Once in awhile I receive an email from an aspiring photographer, usually 18-20 years old, curious about where to start. Should they go to school? What school? Can they come and assist me and learn from me? Questions about my cameras and films are always included also.
And I always say, if you want to learn how to work your camera and the technical aspects a Junior College with a good photography program will be sufficient. No one can teach you how to see. But they can teach you how to work the camera. When I was at this stage in my photo curious life before diving in full force I went to Los Angeles City College. Then it was $11.00 per credit. It cost me $250 per year. Prices have risen since then, but still. They had great teachers. I learned everything I needed to learn about 35mm, Medium Format, Large Format – developing, printing, darkroom chemicals, mounting and hanging my work, book and portfolio making, lighting… all of it. This is all I needed. I had already built my own support group online years ago when I was only modeling. I had multitudes of photographers I could call upon to ask questions. Now there are online resources everywhere you look. With photographers only a mouse click away. While some of them can’t answer all your questions all the time, some of them will.
Are you curious about Large Format photography? http://www.largeformatphotography.info – there you go! Medium Format Photography? http://theartofphotography.tv/episodes/medium-format-photography/ Plastic Cameras? Here’s a Holga basics http://photo.tutsplus.com/articles/hardware/an-introduction-to-holga-photography/ – and if you’re really into film photography you have to join Film Wasters – http://www.filmwasters.com – Some of the most creative photographers I know hang out there and regularly give instruction for people interested in starting out.
So that’s the free stuff! And there’s so much more out there if you just let Google guide you to your interests. But you say, “I don’t know how that particular photo I like was shot.” I say you never will and it doesn’t matter. It is your job as an aspiring photographer to find your equipment and what feels good in your hands to shoot with. Digital or film? Small cameras that will go anywhere or big mammoth cameras that need to be hauled in the back of a semi-truck.. it’s all there to be thought about and decided upon. Trying to recreate looks will never give you a personal style. That’s what we all strive for in our work, our own personal finger print on each image. You have to try different cameras to find yours. If you don’t want to purchase every camera you try there are multitudes of rental houses that will rent a camera to you for a day. Go play and have fun and find your own eye.
NOW – The prompting for this post came from this blog posting by Noah Bradley – http://medium.com/i-m-h-o/138c5efd45e9 – Don’t Go to Art School. He’s right. It’s a rip off. So is Brooks Institute of Photography. Four year cost: $125,848. Really? Wouldn’t you rather spend that on camera equipment? I would! Those books and supplies calculations don’t include camera equipment.
There are also really awesome workshop businesses where you can go and study with a photographer for a fee for a weekend or longer. You may find that a couple workshop courses are all you need to grasp what you need to be focusing on.
Take the first step. Then keep walking.