Should you get a photography degree?
In 2016, I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a BFA in Photography. After previously attending a different college, taking a little time off to work, and returning to school as a transfer, I’ve had a bit of a rollercoaster path to the BFA. But when I finally got there, it was so worth it. To become a professional photographer, not totally necessary. But if you can swing it, it’s a very beneficial experience beyond just getting degree credentials.
The technical experience you receive from a photography degree is worth it alone. There are so many different types of lighting and shooting styles that you learn about with a proper photography education. Having professionals guide you, test you and educate you stylistically brings versatility to your career. The more range you have to offer, the more avenues you can explore for success.
Getting a photography degree is the perfect time to experiment figure out what you want to do. It can be one of the most stress-free times for a photographer, as they can explore different mediums and styles of photography. I went into art school thinking I wanted to be a high fashion photographer, and came out with my sights set elsewhere. Working through a degree allows the time to explore different subject matter and concepts that one may have disregarded.
One of the most beneficial parts of getting a photography degree is the privilege to experiment with different kinds of photo equipment. Learning what lenses work best for you, what camera brands you prefer, and what type of lighting you work best with is in valuable. That way, when building your kit in the professional world, you know exactly what you want and need. Equipment is a major investment, so try before you buy.
Making and maintaining connections while getting your degree is important to a successful career in photography industry. Get to know both your peers and your professors alike, and make meaningful connections. During college you can also explore the world of internships, photo assisting and more opportunities to branch out and meet new people in your industry. You never know who might think of you for a gig.
Learn Non-Shooting Essentials
Many photography education programs offer courses in a retouching, photo editing and curating, production, business and more. These are essential skills that you need in your photo career to run a thriving business. Having the opportunity to learn them from professionals in a guided and practical way can impact your career greatly.
Photo Industry Options
The best part of a photography education for me personally was learning about the photography industry beyond just becoming a photographer. There are a multitude of careers in the photo industry that are worth exploring. Non-photographer careers can challenge you creatively and may be less competitive than actually shooting.
Is getting a photography degree worth it?
In the end, getting a degree ends up becoming more about what you do and less about the degree itself. Pursuing a BFA in Photography opens you up to a variety of educational experiences that you may not have the opportunity or freedom to otherwise explore. At the end of the day, however, a degree will not stop you from becoming a photography professional. Post-secondary education is a privilege that not everyone is able to partake in. But if you do have the means, the passion, and the drive, a BFA in Photography will serve you more than “just a piece of paper”.