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  • Writer's picturePhillip Kitts

Investing in Schools or Clinics

During the winter months, many photography enthusiasts are looking for resources to keep their skills fine-tuned. This is not all that different from those who do photography for a career.

In our winter months, we spend plenty of time focused on research, learning additional and new techniques, and even more, looking at equipment options that will improve our end product or the efficiency of our job.

Something we have noted lately is a good amount of people reaching out to us looking for classes or clinics about photography. We have also noted a good amount of people signing up for schools with photographers around the business.

This blog post was inspired by a phone call we received in the middle of last year. We were approached by a young photographer who was looking to expand on their ability as well as trying to learn how to transition the hobby of photography to a career. This same photographer had spent a fairly large sum of money attending clinics and schools from several photographers.

Since it is not normally our policy to teach we offered to simply look at a portfolio and see where we could give some advice. Unfortunately, the portfolio did not tell a good story. Upon further conversation, it became apparent that the education received was just not in line with improving their skills, ability, or knowledge.

This is not our first occurrence of this and there is no doubt it will not be the last.

So the question comes to the surface, where should one go to learn more and learn the right things. The answer is not as simple as going here and going there. In order to better your skills, you need to find someone who you admire for their work. In order to create photos in your vision, you have to learn from someone who can inspire you. Beyond finding the right person you need to make sure that the education you receive will fall in line with your best interests, if the person teaching you is focused on their end goal and not your success you will not gain much from a school. Yes, money is a factor, and a photographer with the skills and knowledge to teach you has time that is worth money. A bad school or clinic may not be cheap but a really good school or clinic in no way is going to be cheap. You have to invest in your future but you have to make sure you are making a good investment.

Here is the bottom line, before you sign up do some research, look at portfolios, work experience, and success rate. As you look through all of these, ask yourself, are they creating a product and a service that you want to emulate. Make sure they will be able to challenge you, if you are already shooting equivalent photos to the instructor are they really going to help you reach the next level.

Let's break this down a little further-

When you look through a portfolio you should be looking for clear sharp photos that represent the subject. If you are looking into an action photography school the images should be well framed and emphasize the subject. Not all action photos have to be tight and in your face but you should be able to recognize the subject. Pay special attention to low light, creating an image in low light takes knowledge, if the end product is a grainy mess and it is hard to make anything out then you may keep this in mind.

When looking at work experience this is not as simple as are they working, or are they attending, if your goal is to find your way into the most challenging shoots in the world you need to learn from those who are there. Using rodeo as an example, is the instructor attending events or are they being hired for the events? You should also assess their reputation in the industry, do not be afraid to ask for a reference, not just a piece of paper that claims what they have done. Talk to one of the events they shoot, you will know instantly how they are perceived during these conversations.

Success rate goes much farther than if you see their work being utilized in public, take some time to research their reviews from clients and customers. In general, a lot of rave reviews will tell you the story about their operation.

Once you have done the research you will know where to commit your investment. Now the big task is to be coachable, even to this day we do not go to an event or work with another photographer where we do not learn. The fact is learning how to refine your skills never ends, there is always a new way or better way to operate.

Schools and clinics are a great tool to sharpen your skills to move you to the next level but this is an investment. Make sure you invest in something of quality and not throw your hard-earned money into something with little to gain!

If all else fails, call or email one of those successful photographers and ask for a recommendation on which school is the best, we are willing to bet you will be shocked at where you are sent!!

Stay FOCUSED on success!!

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