Should You Enroll in a Photography School?

A lot of people love taking pictures of their friends and family. Many people who photograph for fun fall in love with the idea of taking it to the next level. Some people want to run their own photography businesses, some might want the intellectual foundation, or others might just simply want to make money with their passion. Fortunateley, anyone who wants to improve their photography has a lot of options. The path you should take should depends on your financial situation, as well as what you want out of the experience. So, here are six ways in which you can improve your photography skills, but not all of them might be options for you.

Online Arts Degree

The first natural step that many people look at is an online arts degree. An online arts degree is great for anyone who wants to gain a lot of knowledge while working at their own pace. In particular, it’s great for someone who has little experience in photography or art, and has other commitments, like a full-time job or family. However, there are drawbacks too – many experts contend that you need one on one instruction when it comes to learning studio arts, and online schools are normally ranked lower than traditional programs – but admission might be that much easier to attain.

Liberal Arts

A small liberal arts school is another great option to learn about photography. With a liberal arts school, you must go to class often to get the most out of the experience. A liberal arts school will also prepare you for other aspects of life and give you a solid educational experience, but you’ll be able to focus in on your craft in an intimate environment. You’re likely to encounter peers that share your interest in the arts and humanities, and it’s easier to strike up relationships with your peers in programs like these. Tuition can be high though, so plan wisely.

Large Research Institute

A research institute is the perfect place for anyone who wants a well-rounded education. If you are finishing your first undergrad degree or you are finally getting that college degree after years of being out, this is probably your best bet. With a research institute, you can learn about photography, but also attain a well-rounded education in the liberal arts, such as a year of foreign language and also taking a few math and science courses. If your ultimate goal is to go into arts management or earn a creative degree while simultaneously securing something more “practical” like a business degree, a large research institution is probably your best bet. It’s also the most affordable option – if you already have an undergrad degree and you just want to add a creative credential to your resume, this is again probably your best bet, due to the affordable price tag and ease of transferring credits (in other words, you can use your BA in history or whatever as a starting point, and avoid paying for other credits).

MFA in Photography

Getting an MFA in photography is great for anyone who wants to know it all, but you have to already have extensive background in the field. Photography is an art, and with an MFA institute, you will learn the art of photography like no other. MFA courses don’t teach the basics – they prepare people with lots of talent to become the best in the world. If you want to make money with your talent, this is your best bet. If you’re just starting out but an MFA sounds like it would be your ideal ultimate goal, then you’ll want to get an undergrad degree in photography first and then apply to these MFA programs. Pro tip – find out which programs are funded and which aren’t, because paying full price for an MFA can be risky, especially if you’re not 100% sure you want to take photos for money the rest of your life.

Fine Arts School

A fine arts school will teach you more than about photography. Here, you will learn about all sorts of concepts and ideas about art. Anyone who wants to be well-rounded (but has no interests in the Gen Eds you’ll take at a 4 year institution) needs to consider a fine arts school if they wish to learn about photography, and it’s an especially great way to make connections. However, it’s also kind of risky in that you probably won’t earn a bachelor’s degree from this kind of program, so you don’t really have many back up options. However, since most art schools are in big cities and encourage practical experiences like internships, you might be able to set yourself up for a great career in the short time quite you’re there quite easily.

The Self-Taught Route

A lot of people do not want to spend thousands of dollars on an education, and some simply do not do well in school. Their best option is probably to learn on his or her own. The self-taught route can be an excellent choice, and can yield great results if done right. After all, making money comes from pure talent, and many say you are either born with this or not. Start out by offering your services for free to local newspapers, galleries, etc. Seek feedback and take it seriously. Work hard to make connections – this may mean putting in unpaid time as an intern, but if you’re working full-time otherwise, you should have more money than those who are slaving away in school. You need to capitalize on this, so that you would be on the same playing field as if you were earning a degree. You can DEFINITELY be successful without a degree, but you have to work for it!

Taylor Rink writes about photography, education and more. He enjoys writing about the most affordable liberal arts colleges.


Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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