Are You Shopping for Photography Classes?

Do you know what you are buying? Do you want to spend years and $30,000+ learning photography and have debt to pay off? Or how about spending years doing photography and spending less than $3,000 with no debt? Read on, this might save you money!

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What’s the real difference between the many types of photography classes offered in Chicago?

Several downtown schools offer a degree in photography, with full-time programs that cost about $30,000 a year, for two years. OK, education is good, and you can always take out a loan. But beware, if things don’t go your way you still have to pay back student loans, even if you go bankrupt! Also, when you’re starting out, jobs in photography are hard to come by, and you may not earn enough money to make your loan payments, much less keep your apartment.

Most of the people making a living in photography started their own business. They are true entrepreneurs, and many didn’t attend a fulltime university program. Sure, they got their training somewhere, but mostly they had an idea and a passion and they went for it.

Here’s the dirty little secret: You don’t need a degree in photography to earn a living in photography. And even if you get a degree, chances are you’ll still have to go out and create your own business.

But beware. All non-degree programs are not created equal. Does your teacher have any real experience being “in the business” as a photographer? Has your teacher ever earned a living by taking assignments as a photographer?

One so-called teacher I met bragged that he started taking pictures in high school. Hmm… Didn’t we all start taking pictures in high school? When did he first get paid for his pictures?

And that brings us to our next little secret: Many photography teachers have never earned their income through photography assignments. Many turned to teaching because they could not make it as a professional photographer.

Some of those teachers have degrees in photography – a masters in fine arts from a college or university. That’s a significant accomplishment, because an MFA is as far as you can go in formal photography education. Most of these teachers are at universities that offer a full-time fine arts curriculum, among them: The School of the Art Institute Of Chicago, Columbia College, University of Illinois and others. As accomplished and talented as many of these teachers are, most of them have never managed a photography business and have done little or no commercial photography.

If you’re interested in photography as a business, ask prospective teachers about their own backgrounds. To be an entrepreneur you have to know how to run a business, combine your talent as a photographer with a little luck and then work harder than you ever have in your life.

Some camera manufacturers hold “schools” or “workshops,” some of them offered for free or low cost through camera stores. These one-day or weekend workshops are often very informative and provide a lot of information. But too often, people leave these classes with the impression that they can make it as photographers if only they owned this or that piece of equipment.

Well…maybe, but photography is about the image, not the equipment. In reality, you don’t need much equipment to make good photographs. You need a camera and a lens and an obsession to make images that communicate and share your vision. One place brags that they have over $18,000.00 in lighting equipment. Anyone that needs that much lighting equipment to make a photograph is just fooling themselves and you, they are not really a photographer.

Finally, beware of any teacher who tells you there’s “nothing to it.” I know a photographer in Chicago who over the years has earned more than a million dollars through his photography. He works at it every day; whenever I have a chance to watch him at his craft I see a person who works and sweats because he is working as much as a construction worker.

Photographers don’t take pictures. They make pictures. They work hard. So when you’re checking out your options for learning photography, look hard to see what you’ll be able to do once you finish the class. Don’t be fooled by the phoney baloney certificate programs out there. Photographers get hired by their college degrees and portfolio’s and not by having a certificate. If you must have a certificate then our 12 step program is the cheapest in the nation.

Look at what other students have accomplished. If you don’t see much, there may be nothing to see. Move on to another place. Life is too short and money too precious to waste.

So check out all the options – the schools, the camera store classes, the other non-degree programs – and then take a look at us. Attend our Free 90 minute workshop offered each Sunday at High Noon. If you like the workshop than attend our first Photo I class for free as well. We will save you money! 😉

For decades, Richard has established the most recognized photography programs in Chicago and the Midwest, in both Film and Digital, attracting more than 25,000 students. Over five decades, each of his students have spent a minimum of 40 hours each, in his class and/or darkroom and/or computer Lab. The simple math reveals that Richard has provided more than a million hours of photography instruction to those 25,000. So Richard and his fellow teachers don’t need to impress you. They’re here to teach you, to help you learn and grow and find your own unique artistic center.

At Richard Stromberg’s Chicago Photography Classes, our only accent is on learning! We won’t try to sell you a “membership,” or caps and t-shirts with our logo. We won’t ask you for contributions, or charge you to attend a Show Opening party and no meaningless certificates. We will teach and work with you, in a safe and nurturing community, where you will learn something every time you walk through the door.

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