Do you need a degree to be a photographer? That is a question I have seen asked on the internet a few times recently. Below is my opinion.
If you are planning on being a high-end commercial studio photographer with subjects like food, models or commercial products……maybe. Also classes on design, art and computer engineering could be helpful. Especially….design! Once again, I say maybe you should look into it. If standard outdoor photography, be it nature, architectural or otherwise is your goal, my only suggestion would be business related courses. Learning photography is not difficult, running a photography business can be nightmarish. I could have used more business knowledge.
How to help yourself. Some people self-medicate, I self-educate. It’s kind of my thing.
There are of course millions of images available to look at and learn from. When I look at pictures, initially I take them at face value and enjoy them. Then I cover the picture inch by inch evaluating what I see. That is just my style, but anybody can learn from viewing the work of others. Of course magazines, and above all the internet provides us all with many places to go and view images or read what many great photographers have to say about their craft. Stay engaged with those who are successful at making pictures. It is true that some photographers (even in nature) succeed without making consistently great images. The money to promote and a winning personality will take you a ways in photography. That having been said, the majority of successful photographers have received that acclaim by making great pictures. Success breeds success, mediocrity breeds mediocrity.
Don’t just look at pictures. Even if you are planning on becoming a total nature photographer, look at things like architecture, the design of parks, cemeteries and other manmade places. I am not suggesting you ever alter nature, only that sometimes the designers of great places have a talent that transfers to composition in photography.
When you are making pictures, if you begin by using the tool of simplicity, attempting to create order out of chaos, you will eventually be able make powerful compositions whether they be of complicated subjects, or simple ones. People are moved when they understand (or think so) what you saw when you clicked the shutter. They really want to know what was important to you.
The best education (in my opinion) that any photographer will receive will have been acquired by grabbing your camera and making pictures. Experience is a masterful professor. One that has unwritten degrees beyond any doctorate. Do remember that when you become the one with the experience, others will pay you to know what you know.
Well now, I have fed my addiction for self-education.
No need to write me if you went to school for photography and it helped. It is certainly true that one size never fits all, and as I said, this is only my opinion.
Four fine images from four superb photographers.
Marina Scarr. This is a wild horse on a barrier island in North Carolina.
Denise Ippolito. UK Puffin.
Marc Muench. Iceland.
There are a lot of ways to design a photo without touching rearranging the subject matter.
Nature has been designed by God (my opinion), and manmade things are of course designed by man. We can combine those two things to create images. The finished product becomes a design that we get to take partial credit for.
You might think you can’t design a photo when wild animals are a part of it. It is true that I had no control over this Eastern Kingbird landing in this fence. I had total control over how I moved my camera to frame the bird and create this composition.
Every composition we create, is a design. Whether our comp was arrived at in the field at the moment of conception, or at home when we edit our photos, we have made a design.
Sometimes the best you can do is spot a great design, and make the decision to shoot the picture in either the vertical or horizontal formats. This is a crop made at home but without a doubt, vertical is the way to go.
I designed this image the best I could while I was in the act of pulling the trigger. The pano format was a result of the editing process. The placement of the bird while shooting, combined with the pano crop, make up the design.
The most common design of a waterfall image is to feature the falls by shooting straight into it. In this case I used the environment, including the large rock to dominate the waterfall. In other words to compose or design an image of a specific place, that happened to have a waterfall in it. A landscape that included a waterfall, instead of a waterfall with some land around it By design.
This was never meant to be an image of flowers, or an image of a field, or that of a mountain. It was always meant to be a picture of all of those things living together. My job was to design an image that showed the order that existed in all of that chaos.
Admittedly there are times when there aren’t many options when you are composing an image of a wild animal. I did have the option (slightly) where to place the bird in the picture frame, and which direction to leave a little space, or better said, breathing room. A design choice.
Have a great day, Wayne