Qualification in Photography?

Started Oct 14, 2011 | Discussions
onelargebeerplease
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Qualification in Photography?
Oct 14, 2011

Dear All.

I am an amateur photography looking to progress further. I have 4 years experience give or take with a DSLR, and I have read endless books and magazines. What I wish to know is : Is it worth completing a qualification in photography such as a City and Guilds or NVQ Level 1 before setting up a website and looking for clients?

I already have a strong portfolio, including one wedding I photographed last year but I would like your advice regarding the importance/need for accredited qualifications when considering a part time career as a photographer.

Has anyone here completed either of the above qualifications or a degree?

Do you think it was worth the time, effort and money spent to gain the qualification?

Also, from the point of view of an employer, would you be more concerned with an employee's portfolio or qualification?

I would really appreciate any feedback on this matter

Many thanks
Tom

Ashley Morrison Photography
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to onelargebeerplease, Oct 14, 2011

onelargebeerplease wrote:

Also, from the point of view of an employer, would you be more concerned with an employee's portfolio or qualification?

Are you wanting to be an employee or are you wanting to be a self-employed photographer who produces images for 'others' to use ?

I have a degree in graphic communications, by the way - which I guess helped me understand a bit about what ad agencies & graphic designers were looking for - but I think a few courses in marketing and/or business studies would have been more helpful in those earlier years.

If you are wanting to be a self-employed photographer, then it's your portfolio that counts - as no-one is likely to ask you to provide them with your qualifications, before they give you the opportunity to produce & provide them with some images that they will want to use.

If you are wanting to be an employee, then possibly a qualification may be required; however, I'd still say your portfolio would be more important and/or a few years experience as an assistant for a well known photographer.

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onelargebeerplease
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to Ashley Morrison Photography, Oct 14, 2011

Hi there

Thank you for replying. Sorry, I am looking to possibly be employed in the future.

I have experience with my camera and I think I have taught myself a lot about photography from reading books and practicing what I have read.

I am going to look to start with wedding photography and when that can be my main source of income, I will venture out and look at other possibilities.

Good advice with working with someone but I have contacted photographers in the past and as I would be their competition, it seems to hault things slightly with working with them. I will perseve with it though.

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fashionphotographer
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to onelargebeerplease, Oct 14, 2011

I'm a big believer in hands on experience, but everyone learns differently and many people find that going to school for something gives them that added boost of confidence they need to go out there and compete for jobs. For others, school only adds a burden of student loans and ends up being an experience they regret.

Whichever route you take, assisting a working pro is a great way to see what the business is like from the inside.

For wedding photography, there is definitely assisting work available which would be very useful for you to look for. After a while you may be able to get work as a second shooter, and then eventually open up shop on your own.

-- hide signature --

Nick

Fashion Photographer Nick Zantop
http://www.nickzantop.com

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Ashley Morrison Photography
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to onelargebeerplease, Oct 15, 2011

onelargebeerplease wrote:

I am looking to possibly be employed in the future.

An employee's main source of income is their wage, for doing what their employer wants them to do - so I'm a little confused as to what you mean here, when you say you will "start with wedding photography and when that can be my main source of income, I will venture out and look at other possibilities".

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onelargebeerplease
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to Ashley Morrison Photography, Oct 15, 2011

Apologies, well I currently work full time in another prefession but I wish to move into photography. I plan to start with weddings on my Saturdays off and the odd Friday. When I have built up enough work, then I would like to leave my current work and concentrate on photography, and as weddings are normally Friday, Saturday and Sunday I could look for some other photographic work in the week. Thats my intention anyway, not too sure if I will manage to figure it out as easy as I have made it sound but I am very determind.

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Ashley Morrison Photography
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to onelargebeerplease, Oct 15, 2011

onelargebeerplease wrote:

Apologies, well I currently work full time in another prefession but I wish to move into photography. I plan to start with weddings on my Saturdays off and the odd Friday. When I have built up enough work, then I would like to leave my current work and concentrate on photography, and as weddings are normally Friday, Saturday and Sunday I could look for some other photographic work in the week. Thats my intention anyway, not too sure if I will manage to figure it out as easy as I have made it sound but I am very determind.

Okay, then you don't need a "qualification in photography such as a City and Guilds or NVQ Level 1" - you just need to make it happen - by figuring out how you can get people to book you to do their weddings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday - while you are at work the rest of the week.

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hotdog321
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to onelargebeerplease, Oct 15, 2011

I've got a bachelors and masters in photojournalism. These degrees were essential in my becoming a staff photographer for major dailies. (Most newspapers require a degree.)

Furthermore, a deep educational background opens up a wide variety of photo opportunities, from studio to fashion to spot news to archival to portraiture to sports to, well, you get the idea.

That said, nothing beats on the job training, especially if you are working around or for other pros.

However, all you need to make a decent living is a good portfolio, decent personality and some salesmanship. Make and effort to pick up one or two new "things" every day.

I guess I'm trying to say that everyone has to strike their own balance in this profession. Good luck!

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PenguinPhotoCo
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In reply to onelargebeerplease, Oct 16, 2011

You want to start a photography business.

Photography is 20% of a photography business. The other 80% is the same as in any other business - marketing, selling, developing products, pricing, bookkeeping, banking, cleaning, etc. These are necessary tasks for any and every business and if you have a job with a business you do your job - but as a one man business you do every job. If you can't do every job needed then you have to hire someone to do it, or learn to do it yourself.

So you can take pictures. Great. A billion other people can do that too - and 1/3 of them are likely better than you (sorry...a lot are better than me too - but the best pictures do not guarantee you'll make a dime.)

Nothing happens, in any business, until a sale is made. You need to sell yourself to prospective clients. Consider it a job interview...do you like going on job interviews? Most people don't, but until a bride hires you you don't have a job, do you?

So what makes you better than every other photog she's gonna see or hear about? Your pictures, your personality, your editing, your turnaround time...what? Why should she hire you over me or or any other photographer? And no, lowest price isn't a viable answer - someone will always be cheaper and many today are free.

So you book them - now you need to do the accounting, scheduling, planning for that wedidng, shoot it, then edit it afterwards and do followup (sell an album or remind them you exist so they refer friends to you, etc).

You need to do advertising/marketing (facebook, website, biz cards and what else?).

Planning - for now it's a part time job, but you want it to be your full time occupation - great. How much money will you need to have to make that happen? $50,000 a year? What will you charge for a wedding? So how many do you need to make $50k? How many hours do you spend on a wedding? (I spend 25 total, some spend twice that). $1000/ wedding and you need 50 of them and each takes 30 hours...plus all the marketing/cleaning/education/meetings with brides that don't book, etc - you have not time for that other work...

And self employment means you get paid last - if at all. I've had months this year with sales of $1200 (for the entire month) and others at $22,000. On the $1200 month the bills are still due, I still want to eat, etc. Can you live like that? Many people can't - it can be very stressful.

Good luck - you can succeed if you want to bad enough. So do you?
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arscii
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to onelargebeerplease, Oct 16, 2011

You will find that if you take a commercial photography course at a UK university that the curriculum covers Critical and Contextual Studies, Business Studies and of course practical work.

C&C is an invaluable help to understanding the philosophy of photography. It will help you to understand why we take photographs, their social and commercial significance, uses as documentary tools, advertising vehicles (the meteoric rise of the Benneton brand, for example, is arguably attributable in large part to the photography of Oliveiro Toscani.)

The "how" of photography follows the "why" and you will be able to harness this knowledge to shape your techniques relative to specific assignments. You will learn good disciplines and practices, budgeting, project management, pre shoot planning, post shoot evaluation etc.

Business Studies does what it implies and educates the student in the essentials of operating a practice.

I undertook such a course and there is no doubt in my mind at all that my photography underwent a quantum improvement as a result. After I graduated the uni gave me a Designer in Residence post that allowed me unrestricted use of the campus facilities (including studios) for a year to get myself on the ladder.

Still a lot of room for further improvement, naturally!

http://www.mikedunbar.zenfolio.com

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BAK
BAK
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to arscii, Oct 16, 2011

Attention Tom (the original poster)

Arscii's post combines factual info about the situation in the UK (which is somewhat different than here in Canada) with practical experience.

I think it is a great post.

Over here, I spend a fair bit of time with some newspaperphotographers -- not buddies, but peoplewho deliver talks that I attend a coupleof times a year, and/or whom I follow on Twitter, and talk with ont he phone from time to time.

From Arscii's message, andmy experience with the people I know, a really big element ofbeing a good photographer is the "thinking about photography" part.

Knowing the history of the profession / craft / art matters, even when we shoot different things.

On Friday I was in discussions abouyt the Iwo Jima shot and the vietnam execution shot, and the running napalm girl shot.

Do you now these pictures. Can you see them in your mind's eye?

Part of Friday's discussion related to a conversation had with Eddie Adams, contrasted witha current news photographer's understanding of the situation leadingup to the photo.

Even thoughyou're thinking about weddingsandportraits, I think the whole world of photograhy fits together.

Bottom line -- make sure as you transition to photography you do it whiole listening to and conversing with peoplewho know pictures andtheir content, not just guidenumbers.

BAK

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hotdog321
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to BAK, Oct 16, 2011

Absolutely true! At the time, I didn't see much point in classes on the "History of Photography" or "Media Law and Ethics" or a art classes on master photographers or art history.

I always wanted more nuts and bolts instruction and "war stories" from the pros. Yet these peripheral classes turned out to be instrumental in my career and communicating with others.

Education is rarely wasted.

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JimP101
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Re: Qualification in Photography?
In reply to hotdog321, Oct 21, 2011

I have an HND and a BA(hons) in photography. Did the three years spent doing photography full time help me learn my craft? You bet they did. Do the letters after my name make me more likely to book work? Almost certainly not. To paraphrase a quote - "It's the pictures, stupid".

If you want to fast-track your learning you have to just do it. Work hard at your craft and learn from your mistakes. Be self critical. Go and work with photographers who's work you love and try to emulate them, and in the process you will eventually develop your own style. I suggest looking at photographers who are well out of your area, that way you will not be threatening their business.

And to answer one of your posts above, if you have weddings on Fridays and Saturdays, believe me you will not have time for other jobs in the week!

Jim

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Douglas69
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Re: Qualification in Photography? Who di they impress?
In reply to onelargebeerplease, Oct 21, 2011

IF all you want is an impressive certificate for your wall, pay the incredible "World Institute of Photographic Masters" $35 for one of theirs. They sure look impressive.

As a one time member of AIPP Australia's supposed 'peak body' of professional photographers I know now that all my best clients (those who don't ask how much but are you available) all come from Wedding Expos and don't give a hoot in hell if I've got royalty in my blood and 10 certificates on the wall or not. They look, they like and they sign up.

Last of all, good luck. You'll need it!

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