What a wonderful Friday everyone. A great way to wrap up the regular work week (as we all know content providers don't have a regular work week) is to discuss one thing that is on a lot of people's minds and that is whether you need a degree to be a professional photographer.
The simple answer to this question is NO. Well of course I am not going to leave it just at that because that would certainly make for a boring and short blog day. This topic has been discussed forever and you will get varying answers depending on who you ask. Instead, I am going to suggest what I think you need to make it as a professional photographer.
First off, there are some very fine photography schools along with most college's offering programs that involve photography. My issue with this is the following, yes you will learn the basics and even some advanced techniques with regards to photography, but that isn't a business. A photography degree is not going to teach you how to market your business, understand bottom lines, or anything else involved with owning a business.
This is not the 1970's and we are for the most part not shooting on film. This is the digital age and needs to be treated as such. You as a professional need to know how to brand yourself, marketing yourself, learn the importance of SEO's, learn a balance sheet, etc. While I hate that the business for the most part is a popularity contest based on search engine results, it is what it is and you need to figure out how to make the most of it.
So if I don't need a degree in photography but I still feel like I need a degree, than what should I be doing for school? While I don't think it is a bad thing to take photography classes outside of a college from either another professional or a group of pro's, I don't think your sole concentration should be photography classes. I always recommend that you look at a business degree. A business degree provides you with a solid foundation to build upon. This will teach you marketing, economics, taxes, and so many other things that you need to run a successful business.
If you don't think that a business degree is your cup of tea then you should look at a marketing degree instead. Something that really focuses on learning how potential client thought process works. This helps you to get the word out there about your brand. It also saves you money, because you will have a better understanding on how to spend your marketing budget than someone who has no idea about target based marketing.
To me, photography is like driving a car. I can read about it all I want, but until I am out in the field actually doing it, none of the book stuff matters. Photography school is going to train you and the rest of your class how to shoot the exact same photo the exact same way. Do you really want to take photos and create content the same way as everyone else? Not if you want to be successful!
I know that some are wondering my background on this. Well let me start off by saying that I didn't do well in high school at all. A few years after high school I went to the tech school and took a couple years of electronics. For most of the 2000's I was in retail and white collar type jobs. In the late 2000's I decided that I needed to do something. That something was to go back to school part time at night. Well I am now on pace to finish my business degree a year from now and then I will pursue my MBA so that I continue to have a solid foundation for my photography business along with the media company that my girlfriend and I have started. I have never taken a formal photography class and I have learned my craft from doing and self learning.
So in closing today, I don't want you to take away that I am suggesting not to get a formal education. I am suggesting to get a formal education that will help you in your pursuit of being a business owner and not having to pay someone else to do everything with regards to your business. The more you know, the more control that you have over your own destiny. Everyday is about learning!
Have a great weekend my friends!!