As a young, rebellious teenager in love with music and films, I discovered my love of photography when I was handed an old Olympus film camera and I have since fallen deeply in love with the art of photography. Years went by as I experimented with different ways of shooting and discovering new ideas I wanted to pursue in this medium until I finished school and needed to think seriously about what I wanted to do in life. The choice was easy: either become a musician or a photographer.
So I decided to pursue a career in photography after joining a few failed bands and realizing my ears were going deaf from sitting behind a drum set for eight hours a day. My parents were adamant that I study and perfect the art if I decide to make a career out of it, so I did. I embarked on a two year studying career to perfect my passion for photography. I learned a lot through the two years of studying while also having had the opportunity to shoot and use proper equipment in a professional studio. It gave me the feel of what to expect when I finished my studies and take this challenge head-on in the real world.
The experience of studying also granted me the opportunity to meet like-minded creative individuals and collaborate with them, which showed me the importance of collaborating at an early stage. And it didn’t end there. After my studies, I still kept in contact with some of my peers. I was even invited to start up a production company with my lecturer.
The biggest thing I learned during my two years of studying was how to accept criticism and to learn from it as well as learn from mistakes my fellow students made. We also learned from each other by discussing different ideas and applying them to our own forms of photography, slowly but surely creating our own style. The experience in studying photography early in my life taught me exactly where my strengths and weaknesses lie.
I found I was strong in certain genres of photography and also found a love for retouching. Meanwhile, I was disinterested and weaker in other forms of the art, thus leading me to specialize in a few areas that I felt strongest in.
Some might argue that studying isn’t necessary or that if you have a natural talent, you don't need to study to perfect the art. They would tell you to keep shooting instead of studying. I'm not saying I have a natural talent, but to some degree, I agree with them. Studying photography didn’t teach me anything new in terms of holding a camera and how to compose, etc. The benefit of it all was to give me a chance to network with like-minded individuals from an early stage, feed off the creativity of others, and prepare myself for what’s out there. It gave me the opportunity to experiment with different forms of photography in a facility that had everything I wanted, from darkrooms and studios to lights and different cameras — and all of this while showcasing your work to a group of people and receiving advice and criticism in order to take your work to the next level. If anything, studying photography only sped up my experience which would’ve otherwise taken a few extra years to achieve while figuring things out on my own.
What studying photography didn’t teach me was how to deal with clients who never pay, how to work under the extreme pressures of a paid shoot when you only have five to ten minutes to get that perfect shot, as well as various administrative headaches. Many of these issues can only be taught through experience.
While I feel it’s not imperative that you study the art you want to specialize in, doing so gives you the opportunity to grow faster than you would if you were self-taught.
I still have vital contacts from when I studied, and we pass along work or seek advice when times get tough. I feel these contacts and the overall experience would’ve taken much longer to build up had I not studied. If anything, it gave me a platform to present my work to a small community of people while also gaining knowledge and contacts in the industry.
Did you decide to study before pursuing a career in photography? Let me know in the comments.