Ok, so you have figured out for yourself that you want to become a photographer. But do you need a degree to become one?
And if yes, how much does it cost to do photography school? The expenses would certainly depend on what aims you are pursuing when it comes to your career. On average, the annual cost for photography school varies from $10.000 to $30.000. Of course, you always have the option to choose online courses, rather than investing your money and four years into getting an official degree. Online courses will cost you around $100 per month. But the prices do vary depending on the prestige and overall length of the program.
Related: What Is the Best College for Photography?
Do I Even Need to Go to College to Become a Photographer?
This is the first question that needs to be answered. Do you have to go to school to be a photographer?
Frankly speaking, no.
There are a lot of examples of extremely successful photographers that are 100% self-made and never attended a photography lesson in their life. But, at the same time, there are also examples of great photographers that have a master’s degree.
You have to bear in mind that the area of photography that you want to work in will influence whether or not you have to get some photography education. Wedding, portrait, travel photographers (and many others) don’t necessarily need a degree to form a fantastic clientele.
However, if you want to become news or a journalism photographer, then you might need to have an education.
In a nutshell, if you want to be working for yourself, you don’t need a degree as no one can disallow you to take shots.
But if you are willing to work in a company of any kind, then the employer has a right to give a chance only to the photographers that have a degree. Anyways, even some official companies have exceptions. So the final decision will always be on you.
From a psychological point of view, a lot of people find it easier to succeed in something, if they have an opportunity to attend a university, for example. Self-education can sometimes be tricky. You would have to make yourself get out of bed and spend your free time learning something new. Thus, you have to be a highly motivated person.
At the university, however, you won’t have a choice than actually to do the exercises and learn something.
Ask yourself one important question:
What plan will work better for me? Take into consideration your money resources, the amount of time that you have and what type of study suits you the best.
Related: What Training Is Needed for Photography?
I Have Decided to Go to Photography School
If so, then you have the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. On average, becoming a bachelor will take your around two years and then another two to become a master.
Remember that during a 4-year program you will be focusing not only on photography but also on other stuff, such as arts, craft and so on. There are also specialized institutes and photography schools that teach solemnly photography for two years (sometimes even one year). 4-year courses are available at universities and colleges.
Anyways, take into consideration that a year will cost you around $10.000. Depending on the program, country, and prestige the price may range up to $30.000, but you might also find institutions with a smaller fee.
However, you have to take into consideration the fact that if you are going to school, you would need to pay not only for your actual education but also for your accommodation, food, gear, and so many other things… Let’s take a closer look at these expenses.
A Digital and a Film Camera
Before starting your first day at photography school, you have to already have a camera with a lens on you. Ideally, you have to have spent some time with it, mastering the various features and so on.
Choose your camera wisely as this might turn into a once-in-a-lifetime purchase (some photographers have been using one single favorite camera for years and years).
Paper and Printing
Some independent photographers might never even need to print out a photo. After all, most of the clients’ wishes can be fulfilled with the help of photo editing and then you simply send the digital image back to the customer.
However, if you decide to go to a photography school, you will most certainly be asked to master the whole ‘darkroom’ experience. The printing paper is quite expensive. And you would need a lot of that and in different sizes for every semester that you go through.
An External Hard Drive
You are recommended to invest into one, even if you don’t go to photography school. But losing a whole project the night before an important exam or deadline can be terrifying, right?
So make sure to keep all your images safe and sound.
Expenses on Supplies for Other Classes
As we have already mentioned, if you go to school (especially, if you have picked a 4-year program), you would have to spend your time and money on the supplies for other art classes, not solemnly photography ones.
This might be pretty frustrating, as you wouldn’t even need these supplies after you finish school (most of the cases), but that’s just part of the learning process.
Over the course you might end up spending a few hundred dollars on sketchbooks, drawing supplies, fabrics, paper and so on. But it is helpful to bear in mind that being a photographer is about being an artist. And at least to have a basic understanding of other art forms, they will at one point turn out to be important for your future career.
If you want to find out more photography equipment, visit our page with recommended gear for photographers.
I Don’t Want to Attend Photography School
And that’s totally fine! Nowadays a lot of people are sure that they don’t need an ‘official degree’ to become successful and to be able to learn something.
If you’re against photography school simply because you don’t have that much time and/or money, then online classes might be the perfect option for you.
After you do your research, you will certainly be able to find lessons that are just as helpful as those at a photography school, but with one big difference – you can easily study from home.
Another important thing about online classes is that you have an opportunity to choose what exactly you need. Instead of learning a full 4-year program, you can spend a couple of months learning only the technical aspects of photography, for example.
Of course, the payments for online classes will not be as high as for an ordinary school. Depending on the type of course that you decide to choose, you would either have to pay for the whole class or make monthly payments to the online school.
By the way, if you spend some time doing the research, the chances are high that you might find various photography classes that are free. Different online educational platforms (such as Coursera for example) give you the opportunity to study for free. It goes without saying that some YouTube channels or specialized blogs can be extremely helpful as well.
The most important part when it comes to self-education is figuring out what your weakest sides are so that you can focus on studying these aspects of photography. By the way, the more particular you are about your aims, the easier it is for you to find the right answers online.
If you feel like you are good at taking the actual shots, but need to get better at the photo editing process, then go for it!
Related: How Can I Learn Photography on My Own?
Even if you have decided to go to a photography school, the actual graduation is not where everything comes to an end. In fact, it is just the beginning of your career.
What comes next can be a little less creative. In our modern world, mastering only the photography part is not enough to prosper. You have to know how to be a businessman or businesswoman. You need to understand how to form a clientele. And you should always be aware of what is going on in the industry.
How much education does a photographer need?
That is a tricky question that we have tried to answer. The truth is that you don’t need that actual degree to become a successful photographer.
Remember to always strive for more. You have to be getting better and better at what you love. Do this not only for the sake of competition but also that you can be proud of yourself and to be able to admit that you really are good at what you do. That is one of the best feelings that we all strive to have in our lives.
Related: What Can I Do with a Photography Degree?