A degree of advice

Aga – Mamiya 7II/80mm/Kodak T-Max 400

A lot of young people ask me, especially at this time of year, whether they should do a degree in photography, my advice is this, and it is only my opinion. –

A degree tells an employer that you have the self motivation to complete 3 years of study and produce a body of work. It’s not school, you don’t have to be there. If two people turn-up for a job, both interview well and both have great personalities, but only one has a degree – the one with the degree will almost definitely get the position. However, having a degree in photography won’t necessarily get you a job as a photographer. This year alone, thousands of students left universities with some kind of photographically related degree. Most of them are now unemployed or are working in an office or a building society. There simply aren’t enough jobs to go round.

If you want to be a photojournalist, study something like politics or history, a portrait photographer should look at anthropology or sociology and I think somebody who’d like to become the worlds next big-shot surf photographer will find 3 years reading oceanography or meteorology a lot more beneficial. You can tie photography into all of these courses and there’s also the added ‘belt and braces’ advantage – when you emerge, riddled with student debt, after 3 years and you can’t walk into that dream photography job, you’ll have a much more usable degree.

“But how do I learn about photography?1” I hear you say – every university will have a photography club or society of some kind, join that and make friends with photography and art students – they have free access to equipment and darkrooms and they also throw the best parties.

Only a genuine passion in the medium will get you anywhere in photography…and for the record, I don’t have a degree, and apart from a night class when I was 19, I’ve never studied photography.

Mamiya 7II/80mm/Kodak Portra 400

16 comments

  1. Very wise words and well put. Today we live in an oversaturated photography market where you’ll find an uncle Bob at every event with a dslr claiming to be a photographer – I saw a couple over the weekend at a family wedding!
    Like you say get a qualification that can be used and photography will always be fitted into the timetable.
    Sent from my BlackBerryยฎ wireless device

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  2. Great words and advice! I didn’t go to school for photography and graduated with an art history degree… I’m an artist too. It truly helped me to study the great photographers first, to see why and how they edited and cropped. I loved reading this post! Thank you for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Nice shot, again…. oh and by the way you’re one of the main reasons why I’ve just blown 350โ‚ฌ on a Yashica Mat 124G, a scanner and some film……. thanks ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  4. blaggyeyes

    I shoot every day, i create my own projects and spend many happy an hour with my camera. I only shoot manual and occasionally AV mode. I know why I choose which aperture, shhutter or Iso i set for each shot. Your words echo my sentiments and I have only ever attended gatherings organised by friends and fellow photographers. I’m alsi in a camera club. Theres dtill some degree of snobbery among those that have studied the subject at Uni though

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  5. I would love to go to school for photography. I loved my years at college – being fully immersed in a subject (fashion design) with people doing the same thing. I think that going to school gives you/forces that opportunity to fully immerse yourself and to do things/styles that you wouldn’t necessarily do on your own, but have to for class assignments. And you get to live in a community of other photographers/artist. Of course going to school (full time) means you can afford to be in school full time. I can’t. I have to work. But I do also agree with what you said Phil. And that it’s not necessary/doesn’t mean you’ll be an ‘great’ photographer/get work just because you have a degree in photography. If you truly have a passion for it (like any other creative endeavour), you will work on it daily and self-assign yourself projects and things to do/work on/learn ๐Ÿ™‚

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