Let’s go 10–15 years back and reflect on the time when Information and Communication Technology was still in its initial phase and Photography for the aspirants and amateurs was done on reels and Kodak cameras.
The Internet in those times was not readily available in every Indian household- the cost of getting the connection being high, and even when it was, the information available was much less in terms of quantity as compared to the time post year 2010. Also, the limited information available then was questioned for its reliability in the academia.
Professionals and intellectuals could never approve of material extracted from e-sources as they were not considered authentic, and so, the literary sources were given the primary preference, and the printed books published by the known houses and journals were considered ‘good’ in the art institutions. These books were few, and the teachers in the colleges could only refer to the known photographers to their students and scholars for their studies.
Due to the limited information and lack of options, these few photographers and their books became the Bible for the aspirants and the college became the temple of learning. They blindly trusted the ideas and techniques provided in these books by these photographers, and could never think out of the box as it was not permitted ‘by the authorities’ to be too radical in thoughts, ideas, and approaches.
Things changed with time, especially after the launch of the iPhone in the year 2007 by Apple. A new era known as the one of smartphones happened and by 2011, almost everybody had the device in their hands, with Internet services available at very cheap rates.
Communication suddenly became easily thanks to Social Media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp, and as a result, people with a lot of talent but no capital for investment came up to acquire the platform in order to showcase their talents in various fields. Various amateur photographers began sharing their work on the Internet, and gradually, free online teaching courses available on sites like YouTube became the ‘thing.’ The popularity of the Internet surpassed all other sources, and various universities began putting their own journals and started offering online teaching courses on their sites. Almost every artist today has joined the internet and has his own site on which he/she publishes the PDF version of his/her work.
The problems of limited quantity and authenticity of information have faded, and even the academia has begun to trust certain e-sources if quoted properly from a genuine/well-known site or journal by the researcher. In such a scenario, where you can get unlimited information with just a ‘click,’ why would you be willing to spend bullocks in colleges? When you can get unlimited free photography tutorials on the Internet that you can watch anywhere and anytime, why would you take the trouble of going to the college every day?
Let me provide you a few cons of joining the college for learning photography in the following points:
- High fees. This money that you pay as ‘fee’ in the college can be used to buy good cameras and lenses or on online courses at websites like, Masterclass or Creativelive that are comparatively economic and won’t dig a hole in your pocket.
- Long duration like 2 to 3 years just to learn the basics. This time can be used in internships under established photographers that will give you practical experience plus a bit of pocket money.
- Degree? No one cares about it anymore in the field of photography.
- Colleges generally have only one or two high end cameras for a class of 30–40 students. It’s better to buy your own equipment instead of waiting for your turn each time there is a practical in the class.
- Group assignments! Due to the limited availability of equipment, colleges prefer group assignments in the name of infusing ‘team spirit’ among the students. These assignments are of no use since in the field of photography, you build your own brand. It is an individual activity that does not require a group. Not till you are running your own company, in which case you need a group of people to work for you. But here, as a photographer, you only need a camera and creative talent to establish yourself in the stream.
- In the college, your art work will be judged by a few professors, whereas on the Internet apps like Instagram, it will be commented on by the entire world. The latter gives more room for improvement!
- Colleges lure the aspirants by offering guaranteed placements in BIG media companies. But this again is of no use since these companies provide internship at 10–15k per month for more than a year. After already spending 2–3 years on a degree, this might bring frustration to the aspirant since soon after college, the society expects you to survive on your own.
It is not that I despise colleges; even I went to one. And for STEM education, college is still a must. But admitting yourself in the college to learn something as artsy as photography is not at all necessary. These days, the authorities are charging 4 to 8 lacs for basic education in photography. With this amount, you can rather get a basic camera and laptop, and start learning from the Internet. And you will still be able to save 40% of the money in your account. This amount can be used for survival at the time of crisis- when you might go out of work or want to use some time to grow your network (I will discuss this in detail at a later juncture).
Use the Internet over college for learning. Use the money for practicing photography, and refining yourself in it. If YouTube does not work for you since it suggests a lot of videos which gets confusing at times, I’d suggest sites like CreativeLive or MasterClass. They do not charge even 1% of the money that you are willing to spend on the college fee.
One more thing, if you are thinking of taking an education loan for getting yourself admitted in the college to learn photography, then may God save you! STOP IT. DO NOT waste your money. Value money. Moreover, DO NOT waste your time. Value time.
Again, follow these basic steps to learn photography without going to the college:
- Start learning on YouTube or on websites like CreativeLive and MasterClass.
- Invest in gear (I’ll tell you how in the coming article).
- Use the time that you are willing to spend on the college degree on internship and training under established photographer(s).
- Build your own network and brand (I’ll tell you how in coming article).
- Teach others. Teaching is learning.
Meanwhile, you can join my Facebook group, “Grow Your Art” which is a community (in the making) of photographers, cinematographers, other artists belonging to the similar stream. This community aims at developing a healthy environment for the collective growth of individuals in this business. The artists here actively participate in the discussions, and help and guide each other to grow in the Indian market.