I am about to start my fourth semester of my BA (hons) Photography at the BTK in Berlin. I enjoy the courses and am of the opinion that I have learned a lot. Not necessarily technically, as I was to a large majority self-taught and had bought myself the knowledge about all the necessities of the technology. However, I have definitely been taught how ‘to see’ and how to get the right shot.
Also when doing a university degree, even a photography degree one learns a crucial amount of theory and advanced skills of writing, researching and analyzing. This is due to the fact that it’s a Bachelor of Arts degree and these are compulsory parts of any degree, for ex. at this moment I am writing a 14 – 16 page research essay and that isn’t my bachelor essay which encloses approximately 35 – 45 pages.
Yet the true question is, does one need to get a Bachelor in order to be a successful photographer? No. 100% No. When I was 17, and therefore still in school, I had my until now biggest contract. For the Vodafone Dublin Fashion Show, my image had been chosen for all advertising. So, yes without a bachelor one can too have some success within this very large industry, especially with creative industries in particular; quality work is obviously important, yet most important is getting your name out there. That’s how Vodafone found me and how all the other brands that I have worked with found me.
How I did this, was simply discipline. Instagram, Twitter, blogging and constant changes to my website and engaging in the audience. Without doing this, companies would have never have noticed me, and trust me I learned absolutely none of it in University. I watched podcasts, tutorials, read books guiding me and learned that way.
People have and will continue to name one example after another of photographers who haven’t had an education and are self-taught; and there always will be, however these are exceptions. I am of the opinion that one’s chances are multiples times higher once one has had an education; maybe not a bachelor’s degree, but an internship with an experienced photographer or just years of experience under the concept of learning through mistakes. However, an education truly does stand out, not necessarily when Vogue rings and asks to shoot a series; cause they truly won’t care whether or not you have a bachelor’s degree, yet on the other hand it gives you a multitude of opportunities outside of photography. A huge amount of jobs nowadays don’t actually ask whether you have a certain type of bachelor, the only important thing is that one has a bachelor. Why? Because it proves that one has the capacity of higher-level of education.
Back to photography directly I have noticed a huge amount of improvement over the last 15 months alone. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have per-se learned something exactly, but through the large amount of assignments one naturally improves.