Should you go to college for a photography course?


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Are you thinking of joining a photography course at a college or university? If Yes, then read on. The intention most people have when they think of enrolling into a photography course is usually the willingness to learn the craft in the best possible way. ...

Are you thinking of joining a photography course at a college or university? If Yes, then read on.

The intention most people have when they think of enrolling into a photography course is usually the willingness to learn the craft in the best possible way. Above all, we grew up to believe that formal education is the best way to specialize in something.

However, this isn’t true for photography. Because photography can’t be taught in schools.

To clarify, there are parts of the photographic process which can be taught but there are also parts which simply aren’t meant to be taught.

Should you do a Photography Course?

In other words, you can be trained to use the camera and other equipment but that is a small part of the whole photographic process.

In fact, the most difficult decision in photography is not choosing a camera/ lens or particular settings, but to know when to press the shutter.

Of course, if you choose to go to a college for a photography course, you will get to learn. But at what cost?

To find the answer to this, let’s first look at the following points.

Understanding Photography

Should you do a photography course? History

To illustrate this, let’s talk about the other art forms.

People have been sculpting since 5th century or earlier. And since then the art of sculpture has been developed over the years.

Painting as an art form has been for a long long time and it has been developed and transformed over the years.

But, photography?

The very first photo taken was in 1826. And that was obviously not as an expression of art. But as a test of the newly developed technology. And it took another 50 years or more for a camera to become a practical tool for art creation.

Now, you may think, still, the cameras have been here for a fairly large amount of time. But compare it to the other forms of art like paintings, sculpture. Also, note that the camera wasn’t created as a tool for art.

Even today the camera is constantly evolving and also the tools of post-production.

This matters because the curriculum of the colleges is usually unable to cope with the updating tech and advancements in the field. Also, this makes it difficult to find expert teachers.

Photography as a career

Have you ever hired a photographer? If yes, then surely you would have chosen that one from a couple of options.

So what you looked for when making this decision?

Their work/ portfolio, isn’t it?

But I’m sure you wouldn’t have cared where he got his photography degree or if he even got one.

And that is the case always when a photographer is hired. If you’ve gone to even the best photography institution but your work isn’t good enough, you are nothing.

Also, photography is not a discipline like physics or mathematics. For example, If you do a degree in mathematics and do good academically, there is a guarantee you will be good (if not great) at maths. But, the same can’t be said about photography.

So until now, we have understood that a photography degree doesn’t matter when you get hired as a photographer. And a degree doesn’t guarantee specialization in photography.

Should you pursue a photography degree?

Though there is one more problem, that is there are very few jobs out there titled “Photographer”.

Those days are gone when photographer/photojournalist was a full-time stable job. Those jobs are either gone or are minuscule in number.

That means even after your course or degree in photography, you will be on your own.

There are no placement guarantees by the colleges. Check websites of any Indian photography institutes.

After knowing all this, let’s look at the most important factor, the cost.

Cost of a photography course

There are photography institutions of great repute in India and abroad. And if you have already done your research, you know they cost a lot. Not just the monetary cost but also the cost of your valuable time.

The minimum duration for a degree/ diploma course is one year and in some places, it is even 2 years. Even if money isn’t a thing for you, you still can’t afford this amount of time for a fruitless endeavor.

However, to be successful in any kind of photography business, you will have to market yourself well. Hence, studying business and marketing could be useful.

Should you avoid all Photography education/ course?

Of course not.

In fact, the one thing you should never do as a photographer is limit your learning.

Studio Lights

So whatever we discussed above was about a degree course in photography which costs a lot of money and time. But there are many short-term specific courses which cost very less in terms of time and money. These are specific to one particular genre or skill in photography. Like if you just want to learn the use of studio lights or you want to learn landscape or street photography. It makes sense to invest in such short-term courses and workshops.

How to learn photography then?

If you’re an absolute beginner, first learn the camera and the exposure triangle. You can do so with the help of online tutorials which are meant for beginners and also books.

Books are the most important investments you will make for your photography.

Though if you are a beginner you should start with books meant for beginners. Below are my few recommendations of such books.

Workshops by good photographers can be another great way to improve your photography.

Though when choosing a workshop, look for reviews of previous attendees. Because great photographers can be the worst teachers at times. So always ask for opinions of ex-students.

However, at the beginner stage, stick to the books and other online resources.

Also Read: Zone focusing for fast street photography

Books, workshops, and travel are three things which can help you become a better photographer. And combined expenditure in all three of them at a given time would be less than a full-time degree course.

Also, you are not alone, the majority of the photographers are self-taught. Though here by self-taught I mean someone who hasn’t attended a college for photography.


In conclusion, I would say the most valuable asset you have is your time, do not waste it over something that doesn’t have real value. Invest yourself in the learning process and shooting photos. And at the same time, acquire marketing and business skills because those are crucial for the success of a photography business.

Happy Learning!


Yatharth Gupta

I'm a travel and portrait photographer with more than 15 years of experience. I love sharing my photography and art knowledge with this blog.

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