Is photo school a waste of time (and money)? I know a ton of awesome photographers, who never went (I also know some really good ones that did go), however I believe that there is a much better way to learn about professional photography, than sitting in photo school to learn.
Photo school is overrated.
Don’t dismay! There is a better way! Check it out:
Assisting is the best way to learn the business of photography. Period. It’ll teach you more about running a professional photography studio, than any photography degree. I should know, I don’t have one.
I began my career as a photographer by assisting for 4 years in Chicago, Miami and New York. I got to work with photographers such as Richard Avedon, Arthur Elgorth, Bruce Weber, Steven Klein, Dominique Isserman … and traveled to Africa, Europe and all though the US. I didn’t just learn what makes a great photo, in terms of composition, lighting, etc., but more importantly, how to produce, how to travel with gear internationally, how to deal with clients and what it takes to put together a successful shoot.
So here’s my advice to you: stay humble, remember you’re learning and (at least at first) you don’t know anything – even if you have a degree in photography. You won’t know how the photographer you’re assisting for works, what he or she expects from you or how they run their set. Pay attention, ask questions, take notes and most importantly LISTEN.
When I ask my assistants to do something, I only have one expectation: I’d like them to do exactly what I ask. Especially when you’re starting out, don’t assume, don’t second guess, don’t believe you know it better – trust me you don’t. If you’re not familiar with a task or a piece of equipment or our workflow, ask. We’re happy to walk you through it, to show you or to explain our workflow.
Sets are full of expensive equipment, potentially dangerous situations and many times tight, fast moving schedules. There’s always time afterwards to ask why something was done in a certain way. (The only exception to this is if you see a safety hazard – tell the photographer immediately.)
Trust me, eventually, you’ll be able to anticipate your photographer – but that’s gonna take