I am asked a lot how I learned photography. “Did you go to school for this?” is a common question from clients who enjoy my work. I didn’t study photography in college. And though sometimes I wish I had, there are so many photo education resources available now that one can hone their skills without attending a college or university. My training was “up through the hawse pipe” – experiences in the field with people and programs that provided opportunities for me to get better. I’ll share some of my mentors in a future post, but listed below are some of the photo education programs that can help you become a better photographer.
New York Institute of Photography – As long as I can remember I dabbled with taking pictures. In the late 1990’s I realized that I really loved photography, and I wanted to learn more about it and be better at it. I enrolled in the Complete Course in Professional Photography at the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP). The home-study program is designed for anyone who wants to improve their photography skills, but is oriented especially for those who want to earn some money with their skills. The best aspect of the program for me were the assignments. After completing important lessons students are given an assignment that requires employing the techniques articulated in that lesson. You submit your photos to an instructor who provides clear, constructive feedback about what you did well and where you may have missed the target. When I took the program the feedback was delivered via cassette tape in the mail (I suspect now it’s done online), and when I was expecting a response from my instructor I would run to the mailbox everyday in anticipation. I valued the personal, specific insights because each assignment made me better. I still remember the foundational lessons I learned in the NYIP course and use the skills I developed in every photograph I make. I highly recommend NYIP. They are accredited by the N.Y. State Department of Education and their faculty have some legit credentials. You can check them out at www.nyip.edu.
Maine Media Workshops – In 2007 I had the great pleasure of attending a Marine Photography Workshop through Maine Media Workshops. I had been working as a commercial boat captain for a decade and most of my photography at the time was on the water. The workshop was held in Newport, Rhode Island and led by Allison Langley, one of the premiere marine photographers in the world (www.langleyphoto.com). Each day we had the opportunity to make photographs around town and on the water, and the following morning Allison would critique our best images in front of the class. Though harrowing, the feedback gave me pointers that I could incorporate into my work that afternoon and, cumulatively, made me a better shooter. One of the most significant benefits to the week came at the end when Allison encouraged me to do more with my photography. The strong encouragement from such an accomplished professional inspired me to dive in deeper and become a part-time pro. Maine Media Workshops offer programs in a wide variety of subjects, ranging from still photography to film making to post-production. Their main campus is, obviously, in Maine, but they also conduct travel programs in beautiful locations all over the world. Learn more at www.mainemedia.edu.
Kelby One – I would argue that the internet has done more for photography and photographers than just about any other art or industry. And I offer Kelby One as evidence to support my argument. Kelby One is a repository of video training lessons created by some of the most renowned photographers and visual artists in the world. Pros like Joe McNally, Joel Grimes, and Tamara Lackey and many others offer in-depth workshops on how they make the beautiful images for which they are known. Want to create better portraits? Watch Joe McNally’s two-hour program on using flash. Looking to improve your Photoshop skills? Watch Matt Kloskowski share his wizardry. No matter your interest there is at least one title, and often several, that will deliver the goods. Kelby One is a subscription service and costs $25/month or $250/year. I can not recommend Kelby One highly enough, as it has been the single biggest boom for my abilities in all areas. Join now at www.kelbyone.com.
These are just three of the influences on my path. The good news is that there are countless photo education resources available. Many community colleges have outstanding photography programs taught by accomplished photographers. There are skill-specific workshops conducted throughout the country and all over the world that make for a terrific vacation week. And yes, the internet is filled with articles and how-to videos from amateurs and pros alike. Look around and take advantage of the opportunities. Of course, the best way to improve your skills as a photographer is to take pictures. So don’t forget to do that as much as you can.