Is a Photography Degree Worth It?
by Sessions Staff | February 10, 2023
If you’ve stumbled upon this article you’re likely looking to join the ranks of creatives who’ve successfully turned their passion into a profession. You’ve spent hours researching the first steps, watching YouTube videos and reading the blogs of countless professional photographers who’ve shared their personal journeys, but all you’ve learned is that everyone’s path is different. There are many paths one can take toward becoming a professional and there are valid reasons for both traditional and self-taught approaches to education. Which path is the best choice for you depends on the kind of person you are.
What value can a formal education offer over the endless amount of free material available online? It’s true, if you head to YouTube right now and search for photography basics there are thousands of videos waiting for you.
The problem lies in finding a trustworthy teacher providing truly valuable information. As a beginner, you lack the experience to properly vet your instructors, making it difficult to be certain that the content you’re consuming is both correct and important to your development as a photographer. Once you’ve managed to find a source you’re fairly certain you can trust, what happens if the trajectory of their uploads doesn’t mirror your own development—covering the skills and topics you’re interested in learning? The hunt for a teacher begins again.
The amount of information available online can almost be to your detriment as it makes finding truly valuable information a much more time-consuming task. With countless channels and personalities who all seem to be confident and knowledgeable competing for your attention, it can be difficult to piece together a solid educational foundation to build a career upon. Imposter syndrome is rampant in the creative professions and it’s difficult to be confident in your creative decisions if you aren’t confident in the fundamentals that inform them. This lack of confidence leads many creatives to undervalue themselves and accept less than what they’re worth.
That isn’t to say that it’s not possible to find good teachers sharing valuable information on platforms like YouTube, but when it comes to amassing the skills and knowledge necessary to transition from hobbyist to working professional, there’s no telling how long this route will take.
This leads us to perhaps one of the biggest benefits a more traditional approach to studying photography can provide, and that is structure. Degrees provide a clear path forward for those looking to become professionals. From the outset, you’ll have an idea of exactly what to expect and how long it will take. As you progress, you’ll always know where you are along that trajectory, which provides peace of mind in a way that self-study simply can’t. It’s also easier to verify the institution, your instructors, and the program itself so you can be confident in the validity of the information you receive. Before starting a program you can look into the teachers and past graduates to be certain you’ll achieve the kinds of results you’re looking for.
Degree programs are designed to contain all of the information necessary to take students from complete beginners to skilled practitioners ready to enter the professional world. Concepts and skills are introduced in an order more conducive to understanding, and knowledgeable instructors are there every step of the way to answer questions and provide guidance. Projects and assignments help to cement foundational principles and skills by leveraging the topics discussed in class. This quick transition between theory and practice coupled with the added accountability of assignments is a reliable recipe for rapid progression. On top of that, having access to instructors who have been in your shoes before and can help you to navigate common pitfalls can fast-track your learning by helping you to reach insights that might have taken years to arrive at on your own.
The truth is, there is no one size fits all answer to the question of whether or not a degree in photography is worth it. The better question to ask is what do you hope to achieve and how long are you willing to wait to make it a reality?
Sessions Staff is a restless soul who loves to share Campus News stories with current and prospective students.