The Difference Between Photography School and Teaching Yourself
Nowadays, the availability of digital cameras such as a canon and phone cameras with high-quality images means that the capacity to teach yourself photography skills is increasing. On the other hand, studying a photography degree can leave you with a formal education, achieved through a set curriculum. The connection with real-world experts and industry learnings is just one of the differences between completing a photography course with an art school, versus self-taught photography.
In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of self-taught photography vs photography school in four key areas:
The most apparent difference between learning photography self-taught vs attending a photography school and studying an arts degree is the cost.
The cost of education for a New Zealand Diploma in Photography (Level 5) for domestic students is around:
For international students, the cost is approximately:
A graduate diploma (Level 7) of arts at the University of Auckland offers a one-year course costing between $7,200.00 and $8701.00 for domestic students and between $34,000 to $42,000 for international students.
By comparison, it’s significantly cheaper – free, in fact – to delve into the informational videos, forums and learning resources available all over google on photography.
Alternatively, if you were after a little more direction, you could do a short online course or a photography diploma for a fraction of the cost of attending university.
A short course application could cost approximately:
There are many resources and learnings available over the internet; therefore, it is up to the students learning preference to choose what learning platform best suits their means.
Another topic to consider when tossing up between learning photography at school or self-taught is the schedule, and potential time constraints for learning.
When studying at a university or through online institutions you’ll be provided with a study schedule and timeline so that your progress can be continuously tracked. This can be incredibly motivating since it drives you to achieve goals and tasks by specific periods. Compared to the purely self-driven nature of studying alone, which can become tedious, this factor can be a massive benefit.
These courses urge you to attend class and also push you to complete the work, especially considering you’ve invested a fair sum into this form of education.
However, in contrast, the benefit of undertaking online study is the flexibility of learning whenever you want. It can be entirely up to you to learn whenever you see fit, especially if you have other commitments during the day or night.
It also allows you to learn at your own pace, so there’s no need to stress about whether you’re keeping up with other students. This can make the experience a lot more enjoyable and relaxed, which is great if you’ve got other commitments like work and family.
Learning Curve and Networking
If you’re learning something new you can always expect to encounter a learning curve. The form of learning you choose to undertake often determines whether that curve is a small slope or a steep mountain.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of studying at an institution is that teachers in photography classes can provide you with instant feedback to help with your learning. You can also expect them to have a wealth of knowledge to offer, potentially even backed by industry experience. This makes the tutors gold-standard mentors, which can definitely help set you off on the right foot if you’re after a photography career.
A photography school is likely to provide formal training under a proven curriculum, with specific topics such as photoshop and digital photography in a structured manner. This way, only relevant information and learning is included.
Undertaking a photography course also gives you the opportunity to develop your networks and make (potentially life-changing) industry connections.
When teaching yourself something new, the learning process can sometimes be a bit more challenging and slower. This may be because there is no industry expert or professional photographer to show you; topics and explanations can be taught in less time from industry professionals. Also, mistakes can carry forward and can take a long time without anybody correcting them if you’re solely responsible for your own learning.
As a self-taught photographer, you are not always surrounded by other amateur photographers and different perspectives on photographs. Therefore, joining a photography community via social media or other platforms will assist in building networks and gaining new perspectives on photography.
This community may also include successful photographers that have had the same difficulties as you and can help you become a better photographer. They may also help in learning and questions regarding your self teachings.
You might be surprised at how different your personal photography style could be based on which path you decide to go down.
When you attend class, a specific way of learning and thinking about photography is implemented throughout the standardised course work. Therefore, it is hard not to absorb the perspective of teachers.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since their teachings would be in line with well-regarded theory and industry experience, however you might find it stifles your personal creativity when it comes to snapping photos.
When you are working as a self-taught photographer, you are free of constraints and views of others, and free to focus on developing your own style.
While it is best to get techniques, theory and ideas from photograph experts, maintaining your own style of work is what will eventually set you apart in the field, and make your pieces more desirable.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to go to photography school or become a self-taught photographer. It is important to note, there’s no hard and fast rule as to which direction is better to take. What suits someone best in terms of learning and financial requirements may not necessarily suit you.
Some people find it more motivating attending a university with like-minded people; however, enjoy the flexibility of being self-taught. Whatever you decide, the key understanding across the board is that you are responsible for your own learning, and only you can determine how much you get off of your education.
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