Today, when you can learn so much about filmmaking and photography online, is it even worth going to college? In this video, Kai Wong and Tim Pan discuss the question many of you have probably asked yourself. Should you invest your money in college, or just buy gear instead and start learning on your own? Let’s hear some pros and cons of both choices and see if you agree.
Tim graduated from a film college last year, but he also bought a RED Gemini recently, so he’s got both – the degree and the gear. But surprisingly, he says that he’d trade his college degree for gear. Both Tim and Kai say they didn’t learn all that much in college, and Kai adds that his photography teacher was awful. But hold your horses, this doesn’t mean that going to college for photography or filmmaking is pointless. While you can learn a lot on your own, there are still plenty of valuable things college can teach you and prepare you for:
First, you learn how to work on projects to a deadline, and you’re creating that work to be evaluated by your tutor. This is pretty much how it’s gonna work in real life, only you’ll have a client instead of a tutor to set you a deadline and later evaluate your work. So, the college will teach you how to work under these conditions and how to take criticism. And trust me, those are important lessons.
In college, you also learn to work towards a goal, which can ultimately make you more driven and passionate. You will meet many other creatives and socialize with them. You’ll exchange ideas and they will inspire you further.
While we’re at socialization, film or photography college can end up providing you with some useful contacts. And there’s something I would add here. Working with other creatives will help you learn about teamwork. It’s also a valuable lesson if you’re gonna work in the creative industry.
There’s another argument against spending all your money on gear. If you buy, for example, a fancy camera, it will get outdated pretty soon and lose its value. Also, if you buy expensive gear and you don’t know how to use it, by the time you learned it, something new will come up. On the other hand, your knowledge never loses value, and it can only increase over time.
Kai proposes an interesting compromise, which in my opinion is the best solution. If you do have some money, you can invest it in decent (not too pricey) gear, and spend the rest on traveling. The experiences are also something that will stick with you forever, just like the knowledge. And these experiences will be a valuable source of inspiration for your work. As for the knowledge, there are really so resources on the internet – blogs, YouTube, e-Books, online courses. Learning this way requires some self-discipline, but you can definitely go a long way if you’re passionate and determined.
I didn’t go to college for photography or filmmaking, I was studying English. If I were 19 again and had to choose between college and photo gear, I’d chose the same college again. However, when it comes to photography, I learned almost everything I know from the internet and from my own endless tries and mistakes. So when it comes to photography, I’d still choose the same path. And now, at 30, if I had those $20K, I’d go with buying relatively decent gear and squandering the rest of the cash on travel. And I’d still be learning from the internet and my own experiences. For me, it would be a win-win situation.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Did you go to college, or you learned about photography/filmmaking on your own? Would you do anything differently now, or you’re pleased with the decisions you’ve made?