Uncertainties about studying photography in college..

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Alvi, Feb 8, 2014.

  1. Alvi macrumors 65816

    Alvi

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2008
    Location:
    Mars
    #1
    Hi everyone, I've been thinking lately about studying photography. I am about to finish High School and I've always been unsure about what I should study...

    The educational system in my country is pretty screwed up, on 8th grade you have too choose between 3 educational plans (Sciences, Computer Sciences and Philosophy/Languages) and I obviously chose the last option because as any 8th grader, I was scared of maths, physics or chemistry and I really regret it now, I really love technology and science and now I am kind of stuck with a list of careers I can choose that don't have much of what I like such as Law School, Journalism, when I would be way more interested into Architecture, Finance or design, however I suck and drawing so meh...

    I have always been a geek, I'm really good at using computers and I really like photography, I got a Nikon D3100 a few years ago and it was really life changing for me to be able to take great pictures of what is around me and I really enjoy making beautiful compositions and I even got some compliments on some pictures I've taken, however I have to admit that nowadays the camera makes anyone a good photographer. I really lack a lot of knowledge in the domain and I am really interested to learn more, but I never thought about studying this, mainly because it is an art and art is a risky business economically thinking.

    I imagine most pro-photographers either were really into photography even before college or got into it randomly during college and studied a more solid career such as economics or business management or similar things that can be applied in many domains and they can eventually help you even in photography so I if I take this step I would be completely submerged in this domain, I got pretty pumped about this idea when I realized that there are things that are appealing, I mean I almost can't find cons besides the economic risks and whatever. However I think I could handle it and eventually have success, my dream would be to eventually have a little studio/company that does things less boring as they are now at least in my city and I imagine that I would have a lot of things in common with people in this career.

    What do you guys think, did you study photography in order to be one, does it help or is it a silly educational choice?
     
  2. Lunfai macrumors 65816

    Lunfai

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2010
    Location:
    Sheffield
    #2
    I think you need to sit down and think what you would like to do in the future. I think no one can tell you this but yourself (unless your guardians or parents push you towards their own ideal career for you), but in most modern societies, it's your choice.

    I would say Photography is one of those hobbies and careers where it takes valuable dedication to progress your skills. I would say, if you love photography then go for it, but if you like photography as a past time then you can always carry on with X subject and keep it as a hobby.

    Like any subject, if you truly love the subject then go and further your skills. Personally, I feel photography is a topic that has so many viable ways to get a job. You don't need to study photography, because you can easily develop your skills in your past time and you can find sites online where you can get freelance jobs and even sell your photos to the mass public.

    I have friends whom have study graphic design, which has elements of photography and they have chosen to incorporate both topics into their career. For example, they find design work and photography work at the same time and they rotate to keep things fresh.
     
  3. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #3
    If you're really driven, I don't think whether your degree is in photography will do much either way, as long as you make enough time to continue to really learn it. I do suggest college. I'm just not sure a photography degree will mean much unless you're up for an embedded role in an ad agency or in house studio like the ones a lot of garment brands use to photograph material for their websites. Even then only necessary if it involves a clueless HR. Those kinds of degrees tend to have excessive breadth elements and some of them still retain stupid baggage like darkroom technique, which is utterly useless even from a theoretical standpoint.

    If you're interested in it, the biggest thing you could do to help yourself would be to learn to draw all the way through illustration and rendering. You're likely to have to handle the post work aspect yourself, and departments staffed by photography professors do a terrible job of teaching that, if my experience with photography graduates from a few well known art colleges is any indication. If you understand perspective, convergence, color, and the finer details of the appearance of lighting, that will get you much further than a lot of those guys, regardless of whether you go into it as a career path. I don't think photography degrees are that great for what they cost, and many still have remnants of darkroom courses remaining in their programs. It's ridiculous because with the amount done in photoshop, those should have been phased out in favor of basic digital painting courses to impart a better sense of current tools. Basic drawing and painting are also better for teaching the theoretical aspects anyway, because you basically get nothing free.

    The other thing you should consider is how you view it as a career path. You would want to look both at inspiration in the sense of what kind of photography you would pursue and how you would contribute to it, as well as how well that business model is holding out. Some markets have changed drastically in recent years with certain roles becoming embedded and a lot of turmoil in licensed media, regardless of whether it's printed or digital content. You also have to consider the markets where you would be willing to live.

    As I said I don't like the degree programs. There are better degrees. Math, science and physics aren't that bad. I wouldn't say to go into one just because you think you should, but if it's just a matter of their being intimidating, is a private tutor an option? Some teachers and books are horrible at conveying certain principles, and not everyone can just memorize every detail, even though many people get through calculus sequences that way. If you can learn enough about the topics to tie things together in a cohesive manner, they really aren't that bad. At the college level a course in physics is going to make far more use of vectors, so if you plan to take one, get used to them. If you plan to go into something math heavy, and even some business major focuses can be math heavy, at least take placement testing if it's available. Regardless of whether they provide college level credit, most colleges do have something along the lines of a pre-calculus course, which gives a decent review of high school mathematics with a slightly higher level of rigor. You can also look at online lecture options to improve your math skills, such as mit opencourseware or coursera. Many other major colleges post stuff online. You can also find a lot of class websites if you look for them with problem sets posted.

    Much of the time people drift toward creative fields just because they want something engaging. Just be aware of that.
     
  4. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    Behind the Lens, UK
    #4
    My advice would be to study some sort of business or marketing course. Then if you do decide to become a photographer full time at least you will have something to help you market and manage your business. If it doesn't work out, you have something to fall back on.
    I think most photographers get work based on their portfolio and reputation. I'm just a hobbiest though so the pro's can tell you if I'm right.
    Good luck in whatever you choose. Education is such a privilege and you need to make the right choice for you. I left school at 15 and have had quite an interesting career path, but I'm 40 this year and have done alright.
     
  5. steveash macrumors 6502

    steveash

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    #5
    This is great advice. The majority of photographers are self employed (the rest working in studios which is rarely lucrative or interesting). The difference between success and failure in photography is more about business skills than creativity or technical skills. Also many photographers have additional businesses to add to their income (teaching, hiring out studios/equipment, online businesses etc). The photography industry is changing rapidly and nobody is sure where it will be in another 10 years. Having the choice to do something different would hold you in good stead just in case you get replaced by the next generation iPhone!

    There are plenty of free and cheap resources online to help you learn more about photography. KelbyOne and CreativeLive being good places to start.

    Me, I studied design and marketing and now have a business which includes photography and video, graphic design, marketing and an online business.
     
  6. Alvi thread starter macrumors 65816

    Alvi

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2008
    Location:
    Mars
    #6
    Of course it would be an option, but the thing is that my current Educational Profile in Highschool doesn't have the math/physics/chemistry final exams that are required to study Business or anything that might require some knowledge in those domains. This is why my situation sucks, I would have to take one year off or something to catch up and then get in, my other chances are going somewhere abroad where they take this courses from zero, which is great, however I need a pretty big score on my finals and I'm a bit skeptic.


    I doubt that pro photography will ever be replaced by consumer photography, at the end of the day it's not just about the camera specs
     
  7. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #7
    Every full-time pro I know is struggling. Even the ones with six-digit shoots in the high-end commercial space. Today, we only have face/blink detection, there's a lot of room for software to start to influence the artistic side of the art, not just the technical one.

    Paul
     
  8. thekev, Feb 9, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014

    thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #8
    I don't know what you mean. You shouldn't need AP courses just to choose a major. Business majors don't typically require a lot of science. Some schools have various science course tracks, where non STEM majors can take the easier versions. You probably need SAT or ACT scores. Haven't you had the typical basic high school science courses and Algebra through Trig? I'm really skeptical that you would in fact have to take a year off. You would probably just want to distribute the difficult courses a little and possibly get tutoring. Whether or not you took certain courses in high school is probably the worst possible way to determine a major for college. It may seem intimidating, but if you may want to pursue something that requires more technical study, it is better to get help in those areas now rather than allow that feeling of weakness to influence your decisions.


    It will always be there in some sense. It's just the work is much less today. Several of the publications I worked with maybe 10 years ago are no longer in business. Several shut down or made huge cuts in 2008 to 2009, including some that were owned by some of the largest publishers. Advertising space is down. Car photographers shoot fewer jobs due to a lot of it being rendered. In many cases a photographer shoots a backplate for a rendered vehicle to be comped in. That translates to a much smaller job. When you have a net loss in the amount of work, it can be very difficult for people who are starting out. There are also a lot of mind numbing roles. Many places have embedded photography roles. At the low end of that you have e-commerce shops. I don't think that would make for a pleasant career though. I haven't kept up with it over the last couple years as I'm no longer in that industry, but you should realize it's a very difficult career path to enter today.
     
  9. steveash macrumors 6502

    steveash

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    #9
    I only meant that there is a lot of uncertainty of what the future holds. 10 years ago there where people who worked in darkrooms, while multiple assistants are not needed for modern portable lithium lighting packs. In my own area of photography CGI has replaced many car and product shoots. The ball keeps moving which can be fun but means you have to adapt your business plan and change regularly.
     
  10. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #10
    Photo courses can help some become more aware of what they can achieve in photography. I am unsure a degree in photography guarantees anything in the real world (your portfolio would be more useful).

    I do however think a good college education (with or without a degree) rounds a person out and allows for greater thought and various perspectives which does help in photography.

    If I were in your shoes, things like graphic arts as a major with a minor in photog might be a way to go. In particular computer graphic arts. The latter is a generic term as there are so many variations such as design, animation and film edit as examples.
     
  11. Alvi thread starter macrumors 65816

    Alvi

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2008
    Location:
    Mars
    #11
    I'm not in the United States and as I previously mentioned, the educational system in my country is pretty weird, you don't just go to High School, but you get to choose what you want to study those four years. And this means that also the finals are different for each study, I only have exams in languages, history and geography, whereas those that study something more scientific also have math, physics etc. This is why I'm kind of stuck with some sucky careers. Many, if not all universities require you to have those final exams in let's say math, in order to get accepted for a career such as Finance, or others.

    I am considering to study in another country where they take these things from zero, however I do need a pretty high score on my finals and I am not so confident about myself...
     
  12. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #12
    Yeah I was a little slow on that one. I initially missed it in the OP. I'm not sure what to say then, but I would strongly suggest that if you go into a creative field, you research its market trends relative to where you intend to live.
     
  13. VI™ macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Location:
    Shepherdsturd, WV
    #13
    Photography is 90% business acumen and 10% skill. There are some amazingly crappy photographers out there that make good money without doing much in the way of actual photography; they're just really good at marketing themselves and running a business.

    Also, look at Photography like football. There are some all star photographers out there that are making a name for themselves and making a ton of money. You have Annie Leibovitz, Chase Jarvis, Joe McNally, and others. But like in football, you have those that have made it to the pro circuit and a lot of other just making a decent living with their businesses. You also have the hobbiest and enthusiast who like playing in their spare time and really enjoy it, but they don't have what it takes to make it when it comes down to it.

    Not to discourage you, but photography is a highly competitive career and you need to be constantly improving yourself and your marketing skills. Look at all the newspaper photographers and magazine photographers that have been losing jobs to the average joe with an iPhone that will snap photos of news-worthy events and send them in as the news is happening and won't ask a dime for their photos. Look at how many photographers have to constantly ingrain in their clients that their prices and services are worth the money when there's other photographers out there that are willing to severely undercut the competition even though their product isn't anywhere near as good. Look at how many photographers there are out there willing to give their product away to make a name for themselves.

    It's a tough field to make it in. You need to make sure that you're a highly driven individual or you probably won't make is unless you get into a niche field.
     
  14. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2005
    #14
    In my experience with photography and photographers, I have found that many are terrible business people. Often the artistic side overpowers business sense and there is little that can be done about that. My advice is to focus on a business degree of sorts and minor or double major in photographic arts or whatever degree is offered.

    It is not to say every photographer is a ****** businessperson, it is just my experience really. As for photography in general, I do think that it has become increasingly difficult to make it as a professional. I can't tell you how many people I know who had babies (for example) have flooded flickr and facebook with 100 pictures of their kid a month and then suddenly promoted their new facebook "your name here Photography." In fact, a relative is doing that and making some decent cash. No training, nothing. Popped out a kid, bought a DSLR, and the rest is history.

    I posted something on her page about a film process that she may enjoy and she said she never has and never will touch film. I posted something about metering and highlights, she said she has Lightroom. It is what it is. Kudos to all who buy a DSLR and make it big-ish, but I am unsure if I would waste my time on a degree. If I did that, like I said, I would double major or major/minor and make the focus something that will feed me. I love to eat too much.

    I truly wish you luck. In fact, I wish anyone luck who wants to make a career out of photography. One of the best things in life is a pretty picture.
     
  15. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a

    TheDrift-

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2010
    #15
    If your unhappy now with your choices, then now is the time to do something about it!

    Can you go back and repeat the year and then get into what ever you want to do?....sure it maybe hard, but it will only get harder to change as time goes on.
     
  16. Team Timm macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 17, 2012
    Location:
    FL
    #16
    Did not read all the replies but...

    If it is a passion and you can see yourself doing this and making you happy, then go for it. Some might see it as a waste of time and money but they are not the ones in your shoes, only you can truly chose what YOU want to do for the rest of your life.

    One idea is that if you are planning on opening your own photo business in the future and if it is possible, take some courses in business/accounting to a get a some idea on what it takes in the real world. It's not as hard as it sounds, just takes determination and it will prepare you for your future.

    Cheers! Good luck with everything.
     
  17. Jessica Lares macrumors G3

    Jessica Lares

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2009
    Location:
    Near Dallas, Texas, USA
    #17
    A photography course is only beneficial if you have a great teacher and not just a good one. Pretty much the one single reason I didn't take up photography once I got into college. I just thought I was going to end up backpedaling and get frustrated.

    Great teachers will show you how to present your photos. They'll show you how to cut mat boards, how the correct type of tape won't ruin your prints, how certain types of papers won't fade as fast as others, and then how to echo all that into a smaller portfolio you can carry around to show to potential clients.

    They'll also teach you design principles, good composition, and tell you WHY something doesn't work.

    They'll also tell you how a camera works, and when to use certain settings. They look at Photoshop as a tool, and not as making better art.

    Good teachers will make you feel comfortable, but they won't stimulate your brain to do better work. It's like being in a first grade art class. They teach you the book so you can pass, not to understand.

    The great teachers will make you the better business person because you'll have better understanding of what you're doing, and this makes for better communication to your clients.

    And good communication skills make or break you in pretty much any industry.

    Math does too, but I work around that by using programs/formulas to help me, so I struggle with it less now (I struggle with numbers themselves, not actually doing problem solving).

    Saying that, I can't even take business management either without taking additional math and writing courses. So I'm in that same boat. The iTunes U courses are right there for free though, so that is the alternative road I'm taking.

    Food for thought.
     
  18. ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2013
    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    #18
    To summarize above, photography used to be a specialty. It was a lot of work and required special technical skills, equipment, and capabilities. Paid media is dying, family studios are dying. What's left is business and advertising and event work. You take pictures for companies willing to spend the money on a professional or consumers having a graduation or wedding, willing to do the same.

    One of the most important things to any business is the barrier to entry. The easier it is to get into a business, the more competitors you will have. And photography is really easy to get into.

    Degrees are about skills and documentation. Documentation only matters when someone is hiring you. Proof that you can do the job before you do the job. In the self run studio, that proof comes from your portfolio and reputation of the business you're creating. What matters then is the skills. To have a really good skills you need more than training - you need passion and talent. But if you have passion and talent, a photography degree doesn't mean that much.

    I can imagine the pressure of having to decide a life path at 14. Most people go through what you're going through at age 20. But maybe it means you have more time to get it right. The most important resource you have right now is time. You already identified an error - that you would probably enjoy IT more than photography. You have the time to change this decision. Change it if you can.
     
  19. VI™ macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Location:
    Shepherdsturd, WV
    #19
    Oh, and the amount of online material out there and classes that can train you to be a better photographer is phenomenal. There are books, courses, and other resources that can teach you techniques that you would learn from a school course.
     
  20. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2005
    #20
    Does the classes you take through iTunes U actually count for real life college credit? If you want to earn a business degree you probably need to suck it up and take the math courses. If you don't care, change your major (if that was your major in the first place). There is a very good reason why business degrees want you to have some basic math and writing skills down. Unless the degree has changed drastically since I earned it, I'm not sure how I'd wiggle my way out of taking all of the required courses.
     
  21. Jessica Lares macrumors G3

    Jessica Lares

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2009
    Location:
    Near Dallas, Texas, USA
    #21
    Of course not. It's more like further reading/research. Yes, you'd need to suck it up and catch up on math and English if you'd want to go into a degree program for business.
     
  22. Commy1 macrumors 6502a

    Commy1

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2013
    #22
    Go to art college for photography :D so much fun
     
  23. nitromac macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
    Location:
    US
    #23
    I was in the same boat as you (pretty much) a few years ago as a high school student. From middle school up to 11th grade I wanted to study anything but hard science. First I was going to go into video production, then graphic design, then audio production, etc. I was looking into schools that offered these things and realized they were fairly expensive.

    Then I looked at the job market for these fields. It's pretty bad. Getting a solid job is difficult and the pay is decent at best. Very few people have photography as a full time job so really think about this.

    Once I looked at all those statistics and thought about what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life, I decided I'd go with computer science (because I'm a geek too). So here I am, studying computer science, and doing all of the above as hobbies in my spare time (of which there is plenty).

    I've also been doing an internship as a software engineer at a local company doing a lot of web design/development and even some commercial video work. Goes to show your hobbies can easily fuse with your career.

    Unless you're really determined to strike gold in liberal arts, go for something more stable and still enjoyable.
     
  24. amoda macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2006
    #24
    Wish I was as wise as you in High School!

    To the OP, I don't really have much to add other than to parrot what has already been said here. Going to school full time for photography would definitely teach you some extra skills, but it's quite risky.

    If there's another field with less risk that you enjoy (STEM, business) go for that and take photography on the side.

    My experience:

    I'm fairly risk-averse so I completed a double major in neuroscience & business, but took courses on photography as my electives. I then got into medicine, but kept active with my photography when I could. Now, if I so wish, I can pursue it full-time or part-time but know that I have something to fall back on to meet my responsibilities (bills, supporting a family, etc).

    My undergrad experience also equipped me with the business knowledge required to run a business, which is vital for photographers (and family doctors!).

    All the best!
     

Share This Page