the photography world for me and helped me take the first steps, and I’m grateful for that.
However, this doesn’t need to be the same for everyone. And sometimes, the school doesn’t teach you all you need to know. As a photographer, you’re not just a photographer. You need to know photo editing, marketing, and own interpersonal skills. Also, it’s good to learn how to create other media such as videos, timelapse, cinemagraphs and so on. The market changes and so does the technology. You need to keep track with the changes, and not all schools do it.
Another thing is the money. If the school costs thousands of dollars and doesn’t offer broad knowledge, why wouldn’t you go online and look for it there? There are plenty of fantastic YouTube channels, blogs, e-courses and books that are either free or affordable. This way, you can focus on what you want to learn, organize your time and invest the money on gear.
When it comes to feedback, you can also get it online. Not only trolls live on forums and in Facebook groups. There are also plenty of fantastic people who’ll give you constructive criticism or provide help, either as peers or as more experienced mentors.
So, after all this, do we still need photography schools? I’d say both yes and no. It all depends on the school and on your needs. If I got to choose, I’d go to the photography course again. They can be an excellent guide when you’re totally new and everything seems overcomplicated. You can learn the basics there (at least), and form some idea what you want to do when you finish the course. But, if you already have some knowledge, skill, and idea what you want to do, maybe the Internet and free/cheap resources will be of more help for you. Or, a 4-year photography college where you can learn plenty of different things and get lots of opportunities. What do you think?