Reading this article in PDN today made me sick to my stomach. When it comes to photography schools people have divided feelings about them. And some have been under fire. Brooks Institute was sued a few years ago and now the Art Institute is being investigated.
Please read the PDN article . I have mixed feelings about this so let’s examine.
First, fraud is never acceptable. If it is true that the Art Institute has accepted grant money that was funneled somehow into their share holders pockets than they need to be held accountable for their actions.
The question on whether or not photography schools are worth their money is what I’d like to ponder over. Did you know that I went to photography school? I have an actual degree in photography from the Bavarian Institute of Fotodesign in Munich, Germany. Would I say that the school gave me any type of idea about the business of photography? I would not. I don’t think we ever had a class on any type of business issue at all. But what photography school did teach me were the fundamentals of knowing what a decent, good and what a great photo is. I also learned how to develop my own black and white film, how to make prints, a variety of different photographic styles and techniques. All but one instructor where not active in the photography industry and dedicated to teaching. That fact made us feel that some of our teachers were rather removed from reality.
In my and the class above me there were in fact quite a few photographers who went out in the world to make a mark. Enrique Badulescu probably being one of the bigger names. I know that a good number of fellow pupils have gone on to have successful photographic careers. We had 40 students in our class with a total of 80 people in the school. 10-15 ended up making a living in photography.
But, why only some and not others?
Surprise! Not everyone who has the education will make it. That is hardly different in the photography world as it is in the fashion, advertising, marketing, law, accounting and finance and any other professions. Graduating does not mean that you make money in your field of study. It is all about what you do and how hard and smart you hustle that gets you the job.
Education costs time and money. The less money you pay the more time you have to put in. The more money you put in the less time is needed to get to a certain level because you can afford the top consultants and coaches and attend conferences. You pay for the connections. In short, you pay either way. You pick the track that you (or your parents) can afford to pay for.
Let’s take a look at my career path. I had a photography degree, became a photo assistant, an intern at a magazine, a photo editor, a hair and make-up representative, a photographer representative, a producer, a stock syndication and now I am a coach, consultant, speaker and author. All of these are in the same field but I did not become a photographer ultimately. Would I have gone this road without photography school? Probably not. So I am a success story for photography schools after all. But I have been in this business for a very long time now. Sometimes it just takes time until you make the connections. I had to pay my dues like everyone else.
In summary, it’s up to you to determine what you get out. Do your research before you put your hard earned money into something. Review both, the failure and the success stories so you can make an informed decision. Figure out what the common denominators are that makes one successful. Then go and copy the actions (not their work) of the best people in that niche.
Always be reminded that success is the difference between knowing and putting your knowledge to use. Having a career takes time, energy and a significant personal investment.