Are Photography Classes Worth It? (It Depends)
So, you want to improve your photography, learn how to use that fancy new camera of yours and learn to take better shots? The kind that others will be amazed at. You’ve even noticed that there’s a photography class not too far away from where you live and its starts soon. But is it worth it? Couldn’t you just get all the information online or from a book and learn it yourself? Aren’t those kinds of classes over-priced, over-crowded and for photographers that are so new they can’t even figure out how to turn their camera on?
Now, whether or not a photography class is worth it or not depends on a variety of factors, all of which I will discuss below.
Whether something is “worth it” is always going to be a totally personal decision. However, there are a few questions that you have to ask yourself first before answering the big “are photography classes worth it?” question. Among the most important questions you need to ask yourself is exactly why you are considering taking a photography class in the first place and what would be the consequences down the line if you did or didn’t take the class.
The thing is, if you’re not clear on why you want to take a class and what you want to get out of it then all the other things to consider that I’m going to take you through below become much more complex. You see, whether you’re a newbie, keen hobbyist or even a pro-photography, jumping on a photography class can be worth it if you take these things into account.
What Do You Want to Get Out of The Photography Class?
If you’re a very experienced photographer then attending a class for beginners is not going to be worth your time or money. Before you book on to any class you have to make sure that the topics covered are going to be useful to you.
For example, if you are quite an experienced landscape photographer but are looking to branch out and learn more about street photography then you might look at taking a class on that. However, if that class mainly focusses on the basics of photography and how to use your camera then you’re probably going to spend most of your time bored. So that particular photography class wouldn’t be worth it to you.
The same goes for you newbies, if you turn up a class that teaching you about advanced camera skills but you turn up with just a smart phone then you’re probably going to feel a little out of your depth and not be able to join in with much of the class. So, you would probably feel like that particular class was a waste of time and money to you.
Luckily for you, there is an abundance of different photography classes that focus on aspects of photography and cater for all abilities so with a little research it shouldn’t be hard to find a class that will teach you what you want to learn.
Here is what Maddison B has to say on the subject.
Should I Take an Online or an In-Person Photography Class?
You can learn anything you want on the internet, nowadays right? So why would you pick an in-person course over an online one that I can do whenever I want?
To be honest, I have taken both in person and online class and they both have their pros and cons. I actually got a lot out of both of them mainly because I went into each knowing exactly why I was taking the class and what I wanted to get out of it.
While online classes can seem like a great option for those with busy lives and because they can often be less expensive than in person classes it is easy to fall into the hole that any online class poses. Not actually taking action.
In the online class world, it is very common for people to sign up to a class and then not even open it! Some people will open it, read and then that’s it. They will never act on it. Yet the key to these online classes is once you have taken in the information you have to go and put it into action.
The online class I took was actually really good at this. At the end of each module there were homework tasks assigned that got you to go out with your camera and practice the techniques that you had just learned about. Once you had the shots you would email them over to the instructor and then you would get feedback. This was great as I felt like I was making real improvements and had actual contact with a person who could tell me if I was doing it wrong.
The downside to this is that there was a time lag between taking the shot and getting feedback. Something that is pretty much non-existent during an in-person class because the instructor is right there. So, if you need to change something to take a better shot then you can do it right there and then making the learning process much quicker.
This was one of the things that I loved about the in-person class I took. I made so much progress in my photography in just a few short hours simply because I learned something, tried it out, got feedback right there and then put the feedback into practice.
While both online and in-person photography classes can be worth taking its important to be realistic about which one will be the most advantageous to you. Do you have a busy life that makes committing to a class hard or do you want to progress quickly and know that you would be likely to not finish an online class? Either way whatever is the right option for you may not be for someone else.
Should I take a Group Photography Class or a One-on-One Photography Class?
While the biggest factor to answering this question is probably your budget its also important to note the added benefits for doing each of them. Do you think you will get more out of learning in a One-on-one situation or a group situation? Again, the answer comes down to why you want to take the class and what you want to get out of it?
One-on-one classes are great because the instructor can just focus on you. They can easily adapt the class to suit your needs, abilities and interests meaning that you can finally master that skill you’ve been struggling with. This may also mean that you can go deeper on one specific aspect or speed up your progress on several because the class is completely personalised. Another bonus is the extra titbits and stories you may hear from your instructor that they may not have had chance to share in a group setting.
Group classes have their benefits too though. While you won’t get the same one-on-one time, you get to connect with other photographers. This can be great way to meet those with a similar interests especially if you don’t have many photography friends.
Not only can you help each other out during the class but afterwards you can continue to go and shoot together. While it can be great to get out and go shoot on your own, sometimes that company can make it more fun and open up different opportunities such as having someone that you know to photograph rather than just a stranger.
During the class, even though you may be all there to learn the same thing, you all have different backgrounds and experiences with photography. By getting to know a little about the other people in the class you could find yourself looking down you lens with a different perspective and taking photos that you never would have thought about taking.
Are there Any Hidden Benefits?
Sometimes the value of a photography class doesn’t lie in what you will be taught but in everything else that surrounds it. It could be something as simple as getting to see your hometown from a different angle, getting to interact with people from different backgrounds or even just gaining confidence in yourself as a photographer. Sometimes the biggest benefits of a photography class are not obvious.
There are some photography classes that last several days and require you to stay somewhere other than your home. While they may seem expensive at first, think about all the added bonuses you are getting for free. You get the chance to spend extra time with your classmates and instructor and so possibly learning even more than you thought you would. You might have the chance to explore a new place, see it in the different lights of the day and even just experience a different lifestyle.
Sometimes just the chance to hang out with your favourite photographer can make any class worth its while. When weighing up whether a photography class is going to be worth it, just a take a moment and try to uncover some of those hidden benefits first.
How to Pick the Right Teacher?
We all had that one teacher at school that you didn’t like and so you never did well at the subject, right? Well the same thing can happen in photography so its important to find yourself a teacher that you connect with.
While it can be hard to figure out if you are going to like your teacher before you meet them in person it is possible to increase the chances. For example, if you like to shoot with film then picking a teacher that hates film probably won’t work. The same goes for the type of photography you shoot. Picking a teacher that loves portraiture when you love landscapes might not be the best option.
You may also be able to find out other similarities you have such as languages you speak, where you come from, sports teams you support etc. All these things help you both to connect and when you and your teacher share that rapport you are bound to get so much more out of any class you take.
What to Consider When Signing Up for a Photography Class
Once you have figured out why you want to take a photography class, what you want to get out of it and if you want to do an online, in-person one-on-one or group class you should easily be able to create a short-list of classes to take.
It can often be hard to tell if a class is right for you just from the title, so it is important that you check out the class syllabus. Find out.
- What exact topics the class will cover
- What ability the class is aimed at e.g. Beginner, advanced etc.
- When the class is.
- Is it a one off?
- Is it weekly?
- Is it over a week?
- Check the reviews to see if other people thought it was worth it.
OK, so you may not be able to find a class that ticks every box but if from looking at it (and even speaking the people that run it) you feel that it would help you reach your goal then that class will be worth it for you.
How Much are Photography Classes?
As you will probably expect there are a range of different price brackets for photography classes. Prices vary depending on the length of the class, the experience of the photographer taking the class and where the class is.
Obviously, you’d expect to pay more to a weeklong class where you all stay in house given by a world-renowned photographer than a half day class in your local town given by a local pro-photographer you haven’t heard of right?
To help you guys get an idea of what you might expect to pay for different types of photography classes.
Online Photography Classes
Online classes can be a great option if you have a small budget. You can pick up an in-depth class from as little as $100 and sometimes even cheaper on sites like Udemy which often have sales. However, keep in mind that if you’re the kind of person who will need a bit of accountability to finish a class then perhaps an online class would not be worth it for you.
Depending on the experience of the photographer you can sign up to a half day class from as little as $75 for a beginner’s class. I can say from experience that these classes can be really valuable as a newbie.
For those that are a little more experienced or for classes lasting the full day your looking at nearer $200. However, a longer class taken over several weeks may be more advantageous to you.
Photography Classes Taken Over a Series of Weeks
The price of these classes obviously will depend on the length of the course. A course that is taken over 6 weeks is going to cost a lot less than one that is taken over a year. It will also depend on the type of photography you are learning about. For example. If you are taking a class on portrait and studio photography, then the price will include the use of the studio and other equipment. On the other hand, if you’re learning about landscape photography then you are likely to be out and about and so the overheads for the class are less which will be reflected in the price.
So, depending on the course length, your ability and type of photography you’re looking at anything between a few hundred bucks to a few thousand.
Ok so these are those photography classes that you go away someplace to do. They are usually hosted by a top-class professional photographer and you get to immerse yourself in the world of photography from between an entire weekend to more than a week.
Understandably these types of classes are not cheap. Not only are you paying to get your hands on the expertise of the professional photographer, but you’ve got the (often swanky) accommodation, the food and any other experiences that are included to pay for. Oh, and don’t forget the cost of your transport which is not usually included in the price. That’s just an added little extra for you to take care of.
Without factoring in your own transport costs, you can easily be looking at forking out $5000 for a week’s photography retreat. Now don’t get me wrong, that seems like an awful lot of money at first. However, when you consider everything that we have already talked about then it could potentially be worth it for you. Just to note that these retreats are almost always aimed at those who you would consider advanced photographers and even some pros.
While you might find a weekend option for beginners you would be looking at something much less expensive. Although it is always worth checking exactly what you are getting for your money.
So, is that photography class you’ve been looking at worth it? Does it give good value?
It depends on all of the things I’ve discussed above but ultimately the answer to that question is personal. If you’re still stuck on the fence, ask yourself this; in 6 months’ time if you took the class where would you be in your life and photography compared to where you would be if you didn’t.
If you didn’t like the sound of where you will be if you didn’t take the class, then the chances are the class will be worth it to you.
Want to kick start your photography? Master these 6 basics of digital photography and get your photos going from alright to awesome in no time!