Should I get a a Degree in Photography? By Ted Forbes

Ted Forbes has been a great inspiration to me in the past. I came across his site when studying the history of photography. I was delighted to see him being used as part of recommended listening. I have not listened to this podcast before and found it a confirmation of my motivation to studying for a degree. He starts out stating that a degree is not essential to become a successful commercial photographer. But if you do you will find benefit but you need to asses whether you are suited to such a study, whether you are prepared to commit to the time required, and whether you are prepared to financially invest into it.

Forbes asks what would a photography degree provide for you and proceeds to answer the question.

“A photography degree would actually provide a very special environment. If you choose the right school with the right instructors you’re going to have a very focused environment where you’re going to be with other people who are doing exactly what you’re doing. That you’re going to get to know. You’re going to get to bounce ideas off, going to provide an environment for you that is full of critiques and peer reviews, assignments that you’re going to do large projects and it’s going to be very focused kind of thing for a while and if you are willing to put the work into that you could get quite a bit out of it and I think that is pretty exciting and if you’re at a point in life where you really feel like that is something special that would work well for you. Highly recommend going for it now (Forbes, 2015). ”

The second motivation that “If you wanted to teach photography in a university one day they certainly are going to ask for your degree (Forbes, 2015) .”

Ted ads to the benefit . “it says that you finish something in life people look at that and it says that you were able to finish things.The ability to finish projects, the ability to work with other people, the ability to follow instructions by an instructor even the ability to learn a little bit about politics and just how everything works and these are really hard to explain (Forbes, 2015).”

My main motivation for doing the degree and therefore the masters is two fold. My highest qualification is a Higher technical diploma in Electrical engineering. At the age of 60 I wanted a way to keep my mind sharp and develop my intellect. I felt the need to study something in the humanities and art For the level of thinking I wanted I could not identify something that will keep me interested and challenge me. There was nothing I could do part-time and I thought what I would like to do after my retirement from information technology. And her it is: I discovered that I wanted to teach Photography. I wanted to share my passion in photography with a younger generation. And I knew that even if I thought at a rudimentary level I needed a way to prove my capability. merely showing your work does not cut it if you have seconds to prove it on the internet. And a Degree in Photography would do it for me. I also aspire to teach photography either on a part-time or full time basis at a higher education. Ted confirms that this is exactly what I need to do if I want to get into there. (I have tried to get in without it and have had no success in that.)

The second benefit is one of the great surprises. In the 40 years of my photography I never felt the need to collaborate. I worked on my own and have very few peers to share my passion. I hate photography clubs that I visit as I disagreed with the their approach. it was more about boasting than teaching. I discovered my peers in the degree. I believe that this is the part that this weeks education is about. Why we are encouraged to participate in common assignments. Share our thoughts in forums. build relationships….

I need to reflect on one other aspect. I love research work. The contextual and focused reading is a benefit that is not mentioned. For me I am now dealing with issues that I did not think about or dealt with in detail in the 30 Years. This work is going to greatly influence my direction and abilities in my practice. Add to that the ability to look outside my rigid box after 40 years in the industry, finding encouragement from others and to be able to dream. If I find another younger version of myself, I will encourage him to make the investment and get a degree in a subject that really interest you. While a commercial value needs to be attained, it should not be the primary driver for one that seeks a higher education. It should be an enabler to open the door into a wider experience and knowledge which should be translated in a real world ability afterwards. Such an education is priceless … The cost is high but the benefits looks to outshine this. Jarid Polin in a nother podcast recommends it for the colaboration, and the building of a network of peers and advice that this is better achieved through a longer study period.

Both Ted agree that 1) Its not essential for success, 2) that you need to know what you want to achieve, and 3) that they recommend it if you can motivate the financial and giving yourself to the required studies, assignments and collaborative engagements that such programme offers.

Ted add that one should select an education path that include a institution that offer capable staff, and ample opportunities for this. Jared Polen also encourage practical shooting and engaging with you educators to get the maximum benefit from this opportunity. “So, take the photography classes, but also get involved with anything photo-related, call the president of the school and so you want to do a photo shoot with them, do a project photographing all the professors, doing video of the professors, getting their opinions and capturing that for a project. Just do it, you pay to go to these schools so use that to your advantage, you ask for things because you’re paying the school to allow you to do that stuff, so take advantage of all of that that you have in front of you (Polin, 2019).” Unfortunately as a distance learner I will miss out on that opportunity, however, his comments does encourage me to make the most of every chance to engage. I see the Falmouth flexible as the best remote study programme for this and I commend them for setting up an remote study environment that encourage collaboration, common discussions, peer review opportunities through conferencing and engagement and group challenges to encourage this.

There is a another point I wish to make, which speaks to higher education. When I was younger, our educational opportunities was split between College, Technikons and University. Training was done in a continuum ranging from the practical hands-on rules based education (college- certificate), engineering/technical level education for industry (Technikons – Diploma level) and research, academic and scholarly education in Universities ( Graduate degrees, and post graduate education). The commercial orientation to higher education seems to be focusing modern universities on commercial employment making them more aligned with the Technikons. It may be because of the lack of research opportunities and value in art and humanity education. Photographers, artists and other visual practitioners can and should be educated at all three levels.

If the changing trends indicate that a Degree in Photography intend to prepare professional photographers for business ventures then I need to agree with Polin that he “would go into business, branding, and marketing with a minor in photography, with a minor in advertising, with – what else do I have here business marketing, audio/video, anything that has to do with being creative that will allow you to step out into the world and be able to take on multiple roles. I would go into business, branding, and marketing with a minor in photography, with a minor in advertising, with – what else do I have here business marketing, audio/video, anything that has to do with being creative that will allow you to step out into the world and be able to take on multiple roles (Polin, 2019) .” Or it is merely a confusion created by selling of higher education programme’s. I joined the course to go beyond the aim of merely pursuing a legal tender. I can currently generate higher earnings in IT and business. I believe getting a return of ones investment is less financial than it is to value that you can unleash through growth in your intellect, creativity and out of the box thinking. The techniques for this is best obtained through studying for a graduate and post graduate degrees. A value the world won’t be able to acknowledge until you serve that purpose. And yes, you may achieve it on your own, but this is very rare.

Forbes, T. (2015). Should I Get A Degree In Photography?. Available at: [Accessed 13 Oct. 2019].

Polin, J. (2019). Should You Go To College To Become A Photographer? The Truth About Photography. [image] Available at: [Accessed 13 Oct. 2019].

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