Do you need qualifications?
Should you study photography formally or is a strong portfolio and hard-won experience enough?
Studying for a photography qualification can help to fill in any gaps in your technical knowledge, strengthen your portfolio and demonstrate your commitment – something that can certainly make a difference when you’re looking for your first job. But how relevant is it for the keen amateur photographer looking to turn professional?
“I feel it’s important to have a good technical understanding of photography and the business of photography, so a higher education degree from a respected institution is a good starting point,” advises Tom Mackie. “Photographic workshops are also a good way to learn from professionals. I have had many amateur
If I had my time again I might well consider studying art and design, which I think is a far more valuable area of study than taking a course on photography
David Tipling, bird photographer
photographers on my workshops who have eventually taken the plunge to become professional photographers. There is a distinct difference between a photographer and a ‘professional’ photographer in the way they work in the field and with clients.”
University of life
Like many pros, Richard Peters didn’t study photography: “I opted for the hands-on approach of trial-and-error, instead, sharing my images on forums with others to seek feedback and help me develop.
“Anyone can pick up a camera and learn what buttons do what and take a technically brilliant record shot,” he adds. “However, the real challenge is understanding light, how to work with it and how to create something a little different from the rest. It’s not easy, and not every shot you take will be an award-winner or a big seller. But the more time you spend behind a camera, the more you’ll grow and learn.”
“I have only two qualifications,” adds Alex Bailey. “A driving licence and a City & Guilds in photography – I didn’t get any other qualifications at all! If you actually delve into the history of a great deal of well-established photographers, many of them have little or no formal qualifications – they have done it through hard graft from the ground up.”
If you’re considering turning professional then you’re confident in your photographic ability and maybe a qualification isn’t for you. But how much thought have you put to managing your business? You’ll need to have a sound grasp of the financial side. Getting to grips with accounting, tax payments and insurance – in addition to covering your gear for damage and theft, you’ll need public indemnity insurance – is vital, and attending a short course on setting up and running a business is likely to prove as worthwhile as studying for a formal photography qualification.