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How relevant is a photography degree in the age of Instagram?

The auto-mode does not make for a legit photog, say the pros

Ujjainee Roy @UjjaineeRoy 4 June 2018, 4:27 PM
Are you earning as a photographer without ever having pursued a primer? Hmm...

Are you earning as a photographer without ever having pursued a primer? Hmm... Image: Thinkstock

Irrespective of how lit your Instagram page is, can you call yourself a photographer without ever having pursued the basics of the art? You might say the big bucks are all about the skill and not a resume, and there are many who agree with you.

But it's not all about the money — obviously. And while some of the most prolific photographers have never had a formal education on the subject, should you go for it if you want people to pay for it?

"People spend a lot on their DSLR's. But they often end up only using it on auto mode, as they don't know how to make the most of it. That's the waste of a technological masterpiece," says Vaishali Prabhune, the proprieter of Pixavince, a Pune-based photography training institute.

A photography course is not just about using DSLRs right, but it's definitely on the agenda. Instagram is a highly visual platform, and yet finesse is important. As is keeping up with the evolution of the industry. Instamax can only take you so far.

"A course on the subject helps you grasp the concept of photography. The value of a photograph. You also learn how the industry works, what it demands, including the copyright laws and watermarks, digital remastering etc. Our students tell us they are enjoying photography more, now that they are unravelling it," adds Prabhune, whose institute also offers two-session workshops.

Most institutes offer brief workshops which are mainly aimed at people who have day jobs or schools and yet want to learn more about photography. Do you still have an excuse for having 5,000 Instagram followers, without even having a primer?

But how relevant are the degree courses considering they take up two or three years to finish? Should you go for one after your boards? Over the years, photographers have often unanimously said that photography degrees are not worth it.

 "The university courses are extremely thorough and it's all about details. For those who want to do something different than others. And it obviously amps up their resume," Prabhune adds.

As for Insta-influencers, she feels that they are basically disrupting an industry. "The legit professionals are entitled to charge depending on how much time, energy and money they have spent building a repertoire. But people with just a camera and no basic knowledge of how it all works, they are not playing fair," Prabhune tells us.

She also rightly points out that clients or potential customers often seek cheaper alternatives, but one needs to respect the integrity of the artiste. "Most people look for lower rates, but quality and cost go hand-in-hand, and both sides need to understand that," says Prabhune.

But it's not just about the certificate, it is about your evolution. "Degrees are not important, it is the skill that counts. People choose Star Sports over Doordarshan for a reason. It basically comes down to better camera work," says Gopal Malhotra, the head of Mumbai media Institute Livewires, who believes the industry is fast changing and a competent photographer must keep up.

There is a lot of money to be made on Instagram if you have a good camera, but you must go about it the right way. "Every photographer making money off the skill, even if just on Instagram, must go through some sort of a primer course. Why buy a sophisticated camera, if you're just going to aim and shoot?" Malhotra tells us.

He points out that on Instagram or other otherwise, a photographer has to keep up with the fast-changing dynamics of the field. "People appreciate a good photo, even without a basic sense of photography. But just because you have a nice phone which takes good pictures, does not make you eligible to charge money. You must learn, it is a wonderful profession," he adds.

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