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Old Feb 1, 2012, 3:04 AM   #1
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Default Photography Schools

I have recently noticed several advertisements of those that are “teaching” photography. At a school of photography as a guest speaker I was asked what my thoughts were regarding the whole “I can teach you photography” thing. Well here goes. I don’t subscribe to that concept for many reasons. One is how to stunt the growth of a new student by teaching them rules about what is and what isn’t right for a starter. Another is the often over used formulas that in most cases these “specialists” teach the naive student as gospel

I do however have no problem with a school that assists one in understanding technical issues or a school that deals with the historical and artistic aspects of photography. But a school that deals with issues such as cropping, lighting style etc…Well that’s where I put my foot down and say an unequivocal NO, Nein, Non.

I have had so many poor lost assistants whom I would rather not pinpoint specifically, that have no clue what so ever who they are. If they did come into a school of photography with the hopes of coming out an individual, well that notion was sucked out of them by the energy vampires. I’m not saying that all profs are frustrated unsuccessful photographers that couldn’t make it in their field. However from what I have seen and heard, one could not help but make that assumption.

I am saying that guest speakers, workshops and specialized subjects dealing with specific technical issues might be a reason to seek out advice or when a guest lecturer has come in to speak of his or her experiences, as I did at the Orleans School of Photography in France. Do your research. Read, experiment, take tons of photos inspire yourself and grow as a human. Build up your vocabulary in all disciplines and your life shall be richer as a result. It has been proven that the greater the vocabulary the richer ones life. Take a deep breath and do what comes naturally. If you get stuck creatively, take a short break. If you need some technical advice, just ask questions.

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Old Feb 1, 2012, 6:40 AM   #2
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I've run across this position in my other hobby, which is woodworking. At the risk of oversimplifying the situation, I see two schools of thought, no pun intended.

A person seeking to develop professionally in any particular art form would be limited by the mantra so often expoused. Imagine if Ansel Adams spent his time worrying about the rule of thirds, or taking photos only with the golden ratio. Or to put some distance from the topic to allow a better vantage point, imagine a great woodworker fretting over the recipe for a stain in the hopes of matching the expectation laid out by currently accepted practices. In either case we'd prefer to have the artisans focus on the aspect of their craft that set them apart or make them distinct. This, I think, is Ben's position.

But then there's the amatuer hacks such as myself. Just tell me how to get rid of the green in treated lumber with a stain, don't make me study the difference between pigments and dyes and then experiment with both to create different effects. Or in photographic terms, just tell me it's the aperture when setting DOF to isolate the flower from the field.

A solution? Nah. I'm not sure a school can teach creativity, though they can give an opportunity for students to explore their own to various degrees. In either case, the prodigy has to step up their game and transcend conventional thought if they are to make themelves unique. Always has been, always will be.
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Old Feb 1, 2012, 6:52 AM   #3
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I wholeheartedly agree. Schools teach the test. There's no room for creativity. That's OK for Auto Mechanics, but it's not for Photographers, or any trade or profession that requires (or might benefit from) some originality of thought.

I see the same thing very often in my field of Information Technology. Microsoft's certification programs, in particular, establish "Cookie Cutter" solutions instead of encouraging people to piece together technology from multiple vendors to best serve the customer.

This is why even colleges and universities use multiple choice tests instead of essay questions. It's easier to grade everyone by machine than it is to recognize and evaluate something new and promising.
  • The lens is the thing.
  • 'Full Frame' is the new 'Medium Format'.
  • "One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions." - Tex Johnston, Boeing 707 test pilot.
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Old Feb 1, 2012, 2:53 PM   #4
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Ben's post is more thought-provoking to me than it would appear on the surface. Several years ago I read an article about cars, who's point I no longer remember. But what I DO remember is how similar certain cars were to each other - it was pointed out that the vast majority of designers for those companies came from the same university. So it's very easy to see schools pushing out the proverbial cookie cutter photographers, they have been taught that the same things are good and so they do the same things the same way as professionals.

On the other hand, how often have I seen ernest, untrained, new photographers making some very basic mistakes out of ignorance and think they've created the next best-in-show photo? I know I've done that, sometimes even now when I should know better. So some sort of schooling can be desirable (and I notice that Ben does point out some reasons for going to photography school - technical and historical references being the biggies).

While I think that a certain amount of being a good photographer is natural, it's not such that a person who today is a lousy photographer can't become a good one in the future. And if you don't get some sort of guidance/feedback, you'll often continue to make the same mistakes over and over, because you don't know any better.

So I won't rule out photography schools altogether. But then I don't really know, having never taken a photography course of any sort (but would like to).
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Old Feb 2, 2012, 2:09 AM   #5
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Hi I have nothing against schools or courses. What I dont see are the right type of courses. Where I live we have several campuses but none actually teach basic photography skills. Which is something I think everybody needs as photography is part science and part art and part creativity, I am sure people can add to that short list.
But how many times do we answer or see basic mistakes. So I would like to see more classes for the basics.
Again where I come from we do have photography clubs and societies which can inspire people to take better pictures but dont really teach the basics. It is places like this that take up the slack and do a great job for people.
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Old Feb 2, 2012, 5:59 AM   #6
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I have to agree with wave01. Sure, there are the 'I gots me pice of paper so therefore I is a photographer' school which fall into my bias that they exist to make money and if you gain anything, that is a happy coincidence. (That is not a cop-out sour grapes conclusion as I paid my dues with 2 masters degrees.)

Rather, schools for photography for the masses tend to fall into 2 camps. The first being "this is how you use your camera you just bought" for those who can't or won't read the manual. Far more beneficial are those "photography classes" that teach a concept - lighting, macro, posing, composition, etc - and have exercises between session applying the concepts, reviewing and discussing at next meeting. Such training exists in multiple formats, but never results in a formal degree. It may be through a store, totally independent pro giving back to the community, actual continuing ed class at a community college, or the agenda within a club as they look for topics and variety to keep exciting.

Each are designed to enhance the creativity by tasking the individual to think beyond while learning the basic like the interrelationship of aperture, shutter and ISO, or lens choice, ect. My daughter took one of the hands on type classes several years ago with her first camera - and entry level Canon elph P&S - and what she has been able to do with that is amazing. Likewise, even at more advanced levels such as myself, a club illustrates that different specialties think different, but can learn from each other and through guest speakers. My specialty is archetectual/real estate, landscape that has issues portrait and wedding photographers don't think about. Yes, I might compose a portrait with a tree coming out of someone's head because I don't think of compositon the same way as a portrait specialist, but they also don't think of converging verticals the way I do - and still haunted by the slanting walls in a church illustrated in a wedding "how to" book.

The biggest thing is just doing it and participating to bring out one's creativity.
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