PHOTOGRAPHY STUDY OPTIONS
So, one of the hardest questions if you are considering studying photography is what your photography study options are. This blog post is not a complete guide, but it will help give prospective students some idea of how to decide on what they want to do.
We have been involved in this industry for a long time and have a pretty good handle on what the current options are so here is some explanation on what is available. Hopefully this will help you in your decision-making process
So first up you need to ask yourself what do you want to gain from studying?
This is a big one, but you need to be clear on this right from the start. Let me explain.
Do you want a formal qualification in photography? If the answer to this is yes, then your study options are at places like TAFE and university or through an RTO (registered training organisation) Typically you would graduate from these courses with a Diploma of Photoimaging. Current costs of this course start at around $12,000.00 and go up to around $30,000.00 so it is a big investment so make sure you can afford it. Check to see if some government assistance is available to you if you meet their criteria. Buyer beware note here if you find anyone outside of being a TAFE, University or RTO offering a Diploma course they are generally not nationally recognised and an easy way to check is to ask the provider for a course code and their RTO number. Also, be very wary of institutions that are offering “diplomas” or similar accredited in other countries as these can be worthless as well. As of December 2017 the TEQSA Act has been revised and this is now illegal for these organisations to offer diplomas and higher education awards and the decision is retrospective. So for a diploma only go to TAFE, University or and RTO.
This is not what everyone wants from their photography studies either and a lot of people do not want a formal qualification in photography but just want a good solid course that teaches them how to use their camera and things like Photoshop and Lightroom and these are widely available in a lot of places either online or in class. Other learning options are using things like Youtube and attending workshops or by joining a local camera club to also help gain the knowledge they require. Also reading some good reference books will help. Learning photography comes down to practice, practice and then practice some more. One thing to beware of with Youtube content is that you may not necessarily be learning the right way as sometimes people who have submitted the videos are actually doing it wrong. Not all but some so just beware of this point.
Be careful of places telling you they will give you a complete “photography master class” or similar for something like $25.00 as this is just cheap rubbish and you will gain very little from it and the certificate of attendance or completion that is supplied at the end is worthless. You see them all over the online space and they are useless and make lots of money for the provider and give little to students. Not quite but very close to a scam.
Go with an establishment that has good up to date content and that the course is competency based meaning it is pass/fail. You need someone teaching and assessing you who knows how to do both and the institution needs to be able to provide good levels of student support. These courses are quite good value and fall into the price range of $200.00 to $1,000.00. These courses in my opinion are the best choice for people of any age group who just want to learn how to take good images and know how to use their camera and things like Photoshop. They may not necessarily want to be a photographer or work in that industry but want to produce good quality work and have a lot of fun along the way.
So that is step one and once you have decided what you want to gain from studying you now need to consider your study options.
Available Study Options
So here it really comes down to attending a TAFE, University or RTO in class or else you can work remotely and do an online course. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and even though we are online providers if you take this option you must be self-disciplined as you must set aside time to study whereas if you are going to TAFE or similar you are sort of forced to stick to the timetable. Having said that some of the big advantages of online study is that it is more flexible and generally more affordable so that is one decision you must make. So which type person are you? If you are disciplined and perhaps have irregular time available or live in a remote area then online is for you. If you need to work to a hard and fast timetable to keep you on track and you can physically get to one, then attendance at a physical bricks and mortar institution may be for you.
Finding Your Provider
So now you know what you want out of your studies and what way you want to study. Next step is to find your provider. Whichever option you choose here I believe if you are in Australia you should study with an Australian based provider.
If you go down the path of a physical college or university then you need to find one that suits you geographically and that has the course you are after. Organise a copy of the course, price information and study guidelines and see if it is a good fit for you. Some also offer courses online so this is an option. These institutions also have advisers you can talk to so do this if you need to and make sure you are comfortable with the information you have. Next if that is all good so far you have to apply and see if you meet the admission criteria. If not, you may have to look at studying or whatever is required to meet the admission requirements and then once this is addressed you can re-apply. From this point and if you get accepted then you will be given a timetable of where and when and you should be underway.
If you choose the online path, then start with some Google searches and make a shortlist. Now contact these places by phone and have a talk and get a feel for the place and how they operate. If they don’t offer voice contact, then be wary of this. Ask to be supplied with all course information plus anything else you can think of. Go away and have a good read and think about this and talk to them again if you have any questions. If you reach a point where you are ready to decide my advice is to then email the provider and ask them to email you back confirming all your questions including price etc so that you have a hard copy of what you are agreeing to. Reputable providers will have no problem doing this. Just another quick thing, make sure the place you are going to study with has an ABN. There are some great Australian based providers but be very wary of big multi national providers as your fees are going offshore in a lot of cases and I just think it is a good thing to support a local business.
OK so moving on you have now chosen what you want to study and how and where you want to do it, so you are well on your way.
Once enrolled you need to work hard at your course and like I said earlier practice what you are learning until it becomes second nature. I know I keep repeating this but with photography it really comes down to practicing what you are learning. Some of the best photographers in the world have never attended one class but are self-taught.
For those of you wishing to work as photographers your course should include preparation of your portfolio. A portfolio is like gold to a photographer as it is a representation of the kind of work they are capable of doing. In fact in my opinion and I know when we hire a photographer one of the big factors we consider is the content in their portfolio. This is a collection of a small sample of your best work and it shows a prospective employer or client what you can do. As professional photographers ourselves as well as educators I still believe this to be one of the most powerful things a photographer can have. So, in any course you do you should be looking for one that helps you compile your portfolio as this is important. A great example of this I tell people is as follows. If you were going to hire a wedding photographer I am pretty sure you would want to see work samples to help in your decision making process. Interestingly enough you will check this and a whole lot of other things but most people never check to see if the photographer is qualified because at the end of the day with photographers it is all about the quality of their work.
So good luck with your study and please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help with any questions. Our company Online Camera Ed are providers of great quality, value for money online photography courses and we fill that gap created by the ever increasing cost of studying photography at places like TAFE and university.