Is a photography degree worth it?

Based on my personal experience, no.  Not that I actually have a photo degree – just a BA in art with a major in photography.  I could have gone the BFA route, but the time involved was insane – a minimum 6 year degree IF you could get all the required classes at the correct time (and the faculty didn’t always cooperate.)  I’m sure the BFA would have been worth it, but the only difference that I could see in the degree reqs were a few portfolio review classes and a bit more involvement with the faculty.

I ended up taking every photography class the college offered except one – the color class.  I wasn’t required to take it, and I chose not to include that one because the color students were always sitting in the darkroom moaning that the machine was broken again, and they couldn’t get their work done.  I didn’t mind spending time in the darkroom, but sitting around wasn’t an option when you’re working on double majors with a 3.5 year timeline (and yes, I completed both with a Suma in 3.5 years.) 

All in all, I felt that a liberal arts education was a total waste of my time and my money.  I groused for months that my art degree required not one, but 2! drawing classes – as a photo major, who cares if you can draw?  And I certainly couldn’t!  I think I passed those classes on sheer effort, because my attempts at drawing were totally pathetic. 

If I had it to do over again, I would skip the liberal arts education and go for a strong technical school.  I left college with a degree, feeling very fine art and all but a little shaky technically despite an internship with a local wedding photographer.  I did get some experience working with studio lights in one class, but we were also struggling to learn large format cameras at the same time.  Reciprocity failure anyone?  Ouch! 

I loved my alternative photography class though – the teacher was a wonderful (non-tenured, funny how that happens) part-time instructor.  I learned the basics of several processes in that class.  If cyanotypes were any measure of the processes, what I learned there was the point-and-shoot equivalent of the more complex DSLR version.  What I’m working with today shows just how far I’ve come – the prevailing opinion of the students and faculty was that digital negatives were not worth using.

I realize my opinions are probably not common – I came to college as a non-traditional student at the age of 23.  While other students used their college time to explore their future options and have a good time, I was worried about the value of what I was getting for my money.  I wanted a solid grounding in my major, not an overview. 

I guess it wasn’t all bad – I had a chance to learn traditional photography and quickly figured out that I loved being in the darkroom.  It’s like magic, watching the picture swim up from a blank piece of paper in the developer.  I do miss that experience.

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One thought on “Is a photography degree worth it?

  1. Pingback: once again, a question « categorically worthless

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