My Experience with Photography School

Last night I attended Visio 2016, the vernissage of the new Dawson College Commercial Photography graduates. It felt a bit like a trip down memory lane, after all, I was in their shoes not that long ago. I had fun, saw some old friends and my teachers, and I loved to see the beautiful creations (some of them were really amazing!). Congrats to all!! And the experience was also rewarding to me: having my makeup work in some of the images, it’s the third semester when a piece of my creativity is on the Dawson walls. These being said, I felt inspired to write this blog post talking about my experience at Dawson, which represented an important turning point in my life.

A bit about my experience

The program I attended at Dawson is the Commercial Photography AEC, which is a 2 years full time continuing education program, with classes 4 nights a week, therefore catering to students already working full time day jobs. I'll tell you one thing: i did the program while working a full time job and it was really INTENSE but do-able. It did get very stressful at times, but I loved it.

The school has a well equipped studio, computer labs, professional printers and for pretty much free education (free for QC residents; i only paid about $140 in admin fees/semester), it was an awesome learning experience. The program walks you through all sorts of types of photography, in studio and on location, from portraits to fashion and beauty, to product etc. You'll also learn a lot of Photoshop (oooh how i loved Barry's beauty retouching class) and printing (I don't like printing). There's also business classes, which I personally loved but my more artist colleagues generally hated, but it's definitely very useful real life knowledege such as contracting, invoicing, pricing etc. But enough about the curriculum. My experience overall was definitely positive and definitely not just limited to the scope of the classes. Some people that I met there are like family to me now, and not to mention that I also learned makeup in the process. 

Do I recommend it?

And by it I don't only mean Dawson, I mean photography school, or any other creative trade school for that matter, given YouTube university or all the other knowledge and courses available oftentimes for free online. Is a formal education in this sense worth it? After all, by highest level of education I am an accounting major, not a photographer and makeup is something I picked up along the way so to me the value of formal education is definitely blurred out. Well, the first thing I gotta tell you is you have to know your WHY. Why are you considering that particular school and is that why worth the time and money investment? And what are you trying to accomplish? Second of all, the value of actual diplomas in themselves is diminishing and in the education and job market of the future what will matter more will be what you know, your experience, your portfolio, who you previously worked with, who you know, etc. Did I use my accounting diploma? Not really. Did I use my photo diploma? Can’t say that I have; I don’t think that particular piece of paper is very relevant when I’m negotiating a contract. What I used is particular bits and pieces from the knowledge i accumulated. So do I recommend photo school? Yes (and no). It was definitely a greatly positive experience. I learned and grew so much and met amazing people. But sometimes I think to myself: Imagine two years from now I decide to quit photography and I make it as a makeup artist…where will the value in education be in that??? But that's just food for thought. 

Truth is, what photography school has taught me is how to be a professional creative, how to deal with creative deadlines and cope with inspiration blocks. No, it did not make me creative, that’s within me. It just taught me rules and techniques so that I know how to work well, fast & efficient and know how to break them. But no matter whether you’re considering formal education or not, the most important “school” you’ll need to go through on your way to greatness is your 10,000 hours.