BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Katrina McMeans
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/9/2005

BetterPhoto Courses... Where Do I Start?

I've been puttering around with photography for 3 years now, reading lots of books on the subject and practicing all the time. I really want to take all this a step further though, and start making a career out of what I love doing so much.

I've been looking into various options for schooling, mainly concentrating on OIP&T, which would be local for me. But it's so expensive, and I'm wondering if taking courses on here would teach me pretty much the same things, and maybe even more. I know it would be cheaper, anyway.

I guess I just need to know what any implications might arise from me not actually attending a specific school for photography... will that really affect chances of being hired or being able to sell my work? I've heard that most prospective employers are more concerned with the quality of the work I would turn out, rather than where I went to school.

All the same, I just wanted to get some people's thoughts on this, so I can decide where to go from here.

I don't really have a good camera yet, is that something I should have before I take a course here? I'm thinking it would be. Any suggestions? I'm thinking along the lines of a Canon Rebel of some sort... basically any decent digital SLR would suit my purposes. I can't afford the extremely high-end market right now, but I could handle something in the middle price range.

Thanks for any help... you guys are greatest!

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6/3/2007 12:13:10 PM

Kerry Drager
BetterPhoto Member
Kerry's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Creative Close-ups
  Hi Katrina,
Thanks for your interest in BetterPhoto courses ... and glad that you are interested in getting getting into a career in photography!

Depending on the particular class here at BP, just about any camera will do ... of course, some courses definitely are geared to Digital SLRs (one being the Rebel).

Although a college or university degree is always a good thing, it's not necessary to become a pro photographer ... although courses help get you on the right track.

Check out the backgrounds of BP's pro instructors and you'll see an amazing array of backgrounds. Not all have photography degrees - actually, most don't. Jim Zuckerman, for instance, had visions of a medical career and switched to photography! He's a top pro - stock photographer, author of photo how-to books, etc. - who teaches a number of classes here.

If you're interested in photojournalism, Jay Dickman is a Pulitzer Prize winner who has shot many National Geographic articles. He teaches The Art of Creating the Photo Story right here at BetterPhoto!

Wedding Photography? Check out Paul Gero - a staff photographer for a major newspaper (Chicago Tribune) who switched to wedding photography. He's since written a book on the subject and teaches Digital Wedding Photography here at BP.

Of course, we have many more professional-oriented classes - on stock photography, portrait photography, studio, lighting, etc. - as well as tons of classes to improve your photography skills. The instructors are pro shooters, many of whom have written photo how-to books and/or write regularly for the major photo magazines. If you haven't tried it already, check out our very cool CourseFinder.

Be sure to check out the testimonials of people who have actually taken our online courses: Note the "What students are saying..." link at the upper right - for reviews on specific classes.

Hope this helps, Katrina!

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6/3/2007 1:55:55 PM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Katrina and welcome to BP. You probably could not find a better place to ask your questions. People here are, for the most part, friendly, helpful, experienced and opinionated. Before I give my opinions, I’ll tell you a bit about myself. Five years ago I left a 26 year career in social work to pursue my dreams of writing and doing photography. The writing part came pretty easily – I had always written and had been published – but the photography part needed real help. I considered a full or part time traditional school, but at my age this did not seem a reasonable option. I was already getting work in writing and could not afford to put that part on hold while I learned how to photograph the things I write about. I found BP and have not looked back. I have just completed my 7th BP class and have learned a tremendous amount over the past couple of years. About a year ago I began successfully marketing my images both along with my writing and as separate assignments. In July I will participate in my first gallery show of consequence – meaning that this time my images will be hung along side those by some very talented photographers of local acclaim. I believe that my success, such as it is, is due, in part, to what I have learned here. Incidentally, I took Kerry’s composition class and would highly recommend it when you are ready to start learning.

As far as the advantages/disadvantages of learning via the Internet versus in a traditional classroom; I have never known a client to voice a preference for how I learned my craft. In fact, this question hardly ever arises. I think the real question is how motivated you are. Internet learning requires a commitment on your part that is different from being in a brick and mortar classroom. In BP classes you receive weekly lessons and assignments that you complete and upload. If you are willing to put in the effort to carefully read and review the lessons and then complete the assignments by actually going out and trying the new techniques, you will likely gain a great deal from the class. But, you need to put in that effort to get the maximum benefit. In most of my classes there has been great communication between students. Not only do you hear from the instructor, you hear from your classmates. Reading the weekly critiques and participating in the Q&A can be just as helpful as reading the weekly lessons.

As to your choice of camera, try posting a question just on that topic and you will get many – sometimes conflicting – answers. Always keep in mind that it is not the camera that makes the image – it’s the photographer! The Canon Rebel is a great camera and would certainly be a good starting place for you. It can probably take you a pretty long way into your learning process.

If you have further questions about possible classes or my experiences at BP, feel free to e-mail me direct. Meanwhile, best of luck figuring your next steps.


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6/4/2007 7:51:53 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
  Hello Katrina,
Kerry & Irene covered a lot in their replies and I just wanted to add that for myself, I looked at improving my photography in 2 ways - How to take better photos & how to make them better with Photoshop. I started with a Canon 20D and a Tamron 28-75mm and the Canon 70-200mm f/4 L (non IS version) and spent about $2000.00 for all of it. This was more than enough to get me going. You will also want to get a good tripod/head as well.
I cannot recommend these courses highly enough. The instructors are real pro's and the lessons can be very challenging & a lot of fun. I get so much inspiration and objectivity working with the instructors & the other students also provide different perspectives and ideas. I am looking at another 4 week course (Scott's Stock Photography Class) starting next week and will probably take a couple more 8 week courses this fall.
You will also have access to your past lessons/courses as part of your membership and can refer to them anytime. I often have to go back and retrieve some photoshop technique I forgot but I will go back to the course it was covered in, and review the lesson again.
Jump in and have fun.
Good luck Katrina.


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7/24/2007 12:50:22 AM

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