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.  

My Adventures with Photography (& Stuff)

The past few months have been quite a nice adventure for me, with many ups and downs that kept me quite busy …busy enough that it’s been only crickets on my blog the past while. I’ve been involved in all sorts of projects, some of which I’m not yet allowed to publicize (Sigh!). I want to do a little recap of my past few months. I won’t talk about everything (there’s my Instagram for that), but there are a few moments definitely worth mentioning.

Nuit Blanche & the 24 hours photo-makeup marathon:

Kids, don’t try this at home; not for the faint-hearted. At the end of February I found myself in a bit of an overbooked situation, but it all worked out well in the end. On Nuit Blanche I was the photographer at the Creative Mornings Nuit Blanche Cabaret, where, at the same time, I had a photo booth operated by my dear Oli. The hectic part was that I had a design in mind for the booth, which I drew myself (the "Creative Mornings" typographic design below), and I ended up finishing it really last minute (one hour before leaving for the event, hehe!). What a rush!!! The whole Nuit Blanche event worked out perfectly though, and my photo booth was a great success. Here are some of the images I got out of that night of photo fun.

However, after Nuit Blanche the adventure was not over. I had another photoshoot in an amazing icy location, with two very talented designers (Maison CYMA). I learned that day all about the amazing power of being excited and in love with what you do. I woke up after only 3 hours of sleep fuelled by the excitement for what’s to come that day. I had two sets of makeups to do, it all went great, then we all jumped in cars and off we went to Wallingford Mine. Once we got there, I had to refresh the makeup, in the back of the van, in the snow…so crazy…so fun…And then, the photoshoot. It was freezing, I was running purely on adrenaline & I was feeling so alive!!! And the models…whoa! On high heels, on ice, freezing…good job girls! It was really not easy. Here are some behind the scenes images from that crazy adventure:

Truth is, now that I talked about these, everything else seems boring in comparison. Not to mention retouching projects that kept me stuck in front of my computer for days…I mean, really, not to complain or anything, but sometimes computer work gets mental and I’m stuck in the house for days. It’s awesome, but it does get lonely...Ah! The joys of freelance life….

But I’ve been involved in all sorts of projects; a lot of makeup gigs, portraits, a bunch of fashion/catalogue photoshoots, and of course my collaboration with Creative Mornings, which is so dear to my heart. I'm posting below some images that I took off my phone, but this is definitely not the whole story.

My bottom line to this blog post is:

When I let go of my old corporate job, and the regular hours, and the steady lifestyle, I was looking exactly for this: adventure, excitement, sleepless nights, projects that take me to new and amazing places and allow me to meet ambitious creatives. It’s a chaotic but well organized lifestyle that requires a lot of self-discipline. And the past few months have been exactly all that. And the way this whole freelancing thing worked out for me, it’s really “photography & stuff”. I’ve had quite a lot of projects as a MUA, or as a retoucher, even as a graphic designer. Oh, and not to mention the writing I do on the blog, or the blog post I wrote for Creative Mornings...Hehe, I’m really enjoying the multi-faceted realm of being a creative! 

And I’m excited for the next few months! I have some awesome projects coming up…and it’s spring, summer is around the corner, it’s warm and sunny again…I feel so energized! And one of the things I have in plan is to revive my blog and update it regularly. No really, stay tuned 😃  Cool stuff coming up!  

Creative Mornings: Because Coffee Is Best Served With a Shot of Inspiration

I have been meaning to write a blog post about this for quite some time. Creative Mornings is one of my favourite gatherings and one of my favourite concepts: it's a lecture series for the creative community, it's a place to meet like minded people and a great way to get inspired over a cup of coffee on a Friday morning. 

Image source :

Image source :

Creative Mornings was started in New York by TIna Ross Eisenberg, or Swissmiss, a designer from Brooklyn, a blogger and the mind behind several business endeavours. She wanted to create an accessible event where you can meet like-minded people, get a quick dose of inspiration and then go on with your day. The first event took place in 2008 but since then it grew to a global movement taking place in 128 cities and counting around the world, usually on the last Friday of every month at 8-8:30 in the morning.  To participate, get your ticket online at the beginning of that week  (check the details with your local chapter, but if you're from Montreal, Monday of that last week of the month, set an alarm at 11 am to book your ticket). It's all free, it's on a first-come first-served basis. Once those tickets are "sold out", you can register on a waiting list for an extra number of tickets. Each month there is a different theme, the same all over the world, and each chapter has their own speaker giving a 20 min inspirational talk. And it's all Non profit. It's put together by passionate people, fuelled by sponsors and kept alive by the increasing number of participants. It's truly a great concept. I've only been to a few of the Montreal gatherings and what i found is this great welcoming vibe, awesome people, inspirational talks (in French, at least I get to practice), and tasty breakfasts. It always takes place in different locations around Montreal (i've seen in other cities it's in the same venues), which is cool, you always see something different. It was brought here "by a small band of creativity aficionados" in May 2013. (I actually found the first blog post about how Creative Mornings Montreal was "born" and about the first event. Click here. Cool to read).

Creative Mornings Montreal, June 2015, Tora Chirila Phorography

The first time I heard about Creative Mornings was from this Chase Jarvis LIVE interview with Swissmiss. At that time I was a soon to be graduate from photo school, so I was about to lose my networking environment with other creatives, and I was pretty sad about it. And I was looking for a way, a place, something...where I can meet other creatives and get inspired. Obviously my first reaction when I heard about Creative Mornings was something like: "No way!!! And this thing is every month!?!?" And then disappointment: "'s Friday at 8 am...I'll never make it". At the time I was working in a corporate job with a very strict 8-5 schedule so really no way for me to make it there. They do have a boss-convincing guide on the Creative Mornings website, which might actually work for some. 

The first Creative Mornings I attended was in June 2015, and I kept going since, and I'll keep going, as much as I can. Actually, next time I go to Romania I'll go check out a CM event in Bucharest. The last Creative Mornings I attended was this last Friday, at Rialto Theatre, and, under the theme "Empathy", we got to meet and hear the stories of Patsy Van Roost, an artist known as the Mile End Fairy for her urban projects directed towards raising connectivity and solidarity in her local community. I suggest reading about her projects on her website. We need more people like her in this world.

And if Creative Mornings is all about creativity and inspiration, then that's my way of staying active and creative: coffee in one hand, camera in the other, all while listening to inspirational stories.