Thoughts on Photography School

I earned my BFA in Photography from ASU in 2006 and have only been asked for it a few times, mostly related to teaching rather than as an evaluation of my shooting skills.  It cost $20,000 + interest and it’s only that low because I did 2 years of community college beforehand.  I’ve heard ASU tuition has nearly doubled in the 8 years I’ve been out of it.  I don’t know of anyone else from my ASU classes who continued photography or exhibits it, except for one guy who teaches at a local community college.

In the years since my graduation, my style and depth of knowledge has almost nothing to do with what I learned in college.  We were working mostly in darkrooms using paper that cost $1 a sheet for prints that aren’t in my portfolio at all, with teachers who were active in the arts scene but didn’t really have any sort of modern outlook on things.  Also there was absolutely no “how to survive as a freelancer or artist” component to any of the classes.  The real education and growth for me has been in the doing, and occasionally through free online tutorials, podcasts with actual working artists and photographers, workshops, and through teaching others.

In the local community workshops I teach, I get asked by students about going to photography school.

Anyone can learn photography and improve existing skills if they have the drive and curiosity without spending $20,000.

You’ll need knowledgeable people who can give you honest feedback.  And you’ll need to be honest with yourself.

You’ll need basic gear.

You’ll need time to go out and make the kinds of images that interest you (you don’t even get this when you are in higher education because you have actual schoolwork to do).

And whether you take photo classes or DIY, you’ll need years of practice, experimentation, failing, dead end projects, going to relevant trade and art events and meeting other people.  Those things may cost a lot of money as well- a 4-day workshop in Palm Springs with a well-known photographer mentor runs $1000- that’s a drop in the bucket compared to college for the arts.

“But you have the ear of your college instructor for months!  Maybe a lifetime as an alumni!”  True, you and hundreds of other students.  A workshop gives individualized instruction to a small amount of people.

“But you have to get a degree to get any decent paying job!”  Also true, but not a photography degree!  Try engineering, software development, business… marketable skills that the “real world” values.  The creative arts are not valued in such a way.  Just ask anyone in a band, any comedian or model how much they make or how often they are undervalued for their talents.

“But I’m not that self-motivated… I need a teacher to tell me what direction to go in.”  Then you’re not going to be creating very much.

If you enjoy any of this work I encourage you to like it and share it!  For more photoworks goodness peruse my Etsy shop, follow on tumblr and twitter and instagram, and rummage around on my full site.






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I'm a multimedia artist in Phoenix, AZ. Main Site - Instagram @primordialcreative + twitter @dbmillerphoto

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